National Center for Biopreparation

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Last Updated: February 1, 2004
Other Name: Centro Nacional de Biopreparados; BIOCEN; Bioproducts National Center; National Center for Bioproducts; CNB
Location: La Habana; Bejucal, 30 kilometers south of Havana
Subordinate To: Unknown
Size: BIOCEN's facilities consist of six different plants and specialized laboratories. More than 750 employees work at the center with industrial, technical, and scientific specialties.
Facility Status: Unknown

BIOCEN's different plants and laboratories are described on its website, along with the areas of current research and production. The plant for active ingredient production is the largest (10,000 square meters) of the facility's divisions, involved in fermentation, separation, semi-purification, and chromatographic purification, of recombinant protein production in microorganisms on an industrial scale. The culture media production plant (4,302 square meters) is the only plant in the country dedicated solely to this purpose. It has a pilot plant and industrial production capabilities, both with equipment for baking, hydrolysis, liquid and solid separation, filtration, homogenization, and dehydration. Over 50 types of media are used for microbiological processes, fermentation, the food industry, and environmental control, along with clinical and veterinary testing, pharmaceutical industry, and water analysis. In the past five years, BIOCEN has produced over 58 tons of culture media.

Two plants are involved in the production of parenteral substances. The first is responsible for the final stages of manufacturing including the sterile filling, lyophilization, inspection, and packaging of a product, such as the anti-hepatitis B recombinant vaccine. The actual production of the vaccine occurs in the second plant. Both of these plants require sophisticated technology and equipment in order to fulfill this automated and sterile process. The second plant has the capacity to produce 14,000 doses of the vaccine per hour, with a total production of 25 million doses annually. Ten rooms are dedicated to short-, medium-, and long-term animal experiments, along with several laboratories involved in animal health studies. BIOCEN possesses warehouses with both warm and cold rooms to allow for the storage and conservation of products. BIOCEN has several laboratories for vaccine research and development purposes.

Manuel Cereijo, a professor at Florida International University, reports that BIOCEN has an annual production capacity of 40 tons at its culture media plant. The plant has also been successful in developing 14 alternative protein sources. BIOCEN has been instrumental in allergenic research, including research into dust mites, insects, and atmospheric fungi, demonstrating its capability for dual-use production. BIOCEN is now certified by ISO-9002 for manufacture of vaccines, culture media, and other products.

BIOCEN has been compared to the Soviet Biopreparat, as the ostensibly civilian cover for alleged Cuban bioweapons research. The center is accused of being a very secretive organization, producing both civilian biotechnology products and biological weapons. BIOCEN began sharing its hepatitis B vaccine technology with Iran in 1995. The average age of BIOCEN employees is reported to be 29.

Sources:
[1] National Center for Biopreparation, www.biocen.cu.
[2] Joaquin Oramas, "BioCen: ten years of advances," Granma Internacional (Internet version), 25 February 2003.
[3] Joaquin Oramas, "Over 1 billion pesos invested in biotechnology in 1990's," Granma Internacional (internet version), 16-22 March 1999, in "New biotechnology plant begins operations," FBIS PA1903135899, 16-22 March 1999.
[4] Manuel Cereijo, "Cuba: The Threat," GlobalSecurity.org.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2017.