Late last year, a Hong Kong-based Caymans-incorporated company, Zmay Holdings, caught the stem cell fever, plunking down around $40 million (a total of 330 mil HKD) in bonds and equity in a deal for a technology that apparently involves growing various types of human stem cells from ordinary somatic cells by treating them with Chinese herbs like ginseng, angelica and bitter melon, or a dash of deer antler and leech extract if you have them handy. The specifications are strangely quiet on the feng shui conditions under which these processes should be conducted – I’m guessing trade secret. Jokes aside, this looks like another step in the inexorable march of so-called “stem cells” into penumbral territory usually occupied by homeopathy, energy healing and Baron Samedi.  

Zmay, whose English website reveals one of its primary business to be funeral services and cemetery management, bought the tech from inventor Xiongbin Lin, through a contorted (to me, anyway) deal involving multiple foreign-registered holding companies and fronts. No mention is made of whether anti-aging customers who die as a result of “stem cell” treatment will get a deal on a headstone and plot of turf.

Death – the ultimate anti-aging solution

Forty mil is big money by any measure, especially for a technology that has not been described, or even mentioned, in a peer-reviewed journal – at least not that I could find in English. And the new licensees have lost no time in seeking to capitalize on their investment. The Institute of Anti-Aging Medical Research on Stem Cells (Hong Kong) Limited, which was acquired from Lin as part of the deal, has recently changed its name to 159 Anti-Aging Center (H.K.) Ltd., registered a web domain, and is on a hiring spree. A bolus of stem cell cash can’t come to soon for Zmay, which has suffered recent financial losses and suspension of trading of its shares on the HK Gem boards last month. 

It’s always hard to tell who the final sucker will be in deals of this ilk, the licensees, or the prospective patients they try to foist their schemes onto – whoever it is, my friends, don’t let it be you.