Cuba’s Innovative Biotechnology Products

Lillian Riera (Granma International ) reports that, despite the global economic-financial crisis and the blockade imposed for more than 50 years by successive U.S. administrations, Cuba is continues to develop innovative biotechnology products to improve the quality of life of its population and other nations. Dr. Gerardo Guillén Nieto, director of biomedical research at Havana’s Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Center (CIGB) in Havana, says that the center currently has around 70 research-development projects centering on important medical issues such as infectious disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

CIGB’s portfolio of projects is very impressive; it contains innovative products, some which have been recently developed and others that are still in the development process.  Among those recently registered, Dr. Guillén mentioned the combined Heberpenta vaccine and Heberprot-P, an injectable solution of epidermal growth factor. In just one shot, Heberpenta protects infants against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, and diseases caused by the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae type B. CIGB, the Finlay Institute, and the Reactive Chemical Laboratory at the University of Havana contributed to its invention. Second of its type in the world, this liquid vaccine has achieved the same level of effectiveness as the one produced by the transnational GlaxoSmithKline.

The Cuban pentavalent vaccine is part of the massive and free National Vaccine Program that protects the infant population against 13 preventable diseases and has helped the island to prevent the resurgence of diseases that have been eliminated, including polio (eradicated in 1962 – Cuba was the first country on the continent to eradicate this disease), Neonatal tetanus (since 1972), diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, rubella, and tubercular meningitis in children of under 12 months.

Heberprot-P is the only product in the world that helps heal complicated ulcers, like diabetic foot ulcers (UPD), and reduces the risk of amputation of the lower extremities of these patients, thereby increasing their quality of life.

The company also markets Trivac HB (against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, and Hepatitis B), the Heberbiovac HB recombinant (against Hepatitis B) and the combined Quimi-Hib (against the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae type b).

Some of the products being developed by CIGB  and undergoing clinical trials are Proctokinasa, which helps break up clots; an Alpha Interferon 2b Human Recombinant gel (Hebergel), indicated for low-grade cervical lesions; HeberPAG, a combination of Gamma Interferon human recombinant and Alpha 2b Human Recombinant, indicated for brain cancer; and Heberprovac, a therapeutic vaccine against prostate cancer. In addition, the therapeutic vaccine against Hepatitis C (Heberterap C) is currently in phase 2 of clinical trials in chronic patients and studies are underway for its prophylactic application.

For full article (in Spanish), see http://www.granma.cu/ingles/2009/noviembre/mier18/Cuba.html

You may also see the Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Center page at http://www.cigb.edu.cu/

Photos by Antonio Pons from http://www.bohemia.cu/

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