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Cuba says Abdala vaccine 92.28% effective against coronavirus

denel

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Way to go Cuba!!!!. Their institute has proven track record in vaccine research and delivery for decades.




Healthcare & Pharmaceuticals
Cuba says Abdala vaccine 92.28% effective against coronavirus
Reuters


2 minute read
HAVANA, June 21 (Reuters) - Cuba said on Monday its three-shot Abdala vaccine against the coronavirus had proved 92.28% effective in last-stage clinical trials.
The announcement came just days after the government said another homegrown vaccine, Soberana 2, had proved 62% effective with just two of its three doses.
“Hit by the pandemic, our scientists at the Finlay Institute and Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology have risen above all the obstacles and given us two very effective vaccines,” President Miguel Diaz-Canel tweeted.
The announcement came from state-run biopharmaceutical corporation BioCubaFarma, which oversees Finlay, the maker of Soberana 2, and the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, the producer of Abdala.

Both vaccines are expected to be granted emergency authority by local regulators shortly.
Cuba, whose biotech sector has exported vaccines for decades, has five coronavirus vaccine candidates.
The Caribbean’s largest island is facing its worst COVID-19 outbreak since the start of the pandemic following the arrival of more contagious variants, setting new records for daily coronavirus cases.
The Communist-run country has opted not to import foreign vaccines but to rely on its own. Some experts said it was a risky bet but it appears to have paid off, putting Cuba in position to burnish its scientific reputation, generate much-needed hard currency through exports and strengthen the vaccination drive worldwide.

Several countries from Argentina and Jamaica to Mexico, Vietnam and Venezuela have expressed an interest in buying Cuba’s vaccines. Iran started producing Soberana 2 earlier this year as part of late-phase clinical trials.
Cuba’s authorities have already started administering the experimental vaccines en masse as part of “intervention studies” they hope will slow the spread of the virus.
About a million of the country’s 11.2 million residents have been fully vaccinated to date.
Daily cases have halved in the capital, Havana, since the start of the vaccination campaign a month ago, using Abdala, according to official data.

Cuba has reported a total of 169,365 COVID-19 cases and 1,170 deaths.
Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Peter Cooney
2nd vaccine is showing a lot of good promise. Far better than then chinese. I will take cuban vaccine any day. Trust their work any time.



Cuba encouraged by early efficacy results of COVID-19 vaccine
Cuba’s Soberana 2 vaccine candidate shows 62 percent efficacy with two of its three doses in trials, says BioCubaFarma.

A nurse administers a Soberana 2 vaccine candidate to a volunteer during its phase III trial in Havana [Joaquín Hernandez/AFP]

A nurse administers a Soberana 2 vaccine candidate to a volunteer during its phase III trial in Havana [Joaquín Hernandez/AFP]
20 Jun 2021

Cuba’s Soberana 2 vaccine candidate has shown 62 percent efficacy with just two of its three doses, state-run biopharmaceutical corporation BioCubaFarma has said, citing preliminary data from late phase trials.
Cuba, whose biotech sector has exported vaccines for decades, has five vaccine candidates in clinical trials, of which two – Soberana 2 and Abdala – are in late phase trials.
Keep reading
Cuba’s long biotech investments could pay off in COVID vaccinesVenezuela to begin clinical trials of Cuba’s vaccine candidateMexican president thanks Cuban counterpart for COVID supportCuba could be closing in on COVID vaccine sovereignty
“In a few weeks we should have the results for the efficacy with three doses which we expect will be superior,” said Vicente Vérez, director of the state-run Finlay Vaccine Institute, which developed Soberana 2.
The news comes as the Caribbean’s largest island is facing its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic in the wake of the arrival of more contagious variants, setting new records of daily coronavirus cases.

A nurse prepares a dose of the Soberana-02 COVID-19 vaccine for a volunteer as part of Phase III trials of the experimental Cuban vaccine candidate [Jorge Luis Banos/Pool via Reuters]The Communist-run country has opted not to import foreign vaccines but rather to rely on its own. Experts say it is a risky bet but if it pays off, Cuba could burnish its scientific reputation, generate much-needed hard currency through exports and strengthen the vaccination drive worldwide.


“We know our government has not been able to provide this project all the funding it required, and nonetheless this is a result of global standing,” President Miguel Diaz-Canel said at the presentation of the results on state-run television on Saturday.
Several countries from Argentina and Jamaica to Mexico and Venezuela have expressed an interest in buying Cuba’s vaccines. Iran started producing Soberana 2 earlier this year as part of late-phase clinical trials.
Cuba’s authorities have started administering the experimental vaccines en masse as part of “intervention studies” they hope will slow the spread of the virus.
Daily cases have halved in the capital since the start of this vaccination campaign, according to official data, although that may also be due to stricter lockdown measur
 

waz

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Way to go Cuba!!!!. Their institute has proven track record in vaccine research and delivery for decades.




