in the region
• In 2013, just one year after
its founding, Cuba’s Biotechnolgy and Pharmaceutical
Industry Group has become the country’s number one
exporter, with sales of more than 680 million
Cuba’s biotechnolgy and
pharmaceutical industry is taking positive steps
toward a better positioning in the region since the
creation of the BioCubaFarma company, authorized to
establish joint ventures with high technology firms
from abroad and build production facilities in the
Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM), west of
Vaccinations and cancer treatments are
produced at the Center for Molecular
It is worth recalling that this
success is the result of a vision expressed many
years ago by the historic leader of the Cuban
Revolution, Fidel Castro, and the consistent efforts
of an underdeveloped country which has been
subjected to an ironclad blockade for more than 50
years by the United States. Despite these obstacles,
Cuba now possesses a biotechnology industry which
compares favorably to those of developed countries.
Cuban biotechnology was described in
the prestigious British journal Nature as the best
in the Third World, and has developed unique
products which have had an important impact
The industry’s expansion into the
production of generic non-patented medicines has
made Cuban companies much more competitive, reported
BioCubaFarma Vice-President Dr. José Luis Fernández
Yero, during an interview with Granma International.
BioCubaFarma was founded November
27, 2012, by way of a decree – no.307 – approved by
the Council of Ministers, and is composed of a
central management body and 38 production companies,
distributors and service providers, located in the
West Havana Scientific Pole, in addition to the
QUIMEFA state enterprise.
Cuba's flagship scientific institution
is the Center for Genetic Engineering
Fernández explained that
BioCubaFarma has as its mission the development of
an enterprise system capable of producing
significant volumes of medications, equipment and
advanced technology services - to improve the health
of the Cuban people and generate exports of goods
The doctor reported that the
industry manufactures a total of 1,099 products,
including generics and those based on Cuban
biotechnology. Of these, 592 are distributed as part
of the basic inventory of 888 essential drugs
available throughout the country’s public health
He added that more than 100 bio-technology
products are under development, in addition to
several pieces of medical equipment. The objective
is to promote early diagnoses, prevention and timely,
non-invasive treatment, as well as the effective
control of metabolic illnesses such as high blood
pressure and diabetes, and chronic, non-infectious
diseases such as cancer, the principal cause of
death in 10 of the country’s 16 provinces.
Among the bio-pharmaceuticals
produced, Dr. Fernández emphasized, are several
which are unique in the world, including Heberprot-P,
which promotes the healing of foot ulcers caused by
diabetes, thus reducing amputations.
This product was granted a gold
medal by the World Intellectual Property
Organization (WIPO) in April of 2011.
Among the many products distributed by
Heber Biotec S.A. - a BioCubaFarma
subsidiary - is the widely appreciated
Heberprot-P for the treatment of
diabetic foot ulcers.
Also in this category are various
monoclonal antibodies and therapeutic medications
for the treatment of advanced lung cancer (RACOTUMOMAB
and CIMAVAX-EGF), in addition to medical equipment
such as SUMA technology which includes eight high-priority
programs used within the public health system.
The company maintains a close
relationship with the Ministry of Public Health,
which ensures that all medications and equipment
developed are available throughout the free,
universal healthcare system.
Fernández reported that in 2013, the
company’s first year of operations, sales surpassed
686 million dollars, making BioCubaFarma the
country’s number one exporter of goods and services.
Products were sold to more than 50
predominately Latin American nations, with Venezuela
and Brazil as the largest markets, although China,
Turkey and Vietnam also made significant purchases.
Most widely distributed in 2013 were
Heberprot-P, the bio-pharmaceutical industry’s
leading export product since 2009; EPOCIM, human
recombinant erythropoietin, used to treat anemia in
patients with chronic renal failure, AIDS or
undergoing radiation therapy; and SUMA technology.
Other important exports include the
pentavalent vaccine Heberpenta, to protect children
from diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis
B and haemophilus influenzae type b; PPG, used in
the prevention and treatment of vascular disease,
bearer of the WIPO gold medal since 1996; as well as
glucose meters and sensors for the measurement and
control of blood sugar.
The new conglomerate enterprise
includes ten import-export companies, one of which,
FARMACUBA, is responsible for the distribution of
generic non-patented products, while the other nine
focus on sales of bio-pharmaceuticals and medical
Fernández reported that sales made
by four of the distributors, (Heber Biotec S.A.,
FARMACUBA, CIMAB S.A. and TECNOSUMA S.A.) accounted
for 94% of the industry’s exports last year.
They currently have three joint
enterprises operating abroad, in addition to dozens
of agreements signed with entities in Europe, Asia,
Africa and Latin America to conduct clinical trials
and facilitate sales of products.
Significant collaboration has been
established with Brazil, including the signing of
three contracts for the transfer of technology, a
manufacturing plant erected with the support of
Cuban specialists in Rio de Janeiro, to produce
human recombinant erythropoietin; interferon for the
treatment of chronic hepatitis types B and C; and
other biotechnology products.
A new stage of Cuban cooperation
with Brazil began with the January visit to Havana
of President Dilma Rousseff, who participated in the
Community of Latin American and Caribbean States
Summit and inaugurated, along with President Raúl
Castro, the first segment of the Mariel container
Projected is the creation of joint
companies with production facilities in the Special
Development Zone, based on Cuban technology and
Brazilian capital, to manufacture new
pharamceuticals developed in the two countries, to
meet the needs of their respective public health
systems and jointly expand exports.
Dr. Fernández likewise emphasized
collaboration with China, where two of
BioCubaFarma’s joint ventures abroad are located.
The relationship will take on a new dimension as
China invests in facilities within the Special
Development Zone, with a view toward extending sales
of its products throughout Latin America.
He reiterated that the Mariel
Special Development Zone will provide opportunities
for investors from abroad to partner with
BioCubaFarma, which has great potential to develop
new products given its highly qualified workforce.
The company has 20,785 full-time
employees, including 7,002 university graduates,
4,700 technicians, 354 scientists with doctorates
and 1,374 with Master’s degrees. Approximately 2,000
more collaborate temporarily or offer scientific
The Mariel Special Development Zone
will also facilitate the establishment of industries
which can collaborate and support the development of
BioCubaFarma, while generating employment
opportunities for Cubans.
As this interview came to a close,
considering the new company’s potential and its
importance to Cuba’s economy, Dr. Fernández
reiterated that the staff is intent upon making
BioCubaFarma the country’s leading force in
scientific development and expansion of the economy,
making an increasingly greater contribution to the
people’s quality of life.
This way, he said, "We will be
making a reality of Fidel’s words, spoken on January
15, 1960, when he said: The future of our country
must necessarily be a future of scientists."