Biotech Mission to Cuba

Kamal Rashid with Dr. Abraham Haddad, chairman of the board at Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI).

March 20, 2017/ As the 1950s vintage cars course through city streets seemingly frozen in time, a vibrant biopharmaceutical sector flourishes in Cuba, supplying most of the country’s essential medicines and exporting life-saving vaccines to developing countries.

“It was not what I expected to find,” says Kamal Rashid, PhD, director of WPI’s Biomanufacturing Education and Training Center, who was part of a Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio) delegation that traveled to Cuba in February.

The MassBio group, which also included research and business development leaders from several companies, Harvard University, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives, joined Bay State congressmen Jim McGovern of Worcester and Seth Moulton of Salem for the three-day mission.

“With the new openness between the United States and Cuba, we want to seize the opportunity to explore mutually beneficial collaborations in both biologics research and biomanufacturing,” Rashid says. “Massachusetts is a world leader in biopharmaceutical development and manufacturing, so it makes sense for both sides to begin building relationships. And having the two Congressmen with us was very important in terms of access and respect from the Cuban leadership. Their presence elevated our mission.”

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