Cuba and China: Profiting from Differences

By Pilar Montes

HAVANA TIMES — In terms of their dimensions, populations and economic conditions, Cuba and China are as different as an ant and an elephant. Their partnership in the field of biotechnology, however, has been recognized as highly profitable for both parties.

The People’s Republic of China has a long history of using biological resources for traditional industrial processes. With the advent of biotechnology, China has been able to preserve this traditional knowledge and employ it in modern applications.

Cuba has also made rapid progress in this field, to the point that biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry have become the country’s two major sources of income, following professional services abroad.

Cooperation in the field of biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry, began in 2004, was assessed by a bilateral committee that gathered in Havana at the close of June. Work in the area was considered highly positive and led to ten new agreements aimed at broadening joint efforts in these spheres.

On this occasion, an agreement for the production and distribution of bio-similar antibodies was signed, as was a letter of intention for the establishment of a Chinese-Cuban joint venture in the Marial Special Economic Development Zone.

A contract for the distribution and commercial representation of a Cuban heptavalent pneumococcal vaccine as well as a list of investment and technology transfer projects to be undertaken by Chinese and Cuban institutions also resulted from the meeting.

The creation of two joint ventures, one of which involved the transfer of Chinese technology to Cuba for the production of glucose biosensors for home use by diabetic patients, are among some of the concrete results of these cooperation efforts.

Available at pharmacies for registered diabetic patients, the Suma Sensor biosensors come in a kit that includes a glucose meter and needles. They are sold at 70 Cuban pesos (US $3.50) each.

ChangHeber, a Chinese company based in Changchun, a city in north-eastern Jilin, specializes in the development and sale of interpheron in China and for exports to Pakistan.

Biotech, another joint venture based in the Beijing Special Development Zone, specializes in the development, production and sale of monoclonal anti-bodies used in cancer treatment.

Other documents signed during the meeting included memoranda of understanding for the rapid introduction of the rotavirus vaccine in Cuba and Latin America, the continuation of existing business ventures and new projects between companies from the two countries.

China’s delegation also reported that the Chinese government will also increase financing for different companies and universities involved in biotechnological research, not only in the field of health, but also in agriculture, particularly for those developing bio-pesticides.

Over the past two years, more than 20 Chinese and Cuban delegations have met and signed 20 agreements, 13 of which have led to the creation of joint ventures.

One thought on “Cuba and China: Profiting from Differences

  • … why is it that Cuba claims to be this biotechnology success story and boasts of these high-powered partnerships with China but when you go to Cuban pharmacies for Cubans the shelves are empty and even Cuban aspirin is in short supply? What’s wrong with that picture?

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