(Having a socialist revolution made it possible for Cuba to make
the leap from dependent, subordinate capitalism to being a power
on the world scale, in science, politics and in medicine.)
World Class Science for the World's Well Being
By Francis Norniella
-AIN Special Service-
July 2, 2006
Many people outside of Cuba view with surprise the fact that Cuban
biotechnological products have found niches in the international
market - especially considering the island's short history in the
field and the US government's trade blockade. Cuba's elevated health
indicators, which are comparable to those of industrialized nations,
have been achieved to a large extent by biotechnology's contribution.
The development of that field began on the island in the 1980's with
the establishment of several research centers. As a biotechnology
model, the country used leucosticte interferon, achieved for the
first time in 1981 and effectively applied that year in the treatment
of hemorrhagic dengue, a virus which was introduced onto the island
as part of the US biological war against the nation.
The dramatic advance of research into molecular biology, genetics and
other disciplines, rocketed with the founding in western Havana of
the Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Center on the first of July
1986. Its workers make up of a family of more than 1,000 scientists
and technicians who carry out research and the production of
medicines for the benefit of their people and the rest of the Third
World, a population that represents 84 percent of humanity and which
suffers from the deadliest diseases.
This contrasts to the biomedical transnational corporations which
devote barely two percent of their activities to such diseases.
Cuba's Biotechnology Center produces high quality materials,
accessible to poor nations in a world where only a few powerful
corporations hold patents and monopolize important progress.
During the 1980's Cuba had only three biotechnological products;
currently it is commercializing 10 times that figure. Several of
these products are produced exclusively by Cuba, while others compete
with the largest transnationals. All of the island-made medicines are
included in the country's hospital, whose services are enjoyed free
of charge by the over 11 million inhabitants. The Center's wide
selection of products includes two interferon products: Recombinant
Alpha, which since its arrival on the national market in 1987 found a
number of clinical applications on children and adults in the fight
against viral diseases; and Gamma, registered in the Caribbean nation
in 1988 and used on patients with rheumatic arthritis.
Epidemic Growth Factor is also an outstanding achievement, a medicine
which is used in hospital units for the replacement of tissue for
burn patients, and the Hepatitis B vaccine, certified by the World
Health Organization and registered in 35 countries of Latin America,
Asia, Africa and Europe. The application of this vaccine, the first
obtained through recombinant DNA technology, has made it possible for
Cuba to have no reports of chronic Hepatitis B in children; no cases
of this type of illness in children under 15 have been reported since
Another drug that has come out of Cuban laboratories is recombinant
streptokinase, which is provided in all of the country's intensive
care units and used in the treatment of heart attacks, the principal
cause of death among Cubans over 50 years of age. Patented in Cuba,
the United States and Europe, the product is registered in over a
Among the recent breakthroughs by the center's group of elite
scientists, is a vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough,
Hepatitis B and Hemophilic Influenza type B. Its introduction in a
massive vaccination program will avoid three extra shots to children.
Another outstanding vaccine is Citoprob-P, the only medication in the
world capable of curing ulcer lesions in the feet and reduces the
need for amputation in people with diabetes; that illness affects
over 190 million people in the world, including almost 20 million in
the US, on which over 70,000 leg amputations are performed annually.
Cuba has just registered the first monoclonal anti-body produced from
plants and which will be used in the purification of the vaccine
against Hepatitis B, which causes the death of one million people in
the world each year.
Speaking about men and women involved in science and technology for
the good of humanity --such as the workers at the Biotechnology
Center-- President Fidel Castro described them as the "Priests of
Science," finding new solutions to many of the problems affecting the
world today and soon be discover those which will revolutionize the