Healthcare & Pharmaceuticals
Cuba says Abdala vaccine 92.28% effective against coronavirus
Reuters



2 minute read
HAVANA, June 21 (Reuters) - Cuba said on Monday its three-shot Abdala vaccine against the coronavirus had proved 92.28% effective in last-stage clinical trials.
The announcement came just days after the government said another homegrown vaccine, Soberana 2, had proved 62% effective with just two of its three doses.
“Hit by the pandemic, our scientists at the Finlay Institute and Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology have risen above all the obstacles and given us two very effective vaccines,” President Miguel Diaz-Canel tweeted.
The announcement came from state-run biopharmaceutical corporation BioCubaFarma, which oversees Finlay, the maker of Soberana 2, and the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, the producer of Abdala.

Both vaccines are expected to be granted emergency authority by local regulators shortly.
Cuba, whose biotech sector has exported vaccines for decades, has five coronavirus vaccine candidates.
The Caribbean’s largest island is facing its worst COVID-19 outbreak since the start of the pandemic following the arrival of more contagious variants, setting new records for daily coronavirus cases.
The Communist-run country has opted not to import foreign vaccines but to rely on its own. Some experts said it was a risky bet but it appears to have paid off, putting Cuba in position to burnish its scientific reputation, generate much-needed hard currency through exports and strengthen the vaccination drive worldwide.

Several countries from Argentina and Jamaica to Mexico, Vietnam and Venezuela have expressed an interest in buying Cuba’s vaccines. Iran started producing Soberana 2 earlier this year as part of late-phase clinical trials.
Cuba’s authorities have already started administering the experimental vaccines en masse as part of “intervention studies” they hope will slow the spread of the virus.
About a million of the country’s 11.2 million residents have been fully vaccinated to date.
Daily cases have halved in the capital, Havana, since the start of the vaccination campaign a month ago, using Abdala, according to official data.

Cuba has reported a total of 169,365 COVID-19 cases and 1,170 deaths.
Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Peter Cooney
2nd vaccine is showing a lot of good promise. Far better than then chinese. I will take cuban vaccine any day. Trust their work any time.



Cuba encouraged by early efficacy results of COVID-19 vaccine
Cuba’s Soberana 2 vaccine candidate shows 62 percent efficacy with two of its three doses in trials, says BioCubaFarma.

A nurse administers a Soberana 2 vaccine candidate to a volunteer during its phase III trial in Havana [Joaquín Hernandez/AFP]

A nurse administers a Soberana 2 vaccine candidate to a volunteer during its phase III trial in Havana [Joaquín Hernandez/AFP]
20 Jun 2021

Cuba’s Soberana 2 vaccine candidate has shown 62 percent efficacy with just two of its three doses, state-run biopharmaceutical corporation BioCubaFarma has said, citing preliminary data from late phase trials.
Cuba, whose biotech sector has exported vaccines for decades, has five vaccine candidates in clinical trials, of which two – Soberana 2 and Abdala – are in late phase trials.
Keep reading
Cuba’s long biotech investments could pay off in COVID vaccinesVenezuela to begin clinical trials of Cuba’s vaccine candidateMexican president thanks Cuban counterpart for COVID supportCuba could be closing in on COVID vaccine sovereignty
“In a few weeks we should have the results for the efficacy with three doses which we expect will be superior,” said Vicente Vérez, director of the state-run Finlay Vaccine Institute, which developed Soberana 2.
The news comes as the Caribbean’s largest island is facing its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic in the wake of the arrival of more contagious variants, setting new records of daily coronavirus cases.

A nurse prepares a dose of the Soberana-02 COVID-19 vaccine for a volunteer as part of Phase III trials of the experimental Cuban vaccine candidate [Jorge Luis Banos/Pool via Reuters]The Communist-run country has opted not to import foreign vaccines but rather to rely on its own. Experts say it is a risky bet but if it pays off, Cuba could burnish its scientific reputation, generate much-needed hard currency through exports and strengthen the vaccination drive worldwide.


“We know our government has not been able to provide this project all the funding it required, and nonetheless this is a result of global standing,” President Miguel Diaz-Canel said at the presentation of the results on state-run television on Saturday.
Several countries from Argentina and Jamaica to Mexico and Venezuela have expressed an interest in buying Cuba’s vaccines. Iran started producing Soberana 2 earlier this year as part of late-phase clinical trials.
Cuba’s authorities have started administering the experimental vaccines en masse as part of “intervention studies” they hope will slow the spread of the virus.
Daily cases have halved in the capital since the start of this vaccination campaign, according to official data, although that may also be due to stricter lockdown measur
Well done Cuba proud of you guys. Humble nation, excellent medical research and service to their population. A job well done.
 

denel

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Jul 12, 2013
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Well done Cuba proud of you guys. Humble nation, excellent medical research and service to their population. A job well done.
waz.... cubans made my day after a terrible day at the hospital.



