CUBA'S BIOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT
Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology
The most important institution in Cuba's biotechnology industry is the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, CIGB. It was established in La Habana, in 1986. Located west of La Habana. 31 Ave, between 158 and 190 Streets, Cubanacan.
The CIGB has the most modern and efficient technology for bioscientific research as well as facilities for manufacturing and continuous work flow. It has a total area of 60,000 square meters. The Center has state-of-the-art equipment, second only to the United States in the Americas.
At the center work outstanding scientists and engineers dedicated to genetic research, virology, cloning, vaccines development.
The main CIGB buildings cover an area of 43,200 square meters and contain specialized labs for both general purposes and dedicated research. The CIGB has a biotherium, barrier zones or white rooms, which allow research with sensitive and lethal agents.
The CIGB's modern and efficient technological equipment includes mass spectrometers, infraredand ultraviolet, electron and scanning microscopes, gamma counters, DNA synthesizers.
Also, and very important, downstream fermenters, drying and milling machines, centrifuges, which can, therefore guarantee research and development of bioweapons, such as bacteria and virus agents.
In the CIGB work more than 700 highly skilled researchers, scientists, and engineers. Russians scientists cooperated with the CIGB several times, including, according to certain intelligence sources, assisting in the development of altered strains of bacteria. Major General Yury Kalinin, chief of the Main Directorate, and Deputy Minister of Russia, was invited to Cuba in 1990 to discuss the creation of a new biotechnology plant ostensibly devoted to single-cell protein.
To facilitate the development of biological agents without suspicion, the CIGB has efficient, flexible, and dynamic organizations. It is structured into several large sub-directions made up, in turn, by a number of divisions with specifically oriented work lines.
The main ones are: research and development in diseases in humans; development of new vaccines by genetic engineering; recombination of enzymes; analysis, design and modeling of peptides and proteins.
The process of weaponizing anthrax, for example, could be done easily at these facilities. A few grains of freeze- dried bacteria are kept in a stoppered vial. Then, a small amount of a nutrient medium is put into the vial. A mother culture is created. With tiny pippettes, a scientist draw the mixture out of the vial and transfer a small amount into several slightly larger bottles. The bottles are left to incubate in a thermostatic oven for two days. So far, this process is very similar to the one to make a vaccine.
A seed stock in a standard vial will swell to billions of microorganisms after 48 hours, but it will take weeks to of brewing to produce the quantities required for weaponization. Once the culture emerges from the oven, it is siphoned off into large flasks. The flasks are taken into a special room where they are connected to air-bubbling machines, which turn the liquid into a light froth. The bacteria can grow now more efficiently.
Each new generation of bacteria is transferred into larger vessels, until is vacuum pressure into fermenters. These fermenters incubate the substance for two days. The bacteria continue to multiply until scientists decide they have reached maximun concentration. At this point, they process it through a centrifuge to be concentrated as much as thirty times further.
Fermenters, and centrifuges, are equipment very similar to the ones used in the dairy industry, in the sugar industry, and liquor industries. These are industries where Cuba has had experience for years. Therefore, the equipment is now manufactured in Cuba. Even at this stage, there is not a weapon. The pathogen has to be mixed with special additives to stabilize it over a long period. A scientist works with recipes. The raw ingredients are similar, but quantities and combinations of nutrient media, heat, and time vary. If something fails, the scientist has to start all over again.
Smallpox requires no concentration. Also, it is a virus, not a bacteria. Tissue cells are obtained from animals or humans. The tissue has to be kept alive outside its natural habitat in cell lines and stored at precise temperatures. Cells can be taken from the kidneys of green monkeys or from the lungs of human embryos.
The nutrient media needed to cultivate tissue cultures are different from those used to grow bacteria. A special complex of amino acids, vitamins, salts, and sera, distilled with de-ionized water, is crucial to the process that promote tissue cells and ultimately viruses to grow. The CIGB, in conjunction with other Cuban biological centers and institutes, like the Finlay Institute, or the Biocen, are quite capable of weaponizing such agents.
Commercially, the CIGB has developed a number of preparations, such as:
This is a fact. The Center has conducted many international conferences.
The National Bio-preparations center, Biocen, located in Bejucal, south of Habana province, at Carretera de Beltran km 1 1/2 is engaged in industrial scale production of human vaccines.
Also, culture media, nutritive bases and a wide range of genetic engineering products, developed at the CIGB and the Finlay Institute. It was created in 1992, at a cost of $4 million dollars.
Biocen's culture media plant has an annual 40 tons. capacity. It is equipped to carry out homogenization, hydrolisis, dehydration, milling, sifting, filtration, and several other processess required not only for the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, but for bacteria and virus weaponization.
A new department that manufactures recombinant products went into operation in 1993. The complex also includes a plant producing immunological reagents and two vivaria labs.
Innovative techniques have been developed at Biocen for obtaining culture media, substituting the traditional expensive nutritive bases, like meat, casein. They have developed 14 alternative protein sources. The development is vital for the creation of bioweapons.
Among Biocen's special products are allergenic extracts, dust mites, insects, atmospheric fungi. A prominent Cuban scientist, Dr. Mario Estrada has done extensive research on fish-transgenesis with the assistance of the CIGB. Most of the more lethal toxins are developed from fish and marine research.
