Date: 2006
Owner: Alma Mater, Cuba
Source Type: Images


Concepcion Campa Huergo (1951- ) has served as president and director of the Finlay Institute, a ten million USD facility in the Western Havana Bio-Cluster, since 1989. She created and received international patents for the world's first vaccine against meningitis B, a disease that strikes about 150,000 people worldwide each year, killing close to 17,000. Before performing tests on volunteers, Huergo injected herself and her children with the bioengineered vaccine to ensure its safety. After helping to nip a potential epidemic in the bud, the vaccine was administered to every Cuban child and is now being exported to several other countries. Brazil alone has imported millions of doses of Huergo's vaccine and Smith-Kline Beecham, a giant in Britain's drug industry, received a patent to import the vaccine for testing in 1999. Although several capitalist drug companies are now producing similar vaccine for meningitis B and C, Huergo demonstrated the potential for innovation, excellence, and profit in Cuban biotechnology.

Since its revolution, Cuba has placed significant emphasis on higher education and ensuring that women have equal access to it. Cuban women are not the only ones to benefit from the communist government's emphasis on female scientific education: women from throughout Latin America and much of the developing world travel to Cuba to receive training in fields such as medicine and bioengineering free of charge. This small island, long relegated to the peripheries of the scientific world, has recently become an important center for producing and distributing science to other traditionally peripheral regions and peoples, like Latin American women.