Can Cuba beat COVID with its homegrown vaccines?
Nature talks to vaccine designer Vicente Vérez Bencomo about the country’s efforts to produce its own coronavirus jabs — and set a record.



Vicente Vérez Bencomo at his desk

Vicente Vérez Bencomo is helping to lead Cuba’s campaign to produce its own COVID-19 vaccines.Credit: Instituto Finlay de Vacunas
If everything goes to plan, Cuba could be the first Latin American country to develop and manufacture its own vaccine against COVID-19.
Vicente Vérez Bencomo, director-general of the state-owned Finlay Institute of Vaccines in Havana, where one of Cuba’s most advanced vaccine candidates was created, thinks the chances are good. The candidate, called Soberana 02, entered phase III trials in people in March. It’s one of the country’s two homegrown vaccines — the other is called Abdala — to make it this far.


Latin American scientists join the coronavirus vaccine race: ‘No one’s coming to rescue us’

And not a moment too soon. Although Cuba had few infections for most of 2020, COVID-19 cases began to rise in the 11-million-person island nation after it reopened its borders to tourism last November. Infections peaked on 24 April, with nearly 5,800 active cases.
Cuba is one of the last-remaining communist countries in the world, and has endured decades of trade embargoes imposed by the United States, cutting off its access to essential supplies. Vérez Bencomo says it is this history that has given the Cuban people an independent streak, spurring them to create their own COVID-19 jab rather than joining the international COVAX initiative, which aims to deliver vaccines fairly across all countries.
Even Soberana 02 has an independent streak, working differently from other vaccines in play. The jab is a ‘conjugate’ vaccine, one that links a weaker antigen with a stronger one to ensure a vigorous immune response. To make Soberana 02, Finlay scientists coupled fragments of the coronavirus spike protein to a deactivated form of tetanus toxin, a powerful antigen that can boost production of immune cells and antibodies1.
Nature spoke to Vérez Bencomo about Soberana 02, Cuba’s decision to go solo, and the difficulties of doing science under a forceful economic blockade.
When did Finlay join the COVID-19 vaccine race?
Around May 2020, there was a major call from our president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, for anybody who could develop a vaccine against the coronavirus to do so. It was very important for us. We foresaw that when vaccines were ready [in other parts of the world], it would take a long time for them to reach countries like ours.
Of course, by joining the race, we had to abandon other projects. We stopped a clinical trial with a pneumococcus vaccine. We had a very innovative whooping-cough vaccine that we also disrupted. It was not possible to continue doing anything else.

COVID-19 vaccines in Cuba

The Finlay Institute of Vaccines in Havana is testing three COVID-19 jabs: Soberana 01, 02 and Plus.Credit: Mixael Porto Chiong, Javier Martínez Acosta, La Pupila Asombrada
How many different vaccines is Finlay testing right now?
We have three vaccines in the Soberana series. We’re testing Soberana 02 with 44,000 people, some of whom are getting a placebo, in a phase III trial. And because of the urgency, we’re also conducting another effectiveness trial in 75,000 people without placebo. Because not everyone gets vaccinated at the same time, the people waiting for their shot will serve as a control group.


Can Cuban science go global?

Ethically, it is too late to launch any new placebo studies in Cuba because COVID-19 cases are ramping up. So to test Soberana 01 [a non-conjugate vaccine containing pairs of spike-protein fragments, as well as components from the outer shells of meningococcal bacteria to boost the immune response], we’re designing a protocol to compare it with Soberana 02, instead of using a placebo. We’re awaiting the approval from Cuba’s national regulatory authority to begin the phase II trial.
We also have a trial with 450 convalescent individuals, who recovered from COVID-19 or were asymptomatic, in which we’re testing Soberana Plus, a booster dose that contains spike-protein fragments. This vaccine is designed to re-stimulate the initial immunity people got from a previous infection.
How do the Soberana 02 results look so far?
What I can reveal is that during the previous trial phases, two doses of Soberana 02 generated an antibody response in about 80% of vaccinated people. But applying a third, booster dose of Soberana Plus raised that percentage to 100%, all of them with neutralizing antibodies that can block the virus from entering cells.
To what extent will that protect people from death? I’m sure it’ll protect them. To what extent will that protect people from severe disease? It’s part of what the efficacy [phase III] trial has to prove, but we think it will. We think that we should have results ready to publish by June.
Talk about the vaccine line’s name, Soberana, which translates as ‘sovereign’.
In a meeting we had with the president, he told us that we needed to have sovereignty over our vaccines.
After we announced the first Soberana trial, people liked the name so much that it was impossible to change it. This was taken with such pride in Cuba that we didn’t have any other choice but to call the vaccine Soberana. People really trust what we do. We always have three times as many people lined up to participate in clinical trials as we need.
Cuba plans to inoculate all its citizens with its own vaccines. Will it have the resources to do that?


