Cuba’s biopharma sector increasing production to meet coronavirus challenge

Cuba’s advanced biopharma industry is preparing to significantly increase the production of domestically manufactured pharmaceutical products to cope with Coronavirus (COVID-19), according to Eduardo Martínez, the President of the BioCubaFarma Business Group.

Speaking to the Cuban media, he said that among the products would be the Cuban antiviral recombinant Interferon alfa 2B (IFNrec), which has already been used successfully in China to cope with the disease. Martínez noted that the Cuban ‘flagship product’ which is manufactured both on the island and by ChangHeber , a Chinese-Cuban joint venture in China, is one of several products recommended by medical specialists for its ability to fight the virus.

Martínez said that “All the capacities” exist to supply both Cuba’s national health system and the increasing demand from other nations, while reassuring Cuban’s that exports would not be at the expense of local need. Cuba has sufficient inventory of the finished product to cover cases that may appear in Cuba over three to six months and is rapidly increasing production to satisfy requests from other countries.

His 13 March remarks come against the background of three Italian visitors and one Cuban who had travelled to Italy, testing positive for the virus.

Also speaking to the media, Eulogio Pimentel, the Director of Cuba’s Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB), which is responsible for the production of interferon, said that the CIBG believed that it was capable of satisfying not only the possible demand in Cuba but also the requests from other countries that had come from fifteen nations around the world.

Martínez told the media that government had guaranteed the availability of permitted medications for the treatment of COVID-19 as well as any complications that may arise, considering the experience of China.

“There is a work published by the Chinese Pharmaceutical Association that provides a guide for the prevention and treatment of the new coronavirus. And although a specific and effective treatment has not yet been defined, there are lines of treatment. The first recommended product is interferon, incorporated in the Asian country to combat the disease”, he said.

Interferons are molecules produced by the body itself in the face of viral attacks providing a natural defence of the immune system helping the inhibition of viral replication.

IFNrec, according to Cuban scientists, is used in the form of a nebulisation, providing a quick way for the molecule to reach the airways and act in the early stages of an infection.

BioCubaFarma said also that it was continuing to work on the development of new products and studying how other existing products can contribute to the positive response in patients. Its National Center for Biopreparations said that it is also exploring the use natural products able to increasedefensive cells and the production of interferon cells and the use of Biomodulin T in infected patients. Cuban reports indicated that other products currently under development at the CIGB, including CIGB-210 , an antiviral against AIDS may eventually be able to counteract the new coronavirus and it was working with laboratories in China to when ready test it against the epidemic strain.

The press conference was also told that other products, not medicines, are under development, including a dermatological soap based on ozonated sunflower oil which, in trials has proved effective against some bacteria, fungi and viruses.

Meanwhile, Cuba has reported the first four cases of COVID-19 on the island.

Cuba’s Ministry of Health said that three Italian tourists have tested positive and have been moved to the Pedro Kourí Tropical Medicine Institute in Havana for isolation and further tests. Later the Ministry said that a fourth individual, a resident of Santa Clara, who had recently visited the Lombardy region of Italy, has also tested positive. Cuban contacts with all four cases have tested negative for the virus.

The Cuban government and the Communist Party in their regular communications continue to stress the importance of ensuring that people are well informed, well prepared and that strict surveillance and control measures especially at airports, are in place. In addition, as Cuba Briefing reported last week, public health training is underway across the country.

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