[Marxism] First U.S.-Cuban Agreement for anti-cancer vaccines

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sat Jul 17 16:28:57 MDT 2004

(This article took up the entire back page of
the Daily Granma for Friday July 16, 2004 and
was translated for CubaNews by Ana Portela 
and contains much detailed information which
wasn't in the previous articles on this topic
from the U.S. mainstream media. Please share
this with others interested in this important
area of scientific progress. I notice that 
none of the US media, for example, reported
Fidel Castro's presence at the signing of the
agreement, nor did they discuss the issue of
South-North technology transfers as done here.)

July 18, 2004


By REYNOLD RASSÍ -Granma daily staff writer-

ON July 15, and for the first time in 40 years, a
cooperation agreement was signed by Cuban and U.S.
companies for the transfer of biotechnological technology
directed at developing vaccines against cancer. The
agreement was signed between the CancerVax Corporation and
the Center for Molecular Immunology at the International
Conference Center in Havana.

President Fidel Castro Ruz attended the signing, as did
other leaders of state and government; Dr. David Hale and
Hazel Aker, executive director and vice president and
attorney for the CancerVax Corporation, respectively, as
well as the directors of Cuba’s most important scientific
centers and health institutes.

During the event, a video message was shown to
participants, sent from Dr. Donald Morton, U.S. professor
and outstanding cancer specialist and medical director and
chief surgeon at the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Los
Angeles, California.

The message, read by Dr. Morton himself, congratulates all
those involved in this significant event for their
dedication, cooperation, commitment and labor to make the
day possible. He commented that the agreement signed is
very important to him for many reasons: “I am a cancer
surgeon and a survivor of this disease who has spent the
last 40 years doing research on the use of the immune
system and controlling cancer. I have dedicated my career
to leading research on promising technologies, such as
therapeutic cancer vaccines and the challenge to try and
intimidate it.

Morton further comments that unfortunately, the incidence
of this disease around the world is continuing to grow. The
World Health Organization estimates that in the year 2000,
more than 10 million persons throughout the world were
diagnosed with cancer, and that number will grow to 15
million by the year 2020. He notes that by that time,
cancer will have become the most frequent cause of death in
the world, because it will have exceeded cardiovascular
disease, and he adds that in his opinion, the technologies
represented in the signed agreement are potentially useful
for the treatment and control of cancer.

“We believe that the candidates for products that you have
developed in Cuba represent new approaches. A unique,
unprecedented discovery that of the development of vaccines
against cancer designed to stimulate the immune system,”
Morton says.

“Thank you all for your continuous support for cancer
research and each one of you for your personal
involvement,” he concluded.


Speaking on behalf of Cuban scientists, Dr. Agustín Lage
Dávila, director of the Center for Molecular Immunology,
said that dissatisfaction is a scientist’s natural state of
being, and it is known that what remains to be done is much
more than what we have done so far.

Lage said that it was necessary to recognize that an
important point had been reached that had made the signing
of the agreement possible. He recounted the history of how
scientific work had begun in Cuba to search for anti-cancer
vaccines, with the purpose of halting the growth of
malignant tumors.

That project received a boost from Fidel Castro’s decision
to develop a Center for Molecular Immunology, even in the
context of the tremendous economic difficulties that the
country was experiencing during the 1990s, he noted.

CancerVax, a company that was already known in Cuba for its
work on melanoma vaccines, came into contact with the
Center for Molecular Immunology in 2001, and its attention
was caught by the first clinical results that our country
had at that time for a vaccine for the treatment of
advanced lung cancer, Lage explained. He recalled how Dr.
Donald Morton visited the country, and that from then on, a
process of contact began that took more than three years of
negotiations, culminating in the signing of the current

For technical reasons, a complex negotiations process is
already underway involving three different cancer vaccines,
all under the protection of six patents from the Center for
Molecular Immunology and the Genetic Engineering and
Biotechnology Center, with different manufacturing
processes, Lage noted.

“This negotiation has additional complications, and anyone
could recite a long list of reasons why this agreement
could have been impossible, he added.

There is not tradition of technology transfer, particularly
in biotechnology, from Southern to Northern countries,
generally speaking, and particularly in the case of Cuba
and the United States, Lage affirmed. It is no secret that
there is a 40-plus year void of a total absence of economic
cooperation, a situation for which we have never blamed the
U.S. people, far less the scientists of that country,” he


Within that complex context, CancerVax decided to set about
reaching an agreement, together with Cuba, for the transfer
of technology with the goal of producing anti-cancer
vaccines, which has been achieved, Lage explained. “The
reasons that made it possible include, among other
elements, the enthusiasm and perseverance of Professor
Donald Morton and Dr. David Hale, attorney Hazel Aker and
her team, and the ethics of medical scientists who put the
interests of the sick before any other consideration.”

He further mentioned the determination of the Cuban
authorities and of the Center for Molecular Immunology, in
being faithful to the idea that both Cuban and U.S.
patients deserved all their efforts to overcome the
obstacles and abnormal conditions surrounding these
negotiations to make the project possible and open a new
road forward.

>From now on, a joint scientific team from both institutions
are to plan and lead new clinical trials, including the
United States and Europe, he explained, adding that
conditions will be created to produce vaccines by CancerVax
and Cuban scientific centers, as they work to make the
productive processes in both countries equivalent and to
obtain the vaccines’ registration in order to begin

Difficult moments will occur and will be overcome, as on
other occasions; longer lives and quality of life for
cancer patients depends on our ability to overcome them,
Lage affirmed. “Our colleagues at CancerVax have believed
in that ideal and we share it,” he stated.


For his part, Dr. David Hale, speaking for CancerVax,
expressed his gratitude for the labors undertaken by all
parts to make the agreement possible, and emphasized that
it is the first such agreement signed between biotechnology
institutions in Cuba and the United States.

Hale especially noted the support lent by scientists,
congress members and other officials and figures in the
United States to contribute to this achievement, and added
that cancer patients are excited about the results that
could be obtained through this biotechnology agreement.

Vaccines have already been created in the world to
eliminate certain human diseases, and others are being
developed by scientists to fight AIDS and malaria and to
prevent and cure cancer, he noted.

Hale said that he was impressed by Cuban biotechnology and
its scientists, and for advances achieved in the production
of vaccines for controlling diverse diseases.

It is necessary to have the new products approved and
registered to be able to use them throughout the world,
Hale noted. In spite of the differences and challenges,
joint work has been done towards both countries’ shared
vision of biotechnology and its benefits for humanity.
There is a ray of light in the darkness of cancer, he

The document was signed by CancerVax, Dr. David Hale and
attorney Hazel Aker, and on the Cuban side, by Dr. Agustín
Lage and attorney Norkis Arteaga, president of the CIMAB
distribution company.

After the signing ceremony, Fidel had a fraternal
conversation with scientists from both countries and other

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