Cuba’s key $500 million biotech industry expands

- Xinhua, HAVANA

Jun 26, 2017-

Cuba’s half a billion-dollar biotechnological industry, considered key to the country’s future, is looking to expand with innovation and overseas market development.

“Today we export our established products to about 50 countries, and we have a portfolio of innovative and unique drugs that are in different stages of research or clinical trials,” Merardo Pujol, business development director at Cuba’s Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB), told Xinhua.

Cuban scientists are looking to the future for new ways to create unique and innovative drugs that not only benefit the island’s population but also millions of people around the world.

The industry has also made breakthroughs in therapies despite US-led trade embargo and blockade, but needs new markets to grow. More than three decades ago, Cuba set its sights on becoming a biotechnology powerhouse.

In the late 1970s, Cuba sent its best scientists to Europe and the United States to study at leading research centers in the emerging field of biotechnology. An epidemic of dengue in the early 80s jump-started Cuba’s fledgling biotech industry, which developed Interferon, a drug that hinders potent viruses.

“In the early stages of Cuba’s biotechnology, the leading product was Interferon, and later scientists began to produce biological drugs using recombinant techniques related to genetic engineering,” Pujol introduced.

The CIGB was founded in 1986 as the leading institution of Cuba’s biotechnology industry. At the research center, the whole scientific cycle from initial research to the production and commercialisation of signature drugs is carried out.

Today, “CIGB researches, develops intellectual property or patents, turns laboratory findings into pilot tests and produces drugs on a large scale for exports,” said Pujol.

The CIGB developed a recombinant Hepatitis B vaccine in 1990 and practically eliminated the disease in Cuba. The center continues to produce effective vaccines, such as Heberpenta, which protects against diseases like influenza.

Published: 26-06-2017 09:15

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