Accessing Cuban Medical Technology

Cuba’s medical technology could be enormously beneficial to American businesses


By Tyson Guajardo, Lynx Global Intelligence


It’s no secret that the United States would considerably benefit from open trade with Cuba.  Access to the country’s medical technology could be enormously beneficial to both American businesses and the general population alike.

Although Cuba may be struggling in many measures of development, healthcare is one area where the communist nation vastly excels.  In 2015, there were an estimated 37,000 Cuban nationals working abroad in 77 countries (1).  Remarkably, Cuba boasts more doctors per capita than any other country in the world (Vice News), features a life expectancy almost identical to the United States (2), and has a lower infant mortality rate than its northern neighbor (3).  How is this possible for a nation that has been economically crippled for the past several decades?  The isolation endured by Cuba due to the U.S. trade embargo and the collapse of its largest financial lifeline, the Soviet Union, have led to a necessity to design its own medical innovations.  Furthermore, the Cuban government treats healthcare as a basic human right and invests heavily into the development of new medicines.  In recent years, the country has achieved great success with a few major medical advancements:

  1. A lung cancer vaccine called CimaVax developed by Cuba’s Center of Molecular Immunology is already in the process of approval for use in the United States. In fact, it has already been cleared for testing by the Food & Drug Administration (4).  This vaccine was designed not as a preventative measure, but as a method to freeze growth and reduce the likelihood of recurring non-small cell lung cancer (5).  The treatment has been available in Cuba since 2011 and in its most recent trial on the island, patients who received CimaVax lived between three to five months longer than those who did not.  Moreover, individuals with high concentrations of E.G.F., or Epidermal Growth Factor in their blood survived much longer (5).  Outside of Cuba, the vaccine is also available in Peru, Paraguay, Colombia and Bosnia.
  2. Heberprot-P is a drug used to treat diabetic foot ulcers that was invented by scientists at the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Havana in 2006. This treatment prevents the need for amputations in individuals with the condition, in turn extending their overall life expectancy.  So far, Heberprot-P has been used to aid over 165,000 patients in 26 different countries worldwide since its launch into the global market (6).  The medication is injected near the affected area to speed up the process of skin restoration and can heal a wound in about three months.    Current treatment options for diabetic foot ulcers remain scarce in the United States where approximately 73,000 American adults with diabetes underwent amputation of their lower limbs in 2010 (7).
  3. The Center of Molecular Immunology in Havana has also developed Nimotuzumab, an anti-cancer drug used against advanced tumors in areas such as the head, neck and brain (8). Monoclonal antibodies in this medicine connect to epidermal growth factor receptors on the surface of the cancer cell and stop it from spreading.  As of 2014, the treatment is recognized under orphan drug status in the United States for the treatment of glioma.

While most Cuban goods are still restricted from importation under the long-standing trade embargo, the US Treasury Department can grant exemptions for certain medicines and healthcare products.  Lynx Global Intelligence is leading a trade delegation to Cuba on July 23-27, presenting a great opportunity for firms in the healthcare industry to learn more about prospective medications and technologies on the island, as well as access to top Cuban business and ministry resources that can facilitate commercial activities with the United States.  Visit us at for more information.










Agriculture as it Used to Be: Cuba’s Natural Crops have Massive Potential in Upscale Markets

By:  Colin Gaiser, Lynx Global Intelligence


When the United States relaxed travel restrictions to Cuba in 2015, it was an exciting moment for those of us who were always drawn to the island by photos of surreal, pastel-colored buildings and streets lined with classic cars. And Cuba is indeed an exciting place to visit — yet beyond the famous old city of Havana is a lush 110,000 km2 island, where 30 percent of land is used for agricultural production.

Cuba’s climate could hardly be better for agriculture — lying just south of the Tropic of Cancer, Cuba has a tropical climate with temperatures moderated by year-round northeastern trade winds. It also has a predictable, May-October rainy season. And while Cuba is historically better known for tobacco and sugar, the island also grows ample amounts of coffee, potatoes, rice, numerous tropical fruits, and citrus (the island is actually the world’s third-largest producer of grapefruit).

Organic and Sustainable

Unfortunately, a combination of Castro regime policies, lack of access to fuel and supplies after Soviet Union’s collapse, and the island’s economic and political isolation have made agricultural production relatively inefficient. A lack of fertilizer and modern agricultural technology hampers yields. And while the government has turned land over to independent farmers to lease, it still requires most of them to grow food for the state.

However, there is an upside: This unique situation left Cuba’s agriculture largely organic, dominated by small-scale farms (many in urban areas) that rely on more natural methods of production. With many Americans willing to pay a premium more for organic, sustainably sourced products, Cuban agricultural products could be very attractive to the upscale market.

Plus, there is reason to believe more economic liberalization is not far off. Raúl Castro is scheduled to hand over power to Miguel Díaz-Canel, his younger vice-president, in February 2018. Díaz-Canel supports increasing internet access (currently very spotty) as well as more economic openness, which is strongly endorsed by public opinion in both Cuba and the United States.

