Excerpt from Seattletimes.com
Cuban leader Fidel Castro vowed to build a biotech juggernaut in the Caribbean, advancing the idea in the early 1980s with six researchers in a tiny Havana lab.
Forty years later, the communist island nation could beon the cusp of a singular breakthrough: Becoming the world’s smallest country to develop not just one, but multiple coronavirus vaccines.
Five vaccine candidates are in development, two in late-stage trials with the goal of a broader rollout by May. Should they prove successful, the vaccines would be an against-the-odds feat of medical prowess – as well as a public relations coup – for an isolatedcountry of 11 million that was added back to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism in the final days of the Trump administration.
Cuban officials say they’re developing cheap and easy-to-store serums. They are able to last at room temperature for weeks, and in long-term storage as high as 46.4 degrees, potentially making them a viable option for low-income, tropical countries that have been pushed aside by bigger, wealthier nations in the international scrum for coronavirus vaccines.
They could also make Cuba the pharmacist for nations lumped by Washington into the “Axis of Evil” and “Troika of Tyranny.” Iran and Venezuela have inked vaccine deals with Havana. Iran has agreed to host a Phase 3 trial of one of Cuba’s most promising candidates – Soberana 2 – as part of a technology transfer agreement that could see millions of doses manufactured in Iran.
“We have great confidence in Cuban medical science and biotechnology,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told The Washington Post this week. “It will not only be fundamental for Venezuela, but for the Americas. It will be the true solution for our people.”
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