Republican former South Dakota lieutenant governor and potential Senate candidate Steve Kirby made his fortune running a scandal-wracked business that harvested collagen from corpses donated for medical research and using it for cosmetic products and penis-enlargements:
Collagenesis specialized in processing donated skin off cadavers into cosmetic surgery products, and was subject to a blistering five-part investigative series by the Orange County Register beginning on April 17, 2000. “Burn victims lie waiting in hospitals as nurses scour the country for skin to cover their wounds, even though skin is in plentiful supply for plastic surgeons,” read the lede of the Register report. “The skin they need to save their lives is being used instead for procedures that could wait: supporting bladders, erasing laugh lines and enlarging penises.”..
Kirby’s niche industry had proven financially lucrative. Collagenesis could take the skin off one cadaver and convert it into $36,000 of a gel injected to smooth wrinkles and inflate lips. Its lone competitor, a firm called LifeCell, estimated its potential revenues from such skin at $200 million a year – 10 times what it would earn if it focused on life-saving burn applications instead of cosmetic surgery.
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