Scandal over COVID vaccine trial at Peruvian universities prompts outrage

We’re speeding up production so that when the Soberana 02 studies are done, we can get authorization for emergency use. We hope this doesn’t take too much time, because we have a very high incidence of COVID in Cuba right now, especially in Havana.
In the face of this emergency, we are reorganizing our manufacturing capacities. We think that sometime this year, we should be able to produce around ten million doses each month.
We have a lot of demand for vaccines right now — much more than what we could supply. So we are looking for serious commitments [to supply jabs abroad] with advanced payments that will allow us to invest the resources we do not have in production.
Why go it alone to develop vaccines instead of joining COVAX?
This is a complex question. There are international initiatives that I respect tremendously. That I respect them is one thing — whether I believe in them is another.
We wanted to solely rely on our own capacities to vaccinate our population, not on other people’s decisions. And life is proving us right. What we’re seeing across the world is that vaccine supplies are being hoarded by rich countries.
How did Cuba find the resources to make its own COVID-19 vaccines?
We’re a very poor country. I can assure you that not one penny of the money used to make medicines or buy food — which are both scarce at the moment — has been diverted for the manufacturing of COVID vaccines.
It’s all been a great individual effort from each of the institutions that are working on this. We’ve all taken the resources we had for other projects and put them into this. And we’ve had to be creative about it. Our scientists are used to doing a lot with very little.
In what ways has the US trade embargo affected vaccine development?
In many ways. We have an American blockade that is not euphemistic at all — it is very real.
Companies that have been selling us materials for 60 years, under former US president Donald Trump’s administration, they got scared and told us, “Sorry, we cannot continue cooperating with you because we are afraid that we will lose our trade with North America.”
It’s very difficult. But we Cubans don’t let ourselves get beaten. We are used to fighting against all odds.
Cuba has a long history on biotechnology work; kudos ....



Cuba’s Booming Biotech Industry
A drug developed in Cuba in 1981 is currently being used as a coronavirus treatment in China. From antivirals, to vaccines and biosensors, the nation has been at the forefront of biotechnology for the last 40 years.

Ellie Harris
Ellie Harris

Feb 26, 2020·6 min read



Photo by Einar H. Reynis on Unsplash
Beyond most people’s perception of Cuba as a developing country lies a hugely successfully healthcare system and state of the art drug development facilities. The roots of this hidden side to the country come directly from Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution, starting in 1959.
As part of the socialist reform, Castro wanted to enable Cuba to treat it’s people with their own medicines. He injected big sums of money into new laboratories and education, while highly prioritising projects to find treatment for diseases directly affecting the Cuban population. This model of development still stands today and is credited as being the driving force behind the nations accomplishments.
Since the 1980s, over $1 billion US dollars has been invested by government into biotechnology programs. As a result, they’ve seen major breakthroughs and now have 569 domestically manufactured therapies, out of a total 857 medicines approved for use in the country.


Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash1981
Throughout the 1970s, Interferon was touted as being a miracle cancer drug, however the process to manufacturer the medicine relied on extracting white blood cells from donated samples and stimulating them with virus particles.
This created a race to find an alternative production method that would transform interferon into a viable treatment option. Against the likes of GlaxoSmithKline (known as Wellcome at the time), Cuban scientists became the first to produce large quantities of the protein.
The resultant drug, Recombinant Interferon Alpha 2B (IFNrec) works by stimulating the immune system to attack cancer calls, and is also capable of inhibiting replication of some viruses. It is still widely used today in the treatment of many types of cancers, and as an antiviral therapy.
Once the treatment was established, Cuba released the exact method needed for production to the world. As a result, China now produce huge amounts of the drug and are currently using it as a treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19).


Photo by Instituto Finlay de Vacunas on FacebookPreventative Vaccines
Since the opening of the Finlay Institute, a specialist vaccine research and production facility, Cuba have produced some of the world’s most effective preventative vaccines.
The first widely used vaccine was developed following an outbreak of Meningitis B throughout Cuba and Brazil. Concepción Campa Huergo is credited with it’s creation — she first administered it to herself and her children to test it’s safety before it was eventually rolled out as compulsary across Cuba. The vaccine was the first to be created against Meningitis B, and Cuba currently have an incidence rate of 0.2%, the lowest worldwide.
Cuba made history once again in 1994 by creating the very first semi-synthetic vaccine, a breakthrough for vaccine development. Quimi-Hib is now given routinely to all babies in Cuba to prevent Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib).
The country’s biggest biotech export is also a vaccine, the most effective in the world against Hepatitis B, used in more than 30 countries.


