OFFICIAL VOICE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA CENTRAL COMMITTEE
At FIHAV 2018, the CIM exhibited a number of the products it distributes within the country and abroad. Photo: Ismael Batista

The development of Cuban biotechnology has reached another important milestone with the recent signing of an agreement to establish a Cuba-United States joint venture enterprise to produce and distribute a therapeutic cancer medication.

The news was included in the Fair’s inaugural speech presented by Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, and was confirmed to Granma by commercial specialists at the Center for Molecular Immunology (CIM).

According to Lyan Contreras Álvarez, from the commercial department at the prestigious research institute, the joint enterprise will be based in the Mariel Special Development Zone, and allow for expansion, since the new venture will attract the attention of other U.S. pharmaceutical companies.

This enterprise is joining similar ones established in Thailand, China, and Singapore, all mainly focused on innovative products.

SOLUTIONS TO SAVE LIVES

The CIM presented at FIHAV 2018 a number of the products it distributes within the country and abroad, principally monoclonal antibodies, recombinant proteins, and therapeutic injectable medications to combat cancer and other immune system diseases.

MSc Alina Hernández Santana, commercial director at the center, explained that at this moment, the CIM is not introducing any new products, as work continues on those created over the last several years. Progress is also being made in research on other drugs under development, a long process which includes multiple steps and obligatory requirements to be met.

Fidel during one of his many visits to the Center for Molecular Immunology. Photo: Jorge Oller

Responding to a question about what the institution means to the Cuban public health system, she stressed that the institution’s most important contribution is providing medications that replace imports and guaranteeing their availability, to increase patient survival rates and quality of life.

She explained that there are very costly medications for which the CIM has developed biosimilar replacements, once patents held by transnational pharmaceutical companies have expired. If they had not been able to do this, the country would be spending a great deal of hard currency to procure them for patients.

She cited as an example recombinant human erythropoietin, administered to patients with chronic renal insufficiency and hemoglobin problems. She added that the molecule has been registered in Cuba since 1998.

Another contribution to life, beyond saving money on purchases abroad, is Filgrastim, a medication that has had a marked impact on treatment of cancer patients.

“This product resolves difficulties generated by cytostatic drugs which are a double edged sword, since they attack other cells as well as the disease. Without this medication, patients undergoing chemotherapy may not survive. It may not be possible to extend their lives because they cannot tolerate the medical procedure,” the expert explained.

These two products are support therapies, she pointed out, allowing the Center to make an important contribution to the health of Cubans. Among their most recent innovative products, she mentioned the lung cancer injectable medication CIMAvax-EGF®.

No doubt Cuban scientific development was well represented at FIHAV 2018, especially the pharmaceutical and biotechnology branches that continue their successful paths, consistent with the ideas and work done by Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz, who always provided support and encouragement.

SPECIFICATIONS

- Included in the FIHAV 2018 schedule are activities linked to the 500th anniversary of Havana’s founding, as well as the presentation of proposed projects in the capital seeking international cooperation.

- The presence of Latin America and the Caribbean is notable, with more than 20 countries participating, a reflection of the priority Cuba gives to economic integration within the region.

- Despite the tightening of the U.S. economic, commercial, and financial blockade of the island, and the setback in diplomatic relations with Washington, companies from this country attended the event, aware of the mutual benefit that ties with Cuban enterprises can provide.

- Although well below the level of interest and real possibilities, some business relations have been established between U.S. and Cuban entities.

- Cuba’s economic foreign policy promotes as key objectives the broadening and diversification of the country’s commercial relations, with a view toward making foreign trade more efficient; expanding exports of goods and services; and improving the climate within the country to facilitate foreign investment.

- In 2018, progress was made in securing investment in prioritized sectors such as renewable energy sources, infrastructure, tourism, industry and the agro-food sector.- Regulations were approved this year with a view toward simplifying and streamlining procedures for foreign investment projects, such as the approval of measures to expedite the authorization process, as well as the design of a “single window” service for foreign investors, foreseen for next year.- Indicative of interest in accelerating the establishment of businesses relations and eliminating existing obstacles, the Cuban President himself periodically reviews programs linked to this effort, key to socio-economic progress.Source: Speech by Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment opening FIHAV 2018.