Cuban Scientific Breakthroughs

By Elio Delgado Legon

The five Cuban vaccines in the trial phases. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES – In the first few months of this year, many papers of the so-called “great worldwide press” found the need (journalistically-speaking) to publish what is happening in Cuba regarding its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. This included the development of new medicines to treat patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes the disease), as well as potential vaccines, with eyes set on erradicating transmission and protecting the Cuban people and every other country that needs it, especially the underdeveloped world.

In early April, Cuba already had five potential vaccines, two of which are in the third and final phase of clinical trials, with very promising results, both in their safety as well as immunogenicity.

The other three are in phase 1 and 2 of clinical trials, and they are also showing positive results, up until the time of writing this article.

The first two, called Soberana-02 and Abdala, are being developed in phase 3 and are being administered to thousands of volunteers all over the country. Furthermore, controlled experimental studies have begun, bearing in mind results up until the present, which involve all Health personnel and other at-risk groups, which account for 1.7 million in Havana alone, and then they will extend to the rest of the country.

In the meantime, once the regulatory body gives its approval, labs that manufacture vaccines have the conditions needed to manufacture (before August) the number of doses necessary to vaccinate the entire population, and they will continue to produce in order to supply many other countries that have already requested this help.

The fact alone that Cuba has developed five potential vaccines with different characteristics, that will soon become five vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus (that causes COVID-19), is enough for us to give Cuban science a positive assessment.

However, this isn’t the only feat of Cuban science that allows us to claim that our country reaches the level of the developed world, as it is the only underdeveloped country that has managed to get these results in investigating and creating COVID-19 vaccines.

It’s impossible to include all of Cuba’s scientific breakthroughs in this article, but I will try and summarize the most important. Cuba is a small, poor country that has been suffering the US government’s blockade for 60 years already. However, the development of the education sector, from the earliest years of education to universities, allows us to train researchers and scientists who have taken on the task of searching for solutions to many of the problems created by the blockade and its restrictions.

For example, when Cuba tried to buy ventilators for Intensive Care units in hospitals that treat COVID-19 patients, it didn’t find any suppliers, as the ones who normally supplied the country refused to sell them out of fear of US sanctions. However, Cuban scientists got busy working on the subject and have manufactured different models of ventilators – invasive and non-invasive -and Cuba no longer has to solely rely upon imports of this equipment.

In terms of vaccines, the island has reached a stage of development that no other underdeveloped country has managed. For example, every Cuban child is vaccinated against 13 diseases, and eight of these vaccines are manufactured locally.

Therapeutic vaccines have also been created against different kinds of cancer, such as CIMAVAX-EGFhr and Vaxira against lung disease, which have sparked the interest of US scientists, as they haven’t managed to create anything similar yet.

So as not to make this article too long, I will only mention some of the products of Cuban Science that have been awarded the Gold Medal from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). I can say that this in itself is a heroic deed, as it’s incredible that a small and underdeveloped country, that is being subjected to an ironclad economic, commercial and financial embargo, has managed to make such renowned scientific breakthroughs.

The first Cuban product to be awarded the WIPO’s Gold Medal was the Cuban meningococcal B vaccine, in 1989. It was created by a group of researchers from the Finlay Institute of Vaccines, under the direction of doctor Concepcion Campa Huergo.

It also received the important award for Policosanol, known as PPG, in 1996; in 2000, for the antibiotic for veterinary use “Biocida”; in 2002, the humanized monoclonal antibody CIMAher, from the Center of Molecular Immunology (CIM).

Other inventions that have won the WIPO’s Gold Medal have been: the vaccine against Haemophilus influenzae type B, as well as the lung surfactant “Surfacen”, for treating Respiratory Distress Syndrome in newborns.

I can also mention the Heberprot P drug, for treating diabetic foot, which has prevented thousands of amputations in Cuba and many countries worldwide.

There are others I won’t cite here, but if my readers would like to learn more about Cuban scientific breakthroughs, they can search for these online.

Read more of Elio Delgado Legon’s diary here.

Elio Delgado Legon

Elio Delgado-Legon: I am a Cuban who has lived for 80 years, therefore I know full well how life was before the revolution, having experienced it directly and indirectly. As a result, it hurts me to read so many aspersions cast upon a government that fights tooth and nail to provide us a better life. If it hasn’t fully been able to do so, this is because of the many obstacles that have been put in its way.