Photo Lingyu Hong reported on Medical Device NetworkBiosensors
One of Cuba’s best known assets, sugar, also plays a huge part in their cutting edge biotechnology enterprises. Compared to other scientific giants, Cuban institutes have considerably less funding, so often turn their efforts towards more economically viable materials.
Sugar is readily available in many different forms in Cuba, and more importantly is affordable. Cyclodextrins are a complex type of sugar molecule that researchers at the University of Havana have used to create biosensors that they hope could one day be used in the detection and treatment of sepsis.
The technology involves electrode surfaces containing cyclodextrin monolayers which can recognise differences between small molecules, and levels of chemicals such as nitric oxide (NO), a key determinant in the symptoms of septic shock.


Photo by Rich Smith on UnsplashLung cancer
More recently, the development of a lung cancer treatment has proved that Cuba are still up there with the rest of the world’s scientific powerhouses. The task of decreasing lung cancer rates, which has always been high due to a culture of cigar smoking, was prioritised almost 30 years ago. Already licensed in Cuba, CimaVax-EGF is currently used as a vaccine for treatment of non-small-cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC).
The treatment is an immunotherapy, so works by stimulating the immune system to produce more antibodies capable of killing cancerous cells. It is designed to be administered previous to, or alongside chemo and radiotherapy as a way of improving quality of life by preventing tumour growth.
The treatment is currently being trialled throughout the world, including in the UK, Australia and surprisingly, the US. While Trump has reinforced some travel and business restrictions between the US and Cuba in recent years, the scientific door remains largely open.
In 2018 at Havana’s International Trade Fair (FIHAV), it was announced that the US and Cuba would be collaborating in an effort to produce and distribute a cancer therapeutic. It was later confirmed that Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in New York had joined the CimaVax-EGF project, and that the whole venture would be featured in a documentary “Cuba’s Cancer Hope”, to be released in 2021 by PBS.


‘The strength is in the joining’ — Photo by elCarito on Unsplash
Continuing along the road of biotech success, hopefully politics will continue to allow for new ventures between the US and Cuba, and the world will come to more widely recognise Cuba as the hub for biotechnology it has truly proved itself as.

References
Cuban Biotechnology: Interferon as a Model
A new milestone in Cuban biotechnology
The ABCs of Clinical Trials in Cuba
Vaccine against group B Neisseria meningitidis: protection trial and mass vaccination results in Cuba.
Efficacy and safety of nimotuzumab in addition to radiotherapy and temozolomide for cerebral glioblastoma: a phase II multicenter clinical trial
Cuban experience with local production of medicines, technology transfer and improving access to health
Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology | Facilities
GHO | Life expectancy and Healthy life expectancy — Data by country
Cuba’s revolutionary cancer vaccine builds bridges between the island and the United States
Towards an HIV-free generation in Cuba
Elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and Syphilis (EMTCT): Process, progress, and program integration
Biotechnology: the second Cuban revolution | Feature
Cuba: socialism, cigars and biotech | Feature
Cuba — Battling cancer with biotechnology
Cuba Ailing? Not Its Biomedical Industry
The Cuban Biotech Revolution
Supramolecular Chemistry of Cyclodextrins in Cuba: Supramolecular Chemistry: Vol 15, No 3
Cuba’s Advances in Biotech: A Developing Country with a Highly Developed Biotech Sector
MEDICC Review Interview with Concepción Campa Huergo, PhD (h.c.)
A History of How Cuba’s Anti-Viral Medicine is Being Used in China
Without blocking: documentary about Cuban cancer vaccine arrives in the US
 
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denel

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Story by Jenny Larsen





The Cuban government recently announced that its Soberana II vaccine against COVID-19 will soon enter Phase III trials, bringing the country one important step closer to producing Latin America’s first vaccine against the virus. Far from being an overnight success, Cuba’s ability to develop a vaccine is the result of decades-long investment in its biopharmaceutical industry, which in its early stages of development was supported by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).





Cuba hopes to inoculate its entire population against COVID-19 with a home-grown vaccine this year. The country has four potential vaccines in development, the most advanced of which – Soberana II – is due to start Phase III trials in March with 150,000 volunteers. If it clears this final clinical hurdle, the Cuban vaccine will be the first to be developed in Latin America.





According to the Havana-based Finlay Vaccine Institute (IFV), 100 million doses could be supplied in 2021 for both domestic use and export. Cuba has signed a deal to carry out clinical trials in Iran in collaboration with the country’s Pasteur Institute, while Jamaica, Viet Nam and Venezuela, among others, have expressed interest in obtaining the vaccine once it passes the necessary safety and efficacy tests.





As international squabbles over fair distribution grow, amid charges that rich countries are hoarding supplies, a successful roll-out of Soberana II could provide a potential lifeline to developing countries seeking to immunize their populations against COVID-19.





That the small Caribbean island is ahead of many more developed countries in the race to find an effective vaccine may seem surprising. Yet decades of experience and investment in Cuba’s biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors, which in its early stages was supported by UNIDO and other international organizations, have enabled the industry to direct resources quickly and efficiently towards emergency vaccine development.





