Editor’s Note: Vital Signs is a monthly program bringing viewers health stories from around the world.
A biotech center in Cuba are developing a vaccine to treat lung cancer
Small trials have shown promising results with surviving 11 more months on average
On what appears to be a residential street on the outskirts of Havana, the tan building with a guard gate seems out of place.
The building is the Centro de Immunologia Molecular, the Center for Molecular Immunology (CIM), known locally as a thriving hub of biotechnology.
Sliding glass doors lead to a modern-looking lobby with a single receptionist desk, some furniture, and a timeline boasting the center’s achievements. A quote from Fidel Castro is emblazoned on the wall. This facility was his idea, after all – and Cuba would need it.
With much of the medical and pharmaceutical technology and treatments coming from the United States, Castro’s country wouldn’t have access to it due to an American embargo in place since the early 1960s. Cuba would have to make its own technologies and much of this has happened here, at the CIM.
In the building next to the lobby, researcher Camilo Rodriguez opens the door to a laboratory. Men and women are busy working inside, pipetting liquids into trays and putting tubes in whirling centrifuge machines. Since this place began operating in 1980, it has delivered some serious science. Rodriguez says Cuba has produced more than 70% of the medication needed in the country and produced their own vaccines for 21 different diseases.