American vets head to Cuba for animal health conference

Cuban Academy of Sciences

Thawed diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and Cuba have led to a lot of developments, including more collaboration between stateside and Cuban veterinarians. American and Cuban vets recently had a powwow in Cuba at a conference organized by University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine alumna Louise Wechsler.

There are well-trained and dedicated animal doctors in Cuba, but a dearth of funding and technology often impedes their work, Wechsler said in a statement. “There is a hunger for knowledge among Cuban veterinarians,” she said. “They understand perfectly well what they’re lacking, and they’re lacking almost everything you can imagine.”

To address this problem, the 30 American attendees at the conference donated supplies including painkillers, antibiotics, gloves and syringes. Conference goers also attended two days of presentations on subjects such as Cuban wildlife and infectious disease concerns.

Oriol Sunyer, a professor of immunology and pathobiology at Penn Vet, shared his research on fish immunology, vaccine development and marine conservation. A new Cuban-U.S. project is trying to preserve coral reefs in the Caribbean, and the conference helped Sunyer laid the groundwork for the initiative, according to Penn Vet.

Sunyer has experience working with Cuban scientists. He’s working on developing vaccines with Cuban researcher and director of agricultural biotechnology research for the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Mario Pablo Estrada Garcia.

“The earlier we start establishing bonds and collaboration in Cuba, the better position we’ll be in to make our presence valuable. It’s an interaction that’s positive not only for Cubans but for us too; there’s a lot to be gained for everyone,” Sunyer said in the statement.

Stateside biotech Regeneron ($REGN) seems to feel the same way. In 2015, the company’s CEO Len Schleifer accompanied New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on a trade mission to the country after travel restrictions lifted.

- here’s the statement

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