In the years following the 1959 Revolution, Cuba made the establishment of a high-level, prevention-focused health care system a priority. The country’s approach to health was both a matter of socialist principles and a response to a US trade embargo, which from 1962 onwards blocked almost all imports from the US, including medicines and other essentials.





Cuba therefore set about investing in training more doctors and created scientific research institutes to support the development of a home-grown pharmaceutical industry that would meet the needs of its health care system. For example, from the mid-1960s the government invested increasingly in science infrastructure, including the establishment in 1965 of the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNIC), which helped to train many scientists and engineers throughout the 1960s and 1970s.





As part of a drive to produce its own medicines, in the late 1970s the Cuban government sought help from UNIDO to build a plant to ramp up the production of pharmaceutical products. The UNIDO project enlisted the expertise of an Indian company, Sarabhai Chemicals, to establish Cuba’s first chemical synthesis plant for the production of generic pharmaceutical products.





The plant, the Empresa Farmacéutica 8 de Marzo, was designed by UNIDO experts, equipped with Indian technology, and financed by contributions from India and the United Nations Development Programme, making it an early example of South-South and triangular industrial cooperation.





The introduction of advanced pilot technology for the production of pharmaceutical compounds and the training provided for numerous Cuban experts built the conditions for the scaling up of generic medicine production in the following years, helping to create new jobs that were carried out by increasingly skilled Cuban chemists and engineers, many of them women.


Today, the Empresa Farmacéutica 8 de Marzo is affiliated with the state-owned Biotechnological and Pharmaceutical Industries Business Group, known as BioCubaFarma. The Group is home to over 30 manufacturing companies and institutes which together produce more than half of the country’s essential medicines, as well as exporting medicines to more than 50 countries.


Cuba’s early focus on health, medical research and science also put it in a good position to take advantage of the advances in genetic engineering that led to the rapid growth in biotechnology in the 1980s. The government threw its full weight behind the sector, spurred on by the need to deal with recurrent disease outbreaks, including the widespread presence of meningitis B. In 1986 it opened the Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) which over the past few decades has been responsible for developing a range of drugs and vaccines, most notably in the treatment of cancers, cardiovascular disease, meningitis and hepatitis.





UNIDO became involved again in the mid-1980s at the request of the Cuban government to help bring the country’s own version of a generic hepatitis B vaccine to fruition. Cuba employed highly trained nationals to carry out this technically challenging project, assisted by specialists from UNIDO who helped to train staff in how to take the vaccine from the laboratory stage to production on an industrial scale, as well as providing advice on aspects of quality control and international standards. After considerable investment from the Cuban government, production got under way and the vaccine came into use in the early 1990s. It was later put on the World Health Organization’s register of approved vaccines.





Following the success of this project, Cuba called on UNIDO in the mid-1990s to help scale up the production of anti-cancer drug, CIMAher (nimotuzumab), a humanized ‘monoclonal antibody’ designed at the Centre of Molecular Immunology (CIM) to treat tumours of the head and neck, as well as other advanced cancers. This project was technically more complex in terms of production than the previous one but was able to deploy staff who had already received training on production methods during the hepatitis B vaccine project. The new cancer treatment proved successful and has been produced on an industrial scale at CIM, something that was possible because of strong investment in the biotechnology sector in the 1990s despite severe cutbacks in other areas of Cuba’s struggling economy. It remains one of a number of domestically produced cancer treatments still in use today.





The sector’s high level of integration and prior track record on vaccine development meant the technical capacity was there to allow Cuba to move quickly on a solution to COVID-19. For example, the decision to pursue a protein-subunit type of vaccine - which creates a biosynthetic protein to trigger an immune response – was made easier because of knowledge gained using the same kind of technology platform to develop the Cuban meningitis B vaccine and a recombinant hepatitis B vaccine.





Now, over 40 years after its first project in Cuban pharmaceuticals was launched, UNIDO continues to offer support to the sector. In 2020, the organization teamed up with the Slovenian government on a Slovenian-Cuban venture to develop a business model that ties together innovation in the biopharma, medical and nanotechnologies sectors in an effort to advance the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.





The project, which is being implemented in cooperation with the Slovene Enterprise Fund and aims to serve as a model for further inter-regional cooperation, uses knowledge-sharing and the transfer of technical skills to support innovation and improve the regulatory framework for biopharma to drive competitiveness.





Cuba’s success in creating a viable, domestic pharmaceutical manufacturing industry shows what can be achieved with targeted investment and political will. And, while organizations such as UNIDO have long argued for greater development of domestic industry in developing countries, the current crisis has shown more clearly than ever why local research and development and production capacities are vital.





When poorer countries are unable to develop and manufacture vaccines and other medical treatments, they risk being left at the back of the queue as rich countries vie with each other for the lion’s share. According to a recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, middle-income countries won’t be able to vaccinate the bulk of their populations until late 2022 or early 2023, while in the poorest countries mass immunization could take until 2024, if indeed it happens at all.





