This week, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff visited Raul Castro in Cuba to discuss Brazil's ongoing developmental support in the island nation. The two leaders discussed natural gas pipeline, farm and food credits, and biopharmaceutical cooperation.
Since Raul took over from his brother Fidel in 2006, he has worked to "update the economic model" in Cuba by allowing private citizens to run their own businesses and granting state land to individuals. One area Raul has not strayed from his brother is in the realm of biotechnological support.
No doubt in part because of the trade restrictions enacted by the US in the 1960s, the medical and biopharmaceutical industry in Cuba is incredibly advanced, with research being done in infectious diseases, vaccines, small molecule drugs, and novel therapeutics. In mid-January, the Cuban government even announced that every Cuban citizen under the age of 31 has been vaccinated against Acute Hepatitis B through broad and systematic immunization campaigns.
Cuba's CIGB, the Centro de IngenierÃa GenÃ©tica y BiotecnologÃa, employs over 200 top researchers in areas like vaccines, pharmaceuticals, genetics, and physical chemistry. The government also holds several academic symposiums on pharmaceutical sciences on topics like food safety and drug regulation.
While Brazil's President Rousseff promised additional support to agricultural and energy projects, it is Brazil that profits from partnerships in pharmaceuticals. She said that Cuba “as a country and a people excels in biotechnology and medical sciences, and Brazil benefits from” [it].
Brazil has a huge national and international pharma industry with the necessary infrastructure to manufacture and distribute drugs very easily. By partnering with Cuba, Brazil has access to exciting new treatments that it can commercialize in Brazil and beyond. With pressure on the US government to end the trade embargo growing, it is the hope of some that Cuba's new developments in biotechnology could soon be available to everyone, not just Brazil.
Learn more about pharmaceutical partnerships at the BioPharma LatAm Convention!