The Cuban race on the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry track has been given a boost this year through government agreements with hard core world trade, business associations and foreign patents of its products. Present in more than 50 countries, Cuban vaccines, medicines and medical devices have expanded to hold an outstanding place in its exports.
The visit to Havana in September of a Chinese delegation headed by the Food and Medicine Administration (CFDA) minister of the Asian giant, Zhang Yong, confirmed the bilateral intention of “taking to higher levels Cuba-China cooperation”, placing emphasis on cutting-edge technology sectors. The most recent negotiations gave continuity to the agreements signed by both nations during the stay in Cuba of President Xi Jinping in July this year.
With the evident aim of assessing the rigor and quality of the Cuban biotechnological industry, Zhang Yong this time toured laboratories of the Centre for the State Control of Medicines, Equipment and Medical Devices (CECMED), the authority regulating the productions of the sector on the Caribbean island.
The director of that institution, Rafael Pérez Cristiá, announced to the press on this occasion the advances being made in clinical trials in China to introduce in that country Heberprot-P, the most recent star innovation of the Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Centre (CIGB), an exclusive medicine in the world for the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers.
The Asian nation is also carrying out clinical studies of several of the products of the Molecular Immunology Centre (CIM), like the Itolizumab monoclonal antibody, conceived for the treatment of autoimmune diseases, and the CIMAvax EGF, identified as the first therapeutic vaccine in the world against advanced lung cancer. Another monoclonal antibody of the CIM, the Nimotuzumab, for the treatment of cancer of the esophagus, and the Interferón Pegilado, a more developed version of the CIGB’s pioneer product, are also in the process of receiving health patents.
“We want many more of the novel products to enter the Chinese market,” said Zhang Yong.
Meanwhile, the MediCuba and FarmaCuba enterprises are responsible for importing 98 products from 12 Chinese suppliers, corresponding to 41 pharmaceutical specialties, all of which are incorporated into the country´s Basic List of Medicines.
Several of the novel Cuban drugs that have awoken the interest of the Chinese already have patents in some 20 countries in South America, Africa and Asia, including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the members of the BRICS group, the leader of the emerging economies in the world.
In early September, Russian Health Minister Veronika Skortsova personally met in Moscow with the General Director of the CIGB, Luis Herrera. Skortsova favoured a greater presence in her country of the drugs produced by Cuban biotechnology, whose quality she publicly praised.
Another leader of Caribbean biotechnology, CIM Director General Agustín Lage, visited China in April of this year as part of the intense scientific exchanges and commercial promotion in the world and invited that country’s businesspeople to invest in the Mariel Special Development Zone, an enclave that grants privilege to foreign investments in fields like biotechnology.
The entry of Cuban products in the European market has been more difficult due to the resistance of that continent’s pharmaceutical transnationals. But recently a significant step was taken with Heberprot-P. Turkey joined the list of markets open to that medicine, of proven effectiveness in 31,000 Cuban patients and more than 150,000 in another 20 countries. It was patented a few days ago by that country’s Hasbiotech Company, founded solely for doing business with Cuba in the field of biotechnology.
While negotiations between Ankara and Brussels advance to make Turkey a full member of the European Union, important agreements already exist between both parties regarding the pharmaceutical industry and the patenting of medicines. “Having the product patented in Turkey is parallel to having it patented in Europe, thanks to these agreements. Though there can be small differences between one country and the other because of the characteristics of each territory, the way used for the patenting is the same or very similar,” said Omer Giray, president of the Turkish company Giraylar, Hasbiotech’s trade partner.
With foreign incomes of more than 500 million dollars in 2011, according to the last data entered by the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI), pharmaceutical productions and medical devices rank second in the export of Cuban goods and give a new signal to the country’s foreign trade. (2014)
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