Biotechnology – Cuba narrates its success story

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The Petri Dish Editor-in-Chief MAHALETCHUMY ARUJANAN speaks to HE Ibete Fernandez Hernandez, the Cuban Ambassador to Malaysia and gets a glimpse of the country’s achievements in science despite decades of US blockade on the strong-willed nation.

Cuban biotechnology research and industry were born in 1980 when the former President, Fidel Castro saw that need to produce interferon to cure cancer. Can you take us through this journey to where the country is today?

The training of human resources has always been important to Cuba. As early as 1960, former president Fidel Castro predicted that “the future of Cuba will have to be necessarily a future of science men”.

Achieving universal education was inspired by the ideals of Cuban national hero, Jose Marti who stated that being educated is the only way of being free. In 1961, illiteracy was eliminated and the transformation of the education system with the aim of training people to be teachers, doctors and scientists.

With regards to the sciences, some milestones marked its evolution. In 1962 the reactivation of the Sciences Academy of Cuba, the creation of the Institute of Public Health, followed by the Foundation of the National Center for Scientific Researches, the production of Interferon, the institutionalisation of the Biologic Front,