Cuba’s drive to build a state-backed, integrated biopharma industry grew in part out of past emergencies. Could it be that there are some valuable lessons to be learned from the country’s experience for many developing nations scrambling to gain access to vaccines during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis?











Further reading:


Cuba – Battling cancer with biotechnology – WHO, 2013







Cuban experience with local production of medicines, technology transfer and improving access to health – WHO, 2015


How Cuba became a biopharma juggernaut - Institute for New Economic Thinking, 2018


The economic case for global vaccinations – National Bureau of Economic Research, 2021


The risks and challenges of the global COVID-19-vaccine rollout – McKinsey, 2021


South-South and Triangular Industrial Cooperation – UNIDO, 2021
 

denel

PROFESSIONAL
Jul 12, 2013
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South Africa
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Well done Cuba proud of you guys. Humble nation, excellent medical research and service to their population. A job well done.
great people waz..... great friendships with cuban colleagues. Funny part - i met one who was a vet from march 89... we were both on the otherside of same town where the fight was happening. they were showing a film of course in which cubans were victorios 'claim'.... Cuito Cuanavale. I happened to say to a colleague there, is it the same village in angola it is about - he says yes how do you know. I said, i was there. There was total silence during the lunch group; one fellow said his uncle was there and next day his uncle walked t meet me.

Strange thing - we were on opposite side then, but to see a fellow vet show up was surreal .... I gave him my hand, he shook it and then we embraced. Took photos of each other together... we were drawing maps on napkin papers on where we were positionally . Yet here we were hugging and exchanging photos.

Real people who value friendship and have biggest of hearts for the world.
 

waz

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great people waz..... great friendships with cuban colleagues. Funny part - i met one who was a vet from march 89... we were both on the otherside of same town where the fight was happening. they were showing a film of course in which cubans were victorios 'claim'.... Cuito Cuanavale. I happened to say to a colleague there, is it the same village in angola it is about - he says yes how do you know. I said, i was there. There was total silence during the lunch group; one fellow said his uncle was there and next day his uncle walked t meet me.

Strange thing - we were on opposite side then, but to see a fellow vet show up was surreal .... I gave him my hand, he shook it and then we embraced. Took photos of each other together... we were drawing maps on napkin papers on where we were positionally . Yet here we were hugging and exchanging photos.

Real people who value friendship and have biggest of hearts for the world.
Lovely accounts bro. They are indeed humble, welcoming and look after their guests. It’s one of the safest nations to visit.
Oh they also have good ties with Pakistan lol.
 

denel

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Lovely accounts bro. They are indeed humble, welcoming and look after their guests. It’s one of the safest nations to visit.
Oh they also have good ties with Pakistan lol.

@waz - they never forget how pak sent rice when they had hurricane damage.
when i was there 3rd time - surprise - same immigration officer was there - recognised and same way - how is family etc etc. then when flying back; lot of EU/NA tourists; i was not feeling well. In the line. I dont know how they knew, one fellow comes over and asks me to go to front. EU/NA tourists were saying why are you taking this guy in front. two of the officials told them, he is a special guest of this country.

After 94; we provided Ford engines for their buses, machinery for the sugar mills etc. Mandela told Clinton - dont tell us who are friends are and are not; if you think you can dictate; there is the pool - go jump in it. It is on record and plenty of video of that call.
 

denel

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Cubans must know something for US to put an embargo for so long
US underestimated Cubans resolve and tenacity to find solutions.

Lung cancer vaccine - they finally started to test it at Roswell center.
 

denel

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This is huge!!!......



Cuba's COVID vaccine rivals BioNTech-Pfizer, Moderna

Cuba's health authorities said this week the domestically produced Abdala vaccine has proven to be 92% effective against the coronavirus in clinical trials. DW takes a closer look.





A nurse holds up a vial of vaccine
The Abdala vaccine is named after a poem by independence hero Jose Marti

In a measure of its ambitious efforts to be vaccine self-reliant, Cuba has named one of its homegrown jabs Abdala, after a famous dramatic verse by independence hero and national icon Jose Marti. In the verse, the young hero, Abdala, heads to war to defend his fatherland, full of patriotic fervor no matter how strong and powerful the enemy.

From the perspective of many Cubans, it's the perfect name for the first COVID-19 vaccine to be developed in Latin America. And the perfect imagery for the story of a tiny island of 11 million inhabitants eager to show it can't be broken by a deadly virus and a 60-year economic blockade by the United States, and a country that boasts several brilliant scientists of its own.
Cuba's new scientist star
One of them is Gerardo Enrique Guillen Nieto, director of biomedical research at the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) in Havana where Abdala was developed.

