In spite of the U.S. embargo and due to the nature of its economic model being less market oriented than its counterparts and more focused on research for the bettering of the quality of life, Cuba has been able to established a strong and vibrant medical research and biotechnology industry with 1.8 scientists per 1000 inhabitants equal to that in the EU.
In an attempt to meeting internal demand for controlling and treating chronic diseases the biotechnology industry created the West Havana Scientific Pole in the early 1980s that developed informal and innovative scientific practices that became known for being one of the most advanced globally in establishing and developing a sophisticated and robust indigenous bio-pharmaceutical industry focused on human and veterinary vaccines, bioproducts, medicines, monoclonal antibodies, generics and alternative medicines as well as innovative diagnostic means.
Once described as “Cuba’s billion dollar gamble”, the Havana’s Western Scientific Pole is now includes over 40 scientific institutions and R&D facilities with over 900 international patents for new drugs and treatments and employs more than 30,000 workers. Currently, 11 vaccines and more than 40 therapeutic biological compounds as well as immunodiagnosis are produced in Cuba. Moreover, at present Cuba has 90 new products being investigated in clinical trials while f 91 products being investigated in more than 60 clinical trials.
It is also one of only four countries to have been accredited by the World Health Organisation for the production of Hepatitis B vaccines.
With research centers such as the The Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB), The Center for the Production of Laboratory Animals (CENPALAB), the National Center for Biopreparations (BIOCEN) and the Center of Immunoassay and the Center for Molecular Immunology (CIM) Cuba has become a world leader in many fields of specialist medical research.
The following is a list of some of the most important Cuban medical innovations and medical achievements:
Developed by the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) in 2007 Heberprot-P is an innovative Cuban product with EGF as the main ingredient given to patients suffering from non healing and non responding diabetic ulcers. Due to its ability to stimulate cell proliferation and tissue healing Heberprot-P remains to be the only alternative treatment to amputation for diabetic foot ulcers. About 160,000 diabetic foot ulcer patient have been treated with Heberprot-P with successfully reducing the the risk of amputation by 77%.
CimaVax-EGF vaccine was devised by researchers from the Center of Immunoassay and the Center for Molecular Immunology (CIM) over a period of 25 years. CimaVax is the first world non small cell lung cancer vaccine that works by by stimulating the immune system to produce antibodies that specifically target and bind with epidermal growth factor (EGF) preventing the cancer from spreading throughout the body.CimaVax-EGF is not a preventive vaccine, rather it acts by restraining the growth and division of cancer cells slowing down initiating an immune response to release antibodies to fight the cause of tumor growth
A second non small cell lung cancer developed by enter of Immunoassay and the Center for Molecular Immunology (CIM), Racotumomab (also known as Vaxira) is a therapeutic vaccine that works on a molecule level by inducing a cellular and humoral immune response in tumors tissues by blocking the tumor growth, slowing down it’s development and hence increasing patient’s’ life expectancy and improving quality of life.
Nimotuzumab (CIMAher), also developed Center of Molecular Immunology, is a humanized anti-EGFR IgG1 therapeutic monoclonal antibody and used for the treatment of squamous cell of head and neck cancers, glioma and nasopharyngeal cancers. Nimotuzumab is used as either as monotherapy or in combination with radiation and / or chemotherapy. Presently research continues to determine if Nimotuzumab can be used for the treatment of other types of cancers.
Developed by the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB), Heberferon is the first non melanoma skin cancer treatment at the complex and advanced stages. Heberferon is an immunostimulant in which Interferon alpha 2b and gamma recombinants are combined to stimulates the immune system into a response against tumor inhibiting the growth of the tumour while reducing or eliminating lesions without the need for surgery.
Cuban meningococcal BC vaccine (VA-MENGOC-BC®) was developed by the Finlay Institute in Havana due to a meningococcal outbreak in the 1980s. The first of its type, VA-MENGOC-BC is a bivalent vaccine composed of meningococcal B outer membrane vesicles and meningococcal C capsular polysaccharide. This vaccine has proven to be very effective with very high safety profile
Although meningitis and pneumonia have been almost erased in the developed world these diseases remain highly problematic in the developing world due the high cost of the vaccine. Cuban researchers at the University of Havana in conjunction with researchers at the university of Ottawa (Canada) have developed the first synthetically produced antigen. Quimi hib Vaccine works by producing antibodies that resist infection from bacteria that causes pneumonia and meningitis in a breakthrough aimed at lowering the cost of immunising children in poorer countries is considered to be safer and purer than vaccines developed from live bacterium or virus.