Brewing a New Market

Coffee, in particular, is a likely beneficiary of more economic openness. Despite a drop in overall production since the 1990s, it is one of the first Cuban agricultural products accessible to American citizens within the United States.

Swiss-based Nespresso is the first company to make Cuban coffee available to Americans. Though not on store shelves yet, for a limited time one could order their Cafecito de Cuba coffee pods online or over the phone. While this is just a small step toward providing Americans the experience of drinking Cuban coffee, the thawing relationship between the two countries makes one optimistic about the possibilities of coffee on the luxury market.

In the meantime, the president of Nespresso USA, Guillaume Le Cunff, has stressed that Nespresso is interested in developing a long-term arrangement to ensure a steady supply of Cuban coffee for U.S. customers. This project would also work to improve living conditions for Cuba’s farmers. Such a combination of a novel, high-quality product along with real corporate responsibility could strike a chord in the U.S. premium market.

A Bright Future

While the timetable is unclear, Cuba seems destined to liberalize and become more economically open to the rest of the world — and when this occurs, the challenge will be to maintain the sustainable, organic quality of Cuban agricultural products. This will not just be attractive to American consumers, but also necessary to maintain the magnificent environment and biodiversity of Cuba. Both the economic and social returns on investment could be huge for companies that take on this challenge.





Why Cuba? The Race to Havana

Let the race to Havana begin with these economic insights.

By:  Tyson Guajardo, Lynx Global Intelligence


Under the Obama administration, the world witnessed the restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States following decades of mutual antagonism.  Since this historic event, U.S. Citizens have seen their restrictions on travel to the Caribbean island come tumbling down.  Individuals who fall within 12 categories previously needed to apply for a special license to visit Cuba, but are now merely required to check a box on a form, committing not to engage solely in tourist activities during their stay.  Regular commercial airline flights, cruise, ships and ferries have also been recently authorized.  Although the trade embargo remains in place, this easing of US economic sanctions on the island provides numerous investment opportunities that few dared to dream of just a few years prior.  And while President Trump has threatened to undo almost all of Obama’s executive orders pertaining to Cuba, many experts see this as an unlikely move, as it would go against an increasingly one-sided public opinion and vast commercial interests.

It would be wise for many businesses in the United States (and anywhere else for that matter) to consider the possibilities of investment in Cuba, following its trend of economic liberalization: Since Raul Castro took over for Fidel in 2008, state regulations on private enterprise have steadily decreased.  This has opened a world of new markets for outsiders.  There are numerous prospects in the industries of tourism, agriculture, energy and manufactured goods.  Moreover, Cuba is abundant in highly skilled and educated workers.  Even more compelling is the strategic port location that the island provides for several other nations in the Caribbean and the southeastern United States.  And in 2018, Raul is scheduled to step down as president, which could lead to further economic restrictions being busted wide open under his successor.  Let the race to Havana begin with these economic insights:


Cuba is hoping to build 21 new hotels in the Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Guardalavaca, Playa Santa Lucía and Covarrubias areas.  The state companies owning existing hotels are searching for new management contracts including 19 for new hotels and 14 for those already in business.  The government entity CubaGolf intends to “promote the island as a golf-holiday destination” and is already in negotiations with numerous foreign partners to establish joint ventures for the creation of tourism-golf condo complexes.  However, in exceptionally popular locations such as urban Havana and Varadero beaches, prospects are still mostly reserved for state owned enterprises.


Most land is owned by the state with only 15 percent available to private farmers and another 7 percent for farmer cooperatives.  Despite this, Cuba is looking for joint ventures in cattle, pork, and poultry production; as well as in citrus, peanuts and shrimp farming.  Additionally, Cuba is open to a partner who would be willing and able to invest $10.3 million to create a “leading brand on the international level” of premium coffee grown in specific regions of the hills in Guantánamo Province.  Other opportunities will be available in greenhouses for vegetables, hog production, soy processing, confectionary facilities, and dry yeast production.  Unfortunately, sugar will remain with heavy restrictions, as well as tobacco/cigar industries and lobster fishing & processing.


While opportunities for joint ventures in petroleum extraction onshore and offshore will be available, Cuba’s goal is to raise the percentage of electricity produced from renewable sources from the current 4 percent to 24 percent by 2030.  This means that foreign investment in hydro, biomass and solar energy is in high demand (for wind farms, Cuba will allow 100% foreign ownership!).


Aluminum cans are in short supply as the firms Bucanero (InBev) and Los Portales (Nestlé) are the current primary clients tasked with producing 577 million of these in joint ventures.  In tech manufacturing, Cuba wants foreign investors to help produce desktop computers and tablets.  The current annual demand is only 75,000, but this is expected to grow to around 1 million in 10 years.


Source: Open for Business: Building the New Cuban Economy, Richard E. Feinberg