Last Sunday on Father's Day, Cuban television ran a commercial featuring the 58-year-old Guillen Nieto. Accompanied by melodramatic music, it opened with the scientist in his clinic while his son talked off camera about how his father works tirelessly for his family and the people.

Gerardo Enrique Guillen Nieto sits at a computer
Guillen Nieto said he gathered researchers from all fields to develop the vaccines

"We have worked full time since the beginning of the pandemic, every Saturday, every Sunday, from early in the morning until late at night, without even a moment's rest," the highly respected scientist said in the clip. "And we are very euphoric because the results have exceeded all our expectations. We knew the vaccine was very good, but not even I expected such a result."
Charting its own course
According to the state-run biotech corporation, BioCubaFarma, Abdala has proven about 92.28% effective against COVID-19 in clinical trials, which would put it the same league as the most effective vaccines BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna. Huge applause erupted in the auditorium of the CIGB this week when the impressive results were announced.

Since then, Guillen Nieto has been inundated with interview requests. The whole world wants to know Abdala's formula for success. The Cuban vaccine is neither a vector vaccine nor does it work with mRNA technology. Instead, it's a so-called protein vaccine. That means it carries a portion of the spike protein that the virus uses to bind to human cells. It docks onto the receptors of the virus' own spike protein, thus triggering an immune reaction. The scientists are using yeast as a receptor-binding domain.

The government vaccination program was rolled out in mid-May with Abdala and the second homegrown vaccine, Soberana 2, even before the completion of the third phase of clinical trials. These are the first vaccines on the island since Cuba declined importing any shots from Russia or China. Cuba has also decided against joining the UN-backed COVAX initiative, a global project aimed at getting COVID-19 shots to countries regardless of their wealth.



Watch video 01:51

Cuba's cigar-makers optimistic despite COVID

"We know that in the end we always have to rely on ourselves, on our own strengths and abilities," said Guillen Nieto, alluding to the political isolation caused by the US embargo. "The result is a health care system that is not only free of cost but also centrally controlled, and that has perfected the ability to respond quickly to disasters, be it with clinical trials, with vaccination campaigns or even the production of a vaccine."

Vaccinations to curb rising COVID infections

According to Guillen Nieto, 2.2 million Cubans have already received their first vaccination, 1.7 million their second and 900,000 the third dose.


Abdala is administered in three doses, with two weeks between each vaccination. Based on the government's ambitious plans, 70% of country's population should receive their shots by August.


It's a race against time because the number of new infections on the Caribbean island is steadily rising with more than 2,000 cases a day. Nearly 1,200 people have died of COVID-19 in Cuba. Guillen Nieto is counting on the vaccination campaign to give him a decisive advantage over all other countries in the world in the fight against the virus.


A nurse inoculates an elderly man
Cuba rolled out its vaccination campaign in mid-May

"Here there is an unprecedented level of trust in the Cuban health system," he said. "For example, we never have problems finding volunteers when it comes to clinical trials. In Cuba, people are extremely eager to be vaccinated. No one here would think of not getting inoculated because everyone knows how important vaccinations are."


An independent panel of experts in Havana will now scrutinize the Abdala vaccine, and official emergency approval is expected in the next two weeks. After that, Cuba could also apply to the World Health Organization (WHO) for approval of Abdala for international use. Bolivia, Jamaica, Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico have already signaled interest.

WHO shares optimism

But is Abdala really the miracle vaccine that the numbers promise? Perhaps Jose Moya is the man best placed to assess this. The Peruvian doctor started out as an epidemiologist 30 years ago in his native Ayacucho, and then worked for Doctors Without Borders in Guatemala, Mozambique and Nigeria.


For the past two years, Moya has been the representative in Cuba of PAHO (Pan American Health Organization), a regional organization of the WHO with 27 country offices. And, he trusts the Cuban figures.


"The CIGB Research Institute has 30 years of experience in vaccine research. I trust the results that have been published. These are serious studies, with the participation of researchers and institutions committed to science," Moya said.




Watch video 12:01

Facing Latin America's worst outbreak

The best proof is the fact that 80% of all of Cuba's vaccines are produced in the country itself, Moya said. He was not surprised by the high efficacy of Abdala, saying it was simply the logical consequence of a health care system that had been performing steadily well for decades. "Already, the results published by the scientists beforehand showed a good response in terms of antibody production," he said.


Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, however, does not want to dwell on scientific assessments of the new vaccine. For him, the country's drive to pursue homegrown solutions rather than importing foreign vaccines are a triumph of Cuba's biotech industry.


"This success can only be compared to the greatness of our sacrifices. It is an example of the pride with which a country treats its pharmaceutical industry, which has been living with the US economic embargo since 1962," he said.


This article has been translated from German
 

nang2

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Now, there is a bit more information about this vaccine. It seems to work like Novavax, which is also a protein subunit vaccine and is also 90+% effective. What it doesn't tell you is how the spike protein is manufactured. With Novavax, we know it is created by moth cells.
 
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