The Skolkovo Foundation and Cuba’s Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology have signed a strategic partnership agreement, hailed by Skolkovo President Viktor Vekselberg as the start of a new era.

Four memorandums were signed in Havana outlining cooperation in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, genetic data exchange and the opportunity for Cuban projects to get resident startup status at the Skolkovo innovation hub.

Representatives from both sides pose for a photo, including Skolkovo President Viktor Vekselberg, 4th from left. Photo:

Four Skolkovo companies will take part in the cooperation outlined by the agreement: First Oncological Research and Consultancy Centre, the Human Stem Cells Institute, R-Pharm pharmaceuticals company and Chemrar pharmaceuticals research centre. They signed agreements with Cuba’s Heber Biotec, which holds the trade rights to the products and projects of the Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.

“This is a fairly unusual event,” Vekselberg was cited by the TASS news agency as saying. “Russian-Cuban relations have always been defined historically by their openness, warmth and cooperation, but today they are taking on a new aspect. Today an agreement has been signed in a different sphere altogether – in the sphere of innovations and biomedicine.

“Today we’re turning over a new page in our cooperation,” he continued. “Cuba has a long history of successful work in the sphere of medicine, and if we join forces in this area, I think we will see a new quality,” he added.

Heber Biotec president Eulogio Pimentel said that the agreements constitute a turning point for Cuban biotechnology, the Prensa Latina news agency reported.

Skolkovo senior vice president for external communications and advertising Alexander Chernov welcomed the agreements as having a pragmatic value that would lead to concrete results.

“They [the agreements] mean money, cooperation, laboratories, tests, intensive and productive work, pharmaceutical products, exchange of specialists, licenses, Cuba’s help in promoting Russia on the Latin American market, and Russia’s help in getting Cuban products out on the European and Russian markets,” said Chernov.   

Several delegations from Cuba visited the Skolkovo Foundation last year to research the creation of a similar project to the innovations hub in their country.

In 2014, Skolkovo signed a partnership agreement with Heber Biotec to trial an anti-cancer vaccine in Russia with the support of the domestic pharmaceutical industry.