The story of the rise of biotechnology in Cuba
Over the past twenty years Cuba has become a major pioneer in the development of biotechnology for medicine. In 2013 WHO estimated that Cuba held approximately 1200 international patents in the sector and was marketing numerous biological drugs and vaccines to over 50 countries. Furthermore, it was testing 90 new products in more than 60 clinical trials and had made significant progress in the development of treatments for hard-to-treat cancers as well as improving tools for the diagnosis of the disease.*
Cuba’s success is particularly striking given the international isolation and severe economic hardships it has faced over the years. It is also all the more notable because it has managed to develop products affordable for its whole population when elsewhere in the world the process of production and testing of biological products remains highly expensive.
The story of how Cuba has risen to become an important player in biotechnology and medicine space remains largely untold. Our aim is to fill this gap by developing an online exhibition documenting the history of biotechnology in Cuba. The exhibition will examine how Cuba began to gain expertise in the area in the 1970s through help of scientists around the world and the important role of the government which saw investment in biotechnology as a means to contribute to the economic growth of the country as well as to improve the health of its population. Capturing the stories of those involved in this effort, the exhibition will provide in-depth profiles of some of the key scientists and institutions that have been at the cutting-edge of Cuba’s biotechnology development.
The exhibition is to be hosted on WhatIsBiotechnology.org, a website that attracts visitors from all around the world, including school children, scientists, industry experts and policy-makers. Launched in 2013, this not-for-profit website gets nearly 600,000 page views a year.* WHO, ‘Cuba – Battling cancer with biotechnology’, Jan 2013, http://www.who.int/features/2013/cuba_biotechnology/en/
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