Minister Supports Health, Pharma Cooperation With Cuba, Mexico

Several memoranda of cooperation in health and hygiene products were signed at the 16th Iran-Cuba Joint Commission in Havana that resumed after five years
A total of 60 animal and human vaccines are produced in Iran.A total of 60 animal and human vaccines are produced in Iran.

Over the past couple of years, Iran has been pressing ahead with its program to boost vaccine production and reach self-sufficiency in several types of the life-saving antigenic substance.

During the visit of Health Minister Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi to Havana last week, the two countries signed several memoranda of cooperation in health and hygiene products at the 16th Iran-Cuba Joint Commission session in Havana that resumed after five years. It was last held in 2011. 

A total of 22 agreements were on the table for finalization since last September  (when Hashemi had visited Havana), and Iran and Cuba signed several MoUs in areas such as joint vaccine and medicine production, biotechnology and agriculture, nanotechnology in medicine, energy and use of new methods in energy production, as well as cultural and academic cooperation. 

“The remaining 10 documents will be signed by both sides in the coming months,” said the minister on the sidelines of the signing ceremony in Havana on Feb. 16, the ministry’s news agency ‘Webda’ reported.

Recombinant drugs, food products, collaboration between Red Cross and Red Crescent, nutrition and diet, drug protocols and medical devices, were the other areas in which agreements were signed.

Pointing to the old bilateral connections between the two nations, Hashemi said resumption of the joint commission “is a propitious starting point for increased future cooperation in all fields.”

A total of 18 biotechnological drugs are produced in Cuba, 14 of which are also produced in Iran. Tehran needs further knowledge and research to produce the other four, and Iranian knowledge-based companies are planning to cooperate with the Cubans in this regard.

Iran is eager to import the knowhow to produce pentavalent vaccine, a combination of five individual vaccines conjugated into one that protects children from 5 life-threatening diseases, namely diphtheria, pertussis,  tetanus, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenze type b (Hib) disease caused by bacteria. It usually affects children under 5 years. 

“Havana asked for $15 million to transfer the knowhow, but Iran agreed to pay a percentage of the profits from vaccine sales,” said Dr Mostafa Qanei, head of Pasteur Institute of Iran (PII).

“It was decided that Cuban representatives travel to Iran and inspect the facilities and infrastructure before making a final decision,” he noted. “We are ready to improve the existing infrastructures if needed.” 

  Emphasis on Infectious Diseases

Founded in Tehran in 1921, the PII mission is to support advanced research and provide innovative programs in basic and applied medical sciences, and production of biopharmaceuticals and diagnostic kits with special emphasis on infectious diseases.

It meets the specialized and scientific health demands of the local community and tries to establish a link between applied research and industry. The institute is a leading regional facility in the development and manufacture of vaccines. 

Qanei said the two sides had come to terms to begin studies for joint production of pneumococcal vaccines which protect against streptococcus pneumonia bacteria, and is currently produced in neither country.

Pneumococcal vaccines prevent some cases of pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis. There are two types of pneumococcal vaccines: conjugate vaccines and polysaccharide vaccines. 

“Cuba has made remarkable progress in the area of biotechnology, and it would be beneficial to both sides if proper grounds are created for mutual cooperation in the field,” Qanei said.

Havana has previously collaborated with the PII in vaccine production, and new joint efforts would pave the way for entering regional and international markets. 

  Vaccine Export to Mexico

Hashemi also visited Mexico and met his counterpart José Narro Robles.

According to Webda, Iran has agreed to export three vaccines to Mexico under agreements signed between the two sides but the names or types of the vaccines were unknown.

“A total of 60 animal and human vaccines are produced in Iran, and we can meet Mexico’s demand through joint efforts of PII and Razi Research Institute,” Hashemi told a meeting with Narro.

Stressing Iran’s determination to expand and foster international ties with all nations, he said the incumbent government has made it a priority to promote people’s health status, and 35 educational programs to improve people’s lifestyles are in the pipeline.

Hashemi also met senators of the committees on health, education, labor and pension of the Mexican Senate.

Senator Francisco Salvador Lopez Brito, committee president, hailed decades of friendly political relations between Iran and Mexico and recounted his studies of Iran’s health system.

“The current Iranian administration has taken good steps in providing general insurance policy and reducing medical costs,” he was quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.

The Mexican lawmaker called for bilateral cooperation in areas of research, education, technology, medicine and academia.

Hashemi visited the National Autonomous University of Mexico (known as UNAM) and it was decided that joint projects in medical knowledge and technology be undertaken by Tehran University of Medical Sciences and UNAM.

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