Speaking at a biotechnology conference in Havana this week, a leading Cuban researcher announced that Cuba’s top biotech teams have successfully tested a new AIDS vaccine on mice, and they were ready to soon begin human testing.
“The new AIDS trial vaccine already was tested successfully (on mice) and now we are preparing a very small, tightly controlled phase one clinical trial with HIV-positive patients who are not in the advanced stages of disease, ” disclosed researcher Enrique Iglesias.
Iglesias, who heads up the vaccine development team at the Biotech and Genetic Engineering Center (CIGB) in Havana made the revelations as he was addressing the International Biotech Conference-Havana 2012, which started March 5 in Cuba’s capital.
He told the crowd at the conference that the vaccine TERAVAC-HIV-1 was made from recombinant proteins aiming “to cause a cellular response against the (HIV) virus.”
However, the Cuban expert was quick to downplay high hopes for a long-awaited successful AIDS vaccine.
“So far, there have been more than 100 clinical tests (on humans) with HIV” in Cuba and other countries, “and all of them have failed,” he stressed.
Cuba spends more than US$200 million a year on its AIDS prevention and care programs, including free care with antiretrovirals, some of them Cuban-made.
The CIGB, which groups about 20 research units in Havana, is the driver of the major export of Cuban biotech products including vaccines and other drugs.
The Caribbean country exports US$400 million a year in these products, making them its official number-two export after nickel.
Some 600 scientists from about 38 countries are participating in the biotech conference, including Nobel-winning US chemist Peter Agre, who is also a medical doctor and molecular biologist.