This is a fact.
The Finlay Institute
The Carlos J. Finlay Medical Research Institute is commercially best known for the development of the world's first effective vaccine against both meningitis B and C. It is located in Ave. 27, No. 19805, La Lisa, Habana.
The Institute occupies an area of 23,000 square meters, divided into three areas: fermentation, purification, and "clean rooms". Over 950 persons work at the Institute. Of these, 60% are engineers and scientists.
The Institute has done extensive work in the research and development of new vaccines. Among them, vaccines against Leptospirosis, Hepatitis, Cholera, and Meningitis. The Plant III area is well prepared for the production of bioweapons.
The main areas of research and production of the Institute are related to bacteria and viruses. The Institute has been as important as the CIGB in the research and production of bioweapons. Commercially, it has worked on research and production of vaccines.
This is a fact.
The Institute of Tropical Medicine
The Institute was founded in 1937 by Dr. Flori, a very well known Cuban scientist. The center's research area is in microbiology. The Institute has the necessary state-of the-art equipment for research and development of bioweapons related to tropical bacteria and viruses.
Lately, the Institute has done extensive work on the strains of viruses and cells related to parainfluenza 3, adenovirus 3, measles, and influenza type A. Hep2 two cell line was grown in minimum essential medium, MEM, containing 10% fetal calf serum, 1% glutamine, 100 U/ml penicillin and 100 mg/ml streptomycin sulfate.
Clinical specimens were processed using nasopharyngeal exudates of children who had been admitted to the William Soler Pediatric Hospital, in La Habana. An extensive scientific process was followed to evaluate the ability of the RNA-PCR method.
The Institute has also conducted extensive research on yellow fever. Yellow fever is a viral disease that has caused large epidemics in the world. Infection causes a wide spectrum of disease, from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. The yellow in the name is explained by the jaundice that affects some patients. The disease is caused by the yellow fever virus, which belongs to the flavivirus group.
The virus remains silent in the body during an incubation period of three to six days. There are two disease phases. Those patients who enter into the second phase or toxic phase develop jaundice, bleeding, kidney function deteriorates. Half of the patients in the toxic phase die within 10 days.
A weaponized yellow fever virus produces a strong strain of what is known as urban yellow fever. There is no specific treatment for yellow fever. Prevention is through vaccination. There are other tropical disease that could be used as bioweapons, such as: malaria, dracunculiasis, filariasis, leishmaniasis, dengue, dengue hemorrhagic fever.
Dengue is caused by the Dengue viruses. The disease is tropical in origin. There is no specific treatment available. Intravenous fluids and oxygen therapy are often used for patients who experience shock during their illness. Dengue is characterized by the rapid development of fever, intense headache, joint and muscle pain, and a rash.
The hemorrhagic form of dengue fever is more severe and associated with loss of appetite, vomiting, high fever. Untreated hemorrhagic dengue results in death in up to 30 percent of cases.
The Institute is probably the best in the world in research and development related to tropical diseases. The Institute is funded in many activities by UNESCO, OMS, and the French government.
This is a fact.
The Center for Molecular Immunology is a 15,000 square meter, two floor facility. Over 250 employees work at the Center, of which, 200 are scientists and engineers. The ground floor includes development, pharmacology, and toxicology. The auxiliary technical services, and secret research and development are on the second floor. Hollow fiber, fermenters, and "cleaning in place" units are installed on this floor.
Their main research activities are on antibodies-hybridoma, molecular biology, celular immunology. CIM has laboratories equipped for cell culture, immunochemistry, and radiochemistry. Their work on the immune system is related to the development of stronger strains of virus and bacteria. The Center has all the pertinent equipment to produce bio-weapons.
This is a fact.
Cuba's biotechnological capacity places it in group four of the World Health Organization's five national categories. To reach group five, which contains the seven top industrial economies, Cuba must produce at least 20% of the 260 basic materials. It regularly produces 17% of these and certainly has the scientific ability to produce the others with biotech methods.
This is a fact.
Priority access to research and development funding, 160 distinct research units and over 10,000 researchers give the Cuban scientific establishment an edge over their counterparts even, in some Western countries.
This is a fact.
Research is ongoing in medicine, genetic engineering, biotechnology, industrial applications.. Development of hardware and software for the research effort has been also a priority.
The range of products, and research and development areas, include:monoclonal antibodies, vaccines against hepatitis B and bacterial meningitis, a neural growth factor, a range of interferons, enzymes, streptokinase, culture media with 14 alternative protein sources, several reagents, transgenetic fish, interferon beta, proteolytic peptides, lipopolysaccharide peptides, LBP-derived synthetic peptides, human Papillomavirus 16, MT-4 cells, and many others.
This is a fact.
Certainly, a country with such capacity can produce bioweapons. There is really no technical solution to the problem of bioweapons in Cuba. It would need an ethical, human, and moral solution, which is obviously impossible while the government is in the hands of a sociopath. Ordinary intelligence and surveillance techniques cannot prove the existence of a biological warfare program.
Even the highest resolution satellite imagery can't distinguish between a large pharmaceutical plant or center and a weapons complex. The only conclusive evidence comes from first hand information. A site inspection of Cuba's facilities, by an objective international team must be requested.
This is a fact.