Cuban Interferon in China

By Ángel Guerra Cabrera on March 4, 2020

The selection by the Chinese health authorities of Cuban interferon alpha 2B (IFRrec) among 30 other drugs to combat the new coronavirus Covid-19 should come as no surprise. In fact, there is a Sino-Cuban joint venture in Jilin province that, with Cuban technology, has been producing the drug since 2007, which has been used with good results by the Chinese health system to combat viral diseases, especially hepatitis B and C. The product can also be used in the treatment of infections produced by HIV, respiratory papillomatosis caused by human papilloma and condyloma acuminatum. Interferon alpha 2B has the advantage that in situations such as these it is a mechanism to protect oneself, its use prevents patients with the possibility of getting worse and more complicated from reaching that stage, and eventually leading to death, said Dr. Luis Herrera Martínez, one of the creators of the recombinant INF in Cuba and now scientific and commercial advisor to the Cuban business group BioCubaFarma, holder of the patent, manufacturer and distributor of this and other Cuban biotechnology products.

But it is natural that news like this could cause strangeness or curiosity in many people, since Cuba is a poor, underdeveloped country, subject to the merciless blockade of the United States and this may make one inclined to doubt that it has a biotechnology industry of international scope. There is also the tremendous difficulty that the largest island of the Antilles is one of the countries about which the dominant media machine is most misinformed. Many Mexicans can better explain this in these times when they see on a daily basis the grotesque way in which most of the national and international media deform the reality about the government of President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador. These are the same media outlets that also silence the economic, social, humanistic and scientific achievements that Cuba achieves in the midst of Washington’s redoubled harassment since their editorial perpetual interest is to disqualify it.

That is why many do not know that already in 1965 Fidel Castro inspired the emergence of the National Center for Scientific Research (CNIC), to which many young medical graduates voluntarily answered his call to train as researchers. Gradually, new research centers emerged from the CNIC’s harvest.

By then, Fidel had given an enormous boost to the development of medical science and research in this field and was looking for new scientific findings and technologies to strengthen the public and universal health system created by the Cuban revolution. So in 1981, he asked the American oncologist Randolph Lee Clark, who was visiting Havana, what was new in the cure for cancer. His interlocutor told him about work being done on a new drug called interferon at the Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute in Texas, which he was directing. The comandante was interested in the possibility of sending Cuban professionals to familiarize themselves with the new product, which only existed in a few first-world countries, and Clark agreed to receive two researchers, something that was possible at the time because Trump was not in the White House. The Cubans accomplished the mission but could not bring INF back to the island because the U.S. hospital still received it from Finland, where it was produced under the direction of Professor Kari Kantel, in Helsinki.

The envoys, summoned by Fidel upon their arrival in Cuba, explained to him the need for a group of researchers to carry out an internship in Dr. Kantel’s laboratory to learn how to produce the INF of blood cells banks. Not many days would pass before the Cuban leader heard the suggestion and the departure of the Cuban researchers to Helsinki

Fidel was concerned like very few heads of state about the health of his compatriots, and it must be said, of all of humanity, saw in the new product the possibility of saving many lives. This explains not only the trip of five Cubans and one Cuban to the Kantel center in Finland but also the fact that less than four months after their return to Cuba they already had the first quantities of INF of blood cells produced on the island and very soon of recombinant INF, which allows for a greater production and is the desirable type in most diseases. In the island the appearance of the INF coincided with a great epidemic of dengue, which made it so that a number of serious cases were treated with the new product successfully. Thus, in 1981, Cuba became the first Third World country to produce INF. From this initiative emerged the Center for Biological Research and five years later an institution with much more complex and ambitious objectives from the scientific point of view: the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.

Source: La Pupila Insomne, translation Resumen Latinoamericano, North America bureau