vaccine

Cuba and China have filed the first patent for a vaccine against not just COVID-19 and its many variants, but which could also be effective against several related viruses, the Cuban daily Granma reported on Thursday.

In spite of a U.S.-directed blockade against trade with Cuba, the socialist island nation was able to develop five COVID-19 vaccines and inoculated 95% of its population against the virus. China similarly produced a colossal amount of two different vaccines for its 1.4 billion-strong population and much of the Third World.

According to Eduardo Martínez Díaz, president of the state-owned umbrella group BioCubaFarma Business Group, the patent was presented at the National Intellectual Property Office in China recently. The vaccine is a product of collaboration between the biotechnological sectors of the two socialist states.

Doctors from Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) announced the endeavor in a March 2021 editorial published in the British Medical Association journal The BMJ, noting the project would be based at a facility in Yongzhou, Hunan Province.

The letter said the project arose following a Chinese request, although according to Granma, work at Yongzhou on a vaccine for the coronavirus family of viruses – which includes SARS, MERS, and the common cold, as well as COVID-19 – began in 2019.

Diaz said Thursday that such efforts “have the purpose of achieving effective vaccines against coronaviruses, and would not only have value in the current pandemic, but could also be effective against the appearance of new pathogens belonging to this family of viruses.”

According to Granma, Pan-Corona is based on parts of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that haven’t changed between variants of the virus, which have frustrated other vaccination efforts around the globe. The vaccine is a recombinant-type antigen of the same type used to make the hepatitis B vaccine as well as two of Cuba’s five COVID-19 vaccines, including Abdala.

Cuba’s medical sector is among its strongest, and has served as a cornerstone of its economy and its cooperation with other Third World nations. Cuban doctors work in underserved communities across Latin America, Africa and Asia, providing essential care they might not otherwise receive. It has also produced advanced medicines, including a vaccine against lung cancer, and five COVID-19 vaccines.

Last month, Iran inaugurated a new vaccine. factory to jointly produce Cuba’s Soberana 02 vaccine, the world’s first conjugate vaccine against COVID-19. The effort is part of a yearlong project between BioCubaFarma and Iran’s Pasteur Institute.

Like Cuba, Iran has been subjected to stiff US economic sanctions that greatly exacerbated the COVID-19 pandemic there. Iran was the second country hit by the pandemic in early 2020 after China and was unable to import vital medical materials to treat patients.

China, similarly, has developed a robust biopharmaceutical industry that has produced several COVID-19 vaccines.

In addition to vaccinating nearly all its 1.4 billion people, China has also exported massive amounts of vaccines to the Third World, pledging in November 2021 to send another billion vaccines to Africa after exporting 2 billion shots globally that year.

Thursday’s announcement follows a previous discovery made by researchers at Shanghai’s Fudan University in February, who said they had developed a synthetic antibody that could neutralize the Omicron variant of COVID-19, a variant that’s able to evade patients’ immune protections caused by immunization or prior infection.

The Granma report said:

The project to conceive Pan-Corona arose at the request of the Chinese side, and has the approval of the Cuban Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment.

As a result of the collaboration in the biotechnological sector between China and Cuba, the first patent for the Pan-Corona vaccine was recently presented at the National Intellectual Property Office of that Asian country, reported, through its Twitter account, Eduardo Martínez Díaz, president of the BioCubaFarma Business Group.

The director pointed out that these joint investigations “have the purpose of achieving effective vaccines against coronaviruses, and would not only have value in the current pandemic, but could also be effective against the appearance of new pathogens belonging to this family of viruses.”

The project to conceive Pan-Corona arose at the request of the Chinese side, and has the approval of the Cuban Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, explained Dr. Gerardo Guillén Nieto, director of Biomedical Research at the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. (CIGB), cited by Cubadebate.

He explained that it is based on combining parts of the virus that are conserved and not so exposed to variation (to generate antibodies), with those directed at cellular responses.

He commented, in turn, that it is a strategy that could protect against epidemiological emergencies of new strains of the coronavirus with the possibility of existing in the future.

The Pan-Corona project is based in a joint biotechnological research and development center that has been operating since 2019 in the city of Yongzhou (Hunan province, center), and is led by experts from Cuba’s CIGB.

The initiative focuses on coronaviruses, not only due to the global crisis caused by SARS-COV-2, but also taking into account that this family of viruses is one of the most likely to jump from animals to humans (a phenomenon called zoonosis), with antecedents such as MARS in the Middle East or SARS-COV-1.

Pan-Corona is a recombinant-type antigen, which is the vaccine development platform in which the CIGB has the most experience, with successful antecedents such as that of hepatitis B, in addition to two of the Cuban vaccines against COVID-19, one of them Abdullah.

The BMJ published the following (Rapid Response: Cuba and China jointly develop a vaccine against new strains of SARS-CoV-2. https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n579/rr-50

“China and Cuba join efforts to obtain a vaccine, called Pan-Corona, that is effective against different strains of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and prevents Covid-19.

“Scientists from the Cuban Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) develop the product in an open facility in the city of Yongzhou, Hunan province (center), for research between the two countries. The project arose at the request of the Chinese side and has the approval of the Cuban Ministry of Science and Technology.

“This vaccine is based on combining parts of the virus that are conserved and not so exposed to variation to generate antibodies, with those directed at cellular responses. It is a strategy that could protect against epidemiological emergencies of new strains of the coronavirus that could exist in the future. There is a good state of bilateral ties in the biotechnology branch, where Cuba contributes experience and personnel, while the Chinese side supports with scientific capacity, equipment, logistics and resources.

“Last year, the assembly of the Yongzhou joint biotechnology innovation center was completed, with equipment and laboratories designed by Cuban specialists. Projects and technologies obtained by Cuban scientific personnel will be developed there.”


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