5 thoughts on “Cuban Scientific Breakthroughs

  • May 5, 2021 at 8:09 am

    The US embargo has become a scapegoat for Socialists in Cuba, who can’t face the fact that Socialism is the true enemy of the people. Please read my comments to the recent posting of Irina. The Socialist Totalitarian Regime that has ruled over the Cuban people for 60+ years, must grant to the Cuban people the basic civil rights, freedoms, and liberties that all “free” nations of the world have granted to their citizens. And augmented by a guarantee of competent legal representation, in a civil court system, to be judged by an impartial jury of their peers. That is what has been proposed to the Cuban Regime by every US President in my lifetime of 70+ years, since the Revolution of 1959. So quit blaming the “embargo” for all of the failures of Socialism in Cuba, and grant to the good citizens of Cuba, the basic civil rights that are enjoyed by all “free” peoples of the world. Pheusgh!?!

  • May 1, 2021 at 10:01 pm

    El senor Legon sabe como obtener respuestas a su escritos. Bien hecho. La misma muela comunista de 60 anos que ni el mismo se la Cree. No le parese que más de cuatro generaciones sufriendo en cuba es suficiente. Yo si creo. La libertad individual es el derecho dado por Dios no por el partido.

  • April 29, 2021 at 4:42 pm

    “Three doctors consulted by Reuters (who asked to remain anonymous) said they had started recommending that their patients boil a combination of herbs together and to apply them to the skin to provide temporary relief for scabies.” (Cubans Turn to Herbs in the Face of Medicine Shortages, April 27, 2021, by Cubanencuentro, HT)

    I think most readers would find it highly ironic that Elio proclaims all the magnificent medical exploits the Cuban state has achieved historically, but for simple medical medicines needed urgently to eradicate scabies there is no Cuban solution – but boiling herbs? Really?

    Why do anonymous Cuban doctors have to recommend to their patients to boil a combination of herbs to help eradicate irritant scabies? Yes, we all know the medication is not readably available in Cuban pharmacies. I am not a medical doctor but from my understanding all that is required to eradicate scabies is an over the counter lotion applied to the skin and the scabies within a few days disappears.

    Is the U.S. embargo responsible and to blame for all those Cubans, particularly children, infected with this itching problem? Is the U.S. embargo responsible for preventing Cuban medical expertise and researchers from producing a scabies preventable lotion?

    Cuban doctors, scientists, researchers have tackled more urgent and pressing medical problems – like the ventilator shortage as Elio describes – during the COVID pandemic and the medical authorities were able to overcome that technical challenge with or without the U.S. blockade/embargo’s negative impact. There was a chronic shortage of this vital technology but despite U.S. severe sanctions, the Cuban medical authorities overcame and compensated very well.

    So, why isn’t that same medical expertise being used to tackle a persistent medical problem affecting many, many Cuban children for years and years?

    According to Cubanencuentro quoted above, the article emphatically states: “The health system is one of the things that the Cuban government brandishes the most as an “achievement of the Revolution”. It uses the argument that it has produced results similar to those of wealthy nations, using the resources of a developing nation. Likewise, that it has managed to remain intact in spite of the US commercial embargo that in place for decades.”

    The wide and extreme dissonance between what Elio is proclaiming from his historical medical handbook and what is really occurring in reality on Cuba’s main streets affecting countless children, is tragic.

    According to Elio, the Cuban education system has produced scientists and researchers who have tackled and solved all kinds of medical maladies despite the U.S. blockade/embargo. No one will dispute that.

    Herbs are excellent source of all kinds of healthful benefits but when it comes to solving the persistent scabies crisis in Cuba, the Cuban government needs to rearrange its priorities and begin engaging in a lotion solution for the scabies epidemic.

  • April 29, 2021 at 5:58 am

    The Cuban Regime is holding the Blockade Over the People of Cuba Not the U.S. This true Fact as Canadians that have tried to provide Cuba with Medical supplies. I am Not the Only Canadian that has been Told from the Head Doctor of your Hospital, saying Thank you for caring & he can Not Except Doctors without Boarders from Canada. The U.S. Has Provided More to Cubans then their Own Government for many years is a Truth Cubans are explaining to a World that is Very interested in hearing.

  • April 28, 2021 at 7:04 pm

    Elio is rightfully proud of these Cuban accomplishments in pharmacology. I am not completely convinced that Cuba has developed these medicines without some help from Cuban espionage. It is widely accepted that medical breakthroughs anywhere in the world are always vulnerable to being stolen by foreign spies and Cuba is well known to steal secrets for their own account as well as on behalf of their foreign clients willing to pay. Another benefit Cuba enjoys is that benefit enjoyed by many authoritarian regimes. Clinical trials are above reproach and liability lawsuits. That’s to say, if a drug isn’t safe, so what? No problem. No fear of a lawsuit. Nonetheless, it sounds like Cuba may have at least one home-grown vaccine by the end of this year. A year after the US and the rest of the world already had a vaccine but better late than never.

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