Photograph: Drs. Luis Javier Gonzalez and Manuel Raices present to UCLA faculty and students on Cuba’s pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Despite the economic consequences of a decades-long U.S. embargo, Cuba has developed a robust pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. Because the embargo limited Cuba’s ability to import pharmaceuticals and health technology, the country invested heavily in medical research as a necessity to address the health needs of their population. Today, Cuba boasts a sophisticated pharmaceutical sector that presents a largely untapped market for both commercial prospects and non-commercial medical research. Regulatory changes made under the Obama administration have relaxed economic sanctions against Cuba, creating the opportunity for increased collaboration between the U.S. and Cuba in the medical sphere.

In May 2017, the UCLA Center for World Health hosted Drs. Luis Javier Gonzalez and Manuel Raices from the Cuban Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) to discuss Cuba’s increasing prevalence in the international biotechnology and pharmaceutical market.

CIGB is a part of the larger group BioCubaFarma, a biotechnological and pharmaceutical group comprised of over 30 enterprises, 64 manufacturing facilities, and over 20,000 employees. BioCubaFarma was established in 2012 and integrates Cuban companies dedicated to scientific development, research, production and marketing of biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and medical equipment to supply to domestic and international markets. BioCubaFarma’s products are marketed in 49 countries and are in clinical trials in 18 countries.

Today, BioCubaFarma hopes to break into U.S. markets with a variety of medicines, including Heberprot-P, a promising treatment for foot ulcers in diabetic patients. The medicine, created by a team of researchers from CIGB (including Dr. Raices), has proven very effective, reducing the relative risk of diabetic foot ulcer (DFU) amputation in more than 71% of cases in pilot studies. So far, more than 250,000 DFU patients from 26 countries have been treated with Heberprot-P in Cuba.

While at UCLA, Drs. Gonzalez and Raices hosted a roundtable discussion highlighting Cuba’s contributions to the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors. Attended by faculty and students from the David Geffen School of Medicine, Fielding School of Public Health, and School of Nursing, Drs. Gonzalez and Raices stressed the importance of continuing the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations. The doctors argued that because the U.S. and Cuba face similar disease burdens, such as the high prevalence of diabetes and lung cancer, a collaborative approach would be beneficial for both countries. For example, in the U.S., where 9.3% of the population has diabetes, Cuban-developed Heberprot-P could have a tremendous impact.

More information on BioCubaFarma
More information on the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology
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