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US & Cuban Scientists Meet on Stem Cell Research

US & Cuban Scientists Meet on Stem Cell Research

November 1, 2016 – In a historical first, scientists from the United States and Cuba met in Havana to discuss their latest findings in the field of stem cell research and regenerative medicine. Hosted by the Cuban Society of Hematology in coordination with the US firm Regenestem, the 1st Inter-American Exchange on Stem Cell Research was held in mid-October to share research, technology advances, and strengthen relations between scientists working on stem cell treatments. Cuba has been actively researching and applying stem cell therapies—primarily for treatments of chronic non-communicable diseases —since 2004.

The meeting came at an pivotal moment in US-Cuba relations, particularly in medicine and science, after a series of presidential initiatives by Barack Obama loosened restrictions on bilateral cooperation, with potential benefits for both populations—and the world. As if to prove the point, as the exchange on stem cell research was getting underway, Roswell Park Cancer Institute (Buffalo, New York) received FDA approval for clinical trials to test CIMAvax-EGF, a therapy for non-small cell lung cancer developed at Havana’s Molecular Immunology Center. And Roswell also received a specific license from the US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to form a joint venture with the Cuban center—such a license still required under the US embargo.

Nevertheless, the Obama Administration’s latest directive, issued October 14, provides general authorization for joint research for commercial as well as non-commercial purposes. And the stem cell meeting certainly bodes well for scientists on both sides of the Florida Straits dedicated to regenerative medicine. Part of the exchange was devoted to practical ways institutional relations in the field might be deepened. Beginning in 2017, the Inter-American Exchange will be held annually, designed to build on momentum gathered in this year’s first sessions.