VITO ECHEVARRÍA | Cuba News
In June, French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventis said it would establish an office in Havana — a vote of confidence for Cuba’s biotech industry by the largest drugmaker in Europe.
Antoine Ortoli, Sanofi’s inter-continental vice-president, said his company hopes to use its Cuban presence to boost sales of its pharmaceutical products to the Cuban medical establishment.
Since 2001, Sanofi-Aventis has been selling the Cubans — through its Sanofi Pasteur unit — vaccines and medicines to treat epilepsy, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases, among other ailments.
Ortoli told Spanish news agency EFE he intends to pursue joint ventures with Cuban biotech entities to conduct clinical trials and manufacture vaccines and drugs for the Latin American market. “It’s more than a commercial presence [in Cuba].
It’s to embrace industrial and scientific-technical cooperation based above all pn the talent and proven capability of the Cuban doctors who, in my experience, are the best in the world,” he said. Ortoli hinted to a French media source he thinks the embargo will be lifted before President Obama leaves office. “The Cuban market is going to open. Our presence there is strategic,” he said. Pedro Arranz, a company spokesman, wouldn’t give CubaNews further details on Sanofi’s new venture in Havana — even though Cuban state-run magazine Opciones confirmed his attendance at the opening of the Sanofi office in Havana’s Miramar district.
Ortoli explicitly told Opciones his company would like to pursue biotech projects with renowned Cuban biotech center CIGB. One reason for Sanofi’s reluctance to talk: in May, the company won a $190 million order from the U.S. government to make a swine flu vaccine.
Sanofi is awaiting a green light from the Food and Drug Administration to begin commercial production of the vaccine. Perhaps Sanofi-Aventis is afraid that raising its Cuba profile in Washington circles could raise the ire of conservatives in Congress, particularly Cuban-American lawmakers, who would presumably take a dim view of Sanofi’s Cuba activities.
Sanofi Pasteur currently has an influenza vaccine production facility in Swiftwater, Pa.