The Cuban Biotech Revolution

The end of the cold war was cruel to Cuba. The country’s trading partners, denied Soviet largesse, dried up. Hard cash ran low. What food the country could grow languished in the fields; trucks didn’t have enough gasoline to bring the crops to market. And of course there was the US embargo.

What Cubans call “the Special Period” produced one notable success: pharmaceuticals. In the wake of the Soviet collapse, Cuba got so good at making knockoff drugs that a thriving industry took hold. Today the country is the largest medicine exporter in Latin America and has more than 50 nations on its client list. Cuban meds cost far less than their first-world counterparts, and Fidel Castro’s government has helped China, Malaysia, India, and Iran set up their own factories: “south-to-south technology transfer.”
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