Source: La Santa Mambisa
By Ángel Guerra
The selection by the Chinese health authorities of the Cuban interferon alfa 2B (IFRrec) among 30 other drugs to combat the new coronavirus Covid-19 should not be surprising.
In fact, there is a Sino-Cuban mixed company in the Asian giant in the province of Jilin that, with Cuban technology, has produced 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 to treat HIV infections, respiratory papillomatosis caused by human papilloma, and condylomata acuminata.
“Interferon alfa 2B has the advantage that in situations like these it is a mechanism to protect oneself, its use prevents patients with the possibility of aggravating and complicating themselves from reaching that stage, and ultimately resulting in death,” said the doctor in Sciences Luis Herrera Martínez, one of the creators of the recombinant INF in Cuba and today a scientific and commercial advisor to the Cuban business group BioCubaFarma, holder of the patent, manufacturer and distributor of this and other Cuban biotechnology products.
The fruits of Fidel’s vision
But it is natural that news like this cause strangeness or curiosity in many people, since Cuba is a poor, underdeveloped country, subjected to the merciless blockade of the United States and this may lead to doubts that it has an international biotechnology industry. Furthermore, there is the tremendous difficulty that the largest of the Antilles is one of the countries on which the dominant media machinery is most misinforming.
Many Mexicans can explain it better in these times, when they verify daily the grotesque way in which most of the national and international media deforms the reality of the administration of the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. They are the same media that also silence the economic, social, humanistic and scientific achievements that Cuba achieves in the midst of the redoubled harassment by Washington because their editorial interest is to disqualify it.
That is why many do not know that in 1965 Fidel Castro inspired the emergence of the National Center for Scientific Research (CNIC), where many young Medicine graduates voluntarily went to his call to train as researchers. Gradually, new research centers emerged from the CNIC harvest.
The Cuban Revolution gave birth to the universal and public health system
By then Fidel had given a huge boost to the development of medical sciences and research in this field and was looking for new scientific findings and technologies to strengthen the universal and public health system created by the Cuban Revolution. So in 1981 he inquired with the American oncologist Randolph Lee Clark, visiting Havana, what was new in the cure for cancer. His interlocutor told him about work that was being done with a new medicine called interferon at the Anderson Hospital and Tumoral Institute, in Texas, which he directed.
The commander was interested in the possibility of sending Cuban professionals to familiarize himself with the novel product, which only existed in a few first-world countries, and Clark agreed to receive two investigators, something possible then because Trump was not in the White House. The Cubans fulfilled the mission but were unable to bring INF back to the island because the American hospital center still received it from Finland, where it was produced under the direction of Professor Kari Kantel, in Helsinki.
The envoys, summoned by Fidel upon 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 cell banks. Between the moment the leader of the Cuban Revolution heard a suggestion like that and the researchers’ departure to Helsinki, not many days could pass.
A trip to Finland
Fidel, concerned like very few heads of state about the health of his compatriots and, it must be said, 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 center of Kantel in Finland, but less than four months after their return to Cuba they already had the first amounts of INF from bank globules produced on the island and very soon INF Recombinant, which allows for increased production and is the desirable type in most diseases.
On the island, the appearance of the INF coincided with a great dengue epidemic, which allowed a number of serious cases to be successfully treated with the new product. Thus, in 1981, Cuba became the first third world country to produce INF.
From that initiative emerged the Center for Biological Research and five years later an institution with much more complex and ambitious objectives from a scientific point of view: the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.
Interferon is a substance made by cells of the immune system of vertebrate animals and can be produced in large quantities in the laboratory. Refined from bacteria or yeast is called recombinant and counteracts viral diseases mentioned in the first part of this article. It is also useful to help fight certain types of cancer and other viral diseases such as Covid-19.
When China decided to use interferon alpha 2B (IFRrec) in the fight against Covid-19, there were not enough quantities of the drug in the warehouses of the Chinese-Cuban company Chang Heber. Explaining its executive director Li Wenlan: “Upon learning of the serious outbreak of the new coronavirus in China and the urgent need for the original interferon for the production of antiviral drugs, the Cuban side postponed its previous import requests to China.
Cuba – China cooperation
In addition, he appointed a group of Cuban experts to help China. ” As Cuba deferred in favor of China the receipt of quantities of IFRrec produced by Chang Heber, it was possible to shorten the time to make a certain amount of the product available to Chinese patients from 50 to 21 days.
The Cuban cooperation was mentioned in a telephone conversation by President Xi Jinping with his Cuban counterpart Miguel Díaz-Canel. Xi said China highly appreciates the understanding that the Cuban side and President Díaz-Canel himself have shown in China’s efforts against the epidemic.
It is very interesting that in this talk, around February 28, the Chinese president already stated that “the positive trend” in the prevention and control of Covid-19 “was gaining strength” and that his country had “full confidence, capacity and certainty ”that he will win the battle against the epidemic. The facts have confirmed XI’s claim, with the constant decrease in the number of infected and deceased in China, lately almost exclusively in Hubei, whose capital Wuhan is the epicenter of the epidemic.
The fact that the 16 provisional hospitals authorized in Hubei for the treatment of the disease have been closed and that on Monday 5 only 19 cases were presented in all of China, including two imported cases, demonstrates the robustness, humanism and ability to efficiently solve very complex problems that characterize the Asian giant’s socio-political system, contrary to what is claimed by the racist, anti-communist and anti-Chinese slander and lies of the Western hegemonic media.
In the telephone talk, Xi added that China is ready to continue cooperation with Cuba in the fields of medicine and the control of epidemics. China and Cuba “are good friends, good comrades and good brothers who can depend on each other in difficult times and are as close as lips and teeth.”
The Chinese leader recalled that this year marks the sixtieth anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations, adding that his country will take the opportunity to raise bilateral exchanges and cooperation in different fields to new levels, starting from a new historical starting point.
The advantages of the socialist system
I do not remember reading warmer words from the Chinese leader to another country. For his part, Díaz-Canel stressed that this experience has fully demonstrated China’s mobilization capacity and the advantages of the socialist system. He added that China’s timely and effective response made outstanding contributions to controlling the spread of the epidemic, which has been highly appreciated by the international community, including the UN and WHO.
Interferon, Dr. Luis Herrera has said, was the inspiration for Cuban biotechnology. The always visionary commander took this product as if it were a lever and around it he developed natural production and created the bases for intensive genetic engineering development. The maturation of a biotech industry on the island is expressed with the emergence of the powerful Biocubafarma Business Group that employs more than 22,000 workers, exports to more than 50 countries, has 1,800 patents outside of Cuba, and its annual income amounts to around 2,000 million dollars, a totally new item in Cuban exports, which, in addition, has made a substantial contribution to the health of the people.
Among the institutions affiliated to the group are the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, the Center for the Production of Laboratory Animals, the National Center for Biopreparations, the Center for Immunoassay and the Center for Molecular Immunology. Cuba has created very prestigious unique medicines :, among others, Heberprot-P, for the cure of diabetic foot; the CIMAvax-EFG C vaccine has opened up hope for the survival of people suffering from lung cancer; PPG is mainly used to lower cholesterol, but it has been shown to have antiplatelet, antiischemic and antithrombotic effects; VA-MENGOC-BC is the only effective vaccine in the world that attacks meningococci B and C.