President Barack Obama eased the limits on Cuban pharmaceuticals and medical research collaboration with the latest announcements of changes to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) which form part of the embargo against Cuba. On the surface, this is a significant change for medical research and patients in the United States who need access to Cuba’s latest innovations in the treatment of cancer and diabetes.
The changes in legislation represent benefits for American pharmaceutical companies, laboratories, universities and individuals enabling them to work together in joint medical research projects. Regulation changes are applicable to both non-commercial and commercial research.
It also signifies a benefit to the Cuban healthcare economic sector, opening up another export market for their cutting-edge cancer and diabetes medication, CIMAVAX-EGF and HeberProt P. Hopefully to enable this, certain changes will be made to the banking and credit situation for Cuba.
American pharmaceutical companies who wish to participate in Cuba’s new economy have been advised to do their research now, to identify and develop growth strategies.
Research and development in the Cuban biotechnological/pharmaceutical sector has been innovative, out of sheer necessity. Over the years Cuba has created a strong bio-pharma industry focused on research, developing and manufacturing generic drugs and alternative medicines. The biotechnology industry in Cuba has been an overwhelming success because of its government policies directed towards supporting health care and the health of its citizens. Recent discoveries of the anti-cancer vaccine as well as other cancer vaccines they have developed are already being used by patients worldwide.
Could this represent a golden opportunity for the American pharmaceutical and health care industry to invest in Cuban pharmaceutical science and health services?
Cuba annually publishes a list of investment opportunities and the 2015 portfolio listed seven projects in the health care sector open to international economic partnership. The updated list of opportunities should be released this November. Opportunities for bio-pharma and healthcare investment include projects for the manufacture and commercialization of expendable materials for medical use; building a new industrial biotechnological facility to produce monoclonal antibodies for therapeutic use in cancer and other chronic diseases; building a plant to manufacture oral biological medicines; construction of a new industrial biotechnological facility; building a new production plant to process 100,000 liters of plasma a year; construction of a plant to produce solid forms from natural products to be marketed to the Cuban and Latin American markets; and building a facility to manufacture products with biomaterials.
Prior to Obama’s announcement last week of regulation changes, there has already been collaboration between the American and Cuban medical community. There have been a number of scientific health and medical conferences held over the past year. Most recently, the Regenestem Conference took place a few weeks ago, in collaboration with the Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB). In December, the Heberprot P 2016 conference will take place, co-sponsored with the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the Peter Sheehan Diabetes Care Foundation (PSDCF).
Before Obama’s announcement, the Roswell Park Cancer Institute began working collaboratively with researchers from the Center for Molecular Immunology, or Centro de Inmunologia Molecular (CIM) to bring the Cuban cancer drug to the U.S. Collaborative efforts such these conferences indicate that the medical community of both countries are already one step ahead.
Individuals in the medical research community are highly educated and rather than worry about government policies, they are more interested in curing disease. It is also safe to assume that people with lung cancer and diabetic foot ulcer aren’t exactly focused on government policy either. They want the medicines that cure and the Obama announcement facilitates their access to the advanced treatments they need.
Does the upcoming visit of U.S. Health Secretary Sylvia Burwell on October 20 signify the opening of formal discussions between Cuba and the U.S. on this topic? Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s Director General of the Department of the United States at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Twitter that Ms Burwell will pay a bilateral visit to Cuba to attend a regional meeting on the Arbovirus. Could this be the beginning?