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Cuba opens biotechnological fair showcasing cancer vaccines

HAVANA, March 6 — Cuba's biotechnology industry on Monday opened the 29th "Havana International Biotechnology Congress" where the island nation showcases the latest advances in the anti-cancer vaccines that Cuban scientists have developed in the last few years.

Monday's opening session was attended by 600 experts from 38 countries, including a Nobel Award winner in chemistry, and included "outstanding lectures" by internationally recognized experts in the field, organizers said.

Top on the list was the conference by the 2003 Chemistry Nobel Award Peter Agre, who will conduct a special lecture on the biological and biochemical aspects of molecules and their applications against malaria.

Luis Herrera Martinez, a senior member of the Italy-based International Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB), also spoke in the opening session of the congress that will showcase the highest level of international research and science for the next few days until congress closes on March 8.

Cuba, which for several decades has won international acclaim for having developed one of the highest medical standards in the world, has in recent years also increasingly moved into biotechnology with that industry today also being recognized as one of the most advanced in developing countries.

In a keynote speech in Havana last December, Agre said the world "has a lot to learn from Cuba" because the island has managed to discover the solutions to many of the medical and biotechnological problems persisting on the planet.

Cuba's biotech industry manufactures and markets pharmaceutical products and vaccines in 40 countries, generating revenues worth some 300 million U.S. dollars a year, making it one of the top foreign exchange earners for the national economy.

The Cuban agenda to be presented at the congress include a list of eight vaccines developed against different types of cancer, AIDS, hepatitis B and C, as well as the special prevention programs developed against dengue fever, a disease that regularly breaks out across Latin America with severe consequences.

Other issues to be discussed at the congress are bioinformatics and biological systems, new therapeutic point of views on the neurodegenerative diseases and the pathogenesis of the self-immune diseases.

Countries represented at the 2012 edition of the Havana Biotechnology fair include Argentina, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Mexico, Spain, Sweden, Britain and the United States.

Cuba first embarked on the development of a biotechnology industry in 1979 after then leader Fidel Castro ordered scientists to look into the issue as a future opportunity for the Caribbean nation. (PNA/Xinhua) FPV/ebp

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