Contribution to the development of herbal medicine


The University of Antwerp - UA (Belgium) and the University of Namur - UNamur (Belgium) have extensive experience in scientific research on natural products for pharmacological use, having developed innovative techniques for the analysis and characterisation of medicinal plants and other biological products for the development of medicines of natural origin.

In parallel, the Instituto Politécnico Nacional - National Polytechnic Institute - IPN (Mexico), has perfected its plant cultivation techniques in controlled environments, through the development of easy-to-implement technologies, which is an essential element in accompanying the implementation of the new research techniques offered by the UA and UNamur.

The Instituto de Farmacia y Alimentos de la Universidad de La Habana - Institute of Pharmaceutical and Food Sciences of the University of Havana - IFAL-UH (Cuba) has collaborated with the UA and the IPN in various scientific research projects in the field of natural products, giving rise to the creation of the International Scientific Network 'Vitroplants' as a space to exchange ideas between European and Latin American universities. Within the framework of these exchanges, an opportunity has been identified to create a Partnership between these universities, thus incorporating UNamur as a key member for the transfer of its scientific techniques in order to promote the development of herbal medicine in Cuba.

Entities and roles

First provider entities

Second provider entities

Development challenges

This Triangular Cooperation Initiative aims to contribute in a very direct way to tackling the challenge of medicine shortages in Cuba, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. The intervention aims to make use of the knowledge of the Partnership's provider entities in the research and development of natural products, as well as in innovative plant cultivation techniques in controlled environments, in order to strengthen the capacities of the Institute of Pharmaceutical and Food Sciences for the development of new medicines.

The Initiative is aligned with the Cuban government's strategies to increase domestic production of medicines in order to reduce the reliance on imported medicines, thus contributing to a steady supply for the country's health system. In addition, strengthening capacities for the production of raw materials in controlled environments, in order to promote the development of natural medicines, will help mitigate the effects of external factors caused by climate change that may affect their production.

This process of capacity building, research and development will be featured in a model, which will be scaled up across the country and in any other territory that wishes to implement it.

This Triangular Cooperation Initiative aims to harness the knowledge of the provider entities of the Partnership in the scientific research of natural products and crop production in controlled environments, in order to create a model for the development of herbal medicines. This model will be based on maximising new technologies to ensure the introduction and supply of new plant medicines within the health system of Cuba, with the objective of being able to offer it to the international community.

Triangular approach

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vulnerability of health systems around the world, making it clear that the supply of medicine is a matter of national security.

For this reason, this Initiative aims to harness the knowledge and experience of the leading European and Latin American entities in this field, building capacities to generate and apply a model that specifically responds to the needs of the Cuban population, with the purpose of replicating it in similar contexts in the region.

The experience of the Partnership entities in their previous joint work, together with their experience in the scientific-academic line of work, will help ensure the quality of knowledge triangulation; a complex process that requires a great deal of commitment and dedication from all involved.

Sectoral approach - Contribution to the 2030 Agenda

Primary SDG

Goal 3.8 Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.

Goal 3.B Support the research and development of vaccines and medicines for the communicable and noncommunicable diseases that primarily affect developing countries, provide access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines, in accordance with the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, which affirms the right of developing countries to use to the full the provisions in the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights regarding flexibilities to protect public health, and, in particular, provide access to medicines for all.

Secondary SDG

Goal 4.3 By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university

Goal 4.4 By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship

Goal 4.7 By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development


Goal 10.1 By 2030, progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40 per cent of the population at a rate higher than the national average

Goal 17.6 Enhance North-South, South-South and triangular regional and international cooperation on and access to science, technology and innovation and enhance knowledge sharing on mutually agreed terms, including through improved coordination among existing mechanisms, in particular at the United Nations level, and through a global technology facilitation mechanism

Goal 17.7 Promote the development, transfer, dissemination and diffusion of environmentally sound technologies to developing countries on favourable terms, including on concessional and preferential terms, as mutually agreed

Territorial approach

Intervention methodology

The introduction of new medicines in the Cuban health system as a response to the medicine shortage in Cuba requires an increase in research and production capacities at IFAL-UH, which must be accompanied by actions that promote the involvement, awareness, training and ownership of the national government entities with competencies in this field.

To this end, the approach used in this Initiative aims to first introduce technologies and methodologies in IFAL-UH, through three specialised internships focused on these methodologies. The first internship will take place at the University of Antwerp, with the aim of studying methodologies and procedures for the development of new plant medicines. The second internship will take place at the University of Namur and will complement the knowledge acquired at the University of Antwerp, with capacity building in pharmaco-toxicological evaluations through laboratory practice. The third internship will take place at the National Polytechnic Institute and will aim to increase and strengthen the knowledge and techniques for obtaining the high quality raw material to be used in producing the new medicines.

The knowledge acquired through the internships will be shared during two separate congresses, one in Mexico and the other in Cuba, which will serve as a meeting point for the scientific and academic community. It will also serve as a platform to create linkages and synergies with official entities, as essential partners in guaranteeing the impact and sustainability of the model to be applied.

In parallel, the Partnership member entities will carry out two study visits, one to IFAL-UH and the other to the IPN, in order to monitor and follow up on training actions and analyse the conditions for introducing the technologies and methodologies that will be transferred to IFAL-UH.

This methodology will allow for constant feedback among all Partnership entities and the joint use of the knowledge generated, thus allowing the provider entities to review and update their methodologies and systems, and to learn from the Cuban experience in the application of its Experimental Pharmacy model.

The Initiative will conclude with a final seminar in Cuba that will bring together all of the professionals involved in the Initiative, as well as national and regional representatives from the government, the public health sector, the pharmaceutical industry, and the scientific and academic communities, where the model for pharmaceutical development will be presented.

Direct beneficiaries (individuals)

According to Rule 9 of the Guidelines for Applicants: all persons participating in the activities of the Initiative.

This Initiative has more than 500 direct beneficiaries; primarily professionals from the Partnership entities involved in the planned activities, as well as those involved in the scientific research and identification of new medicines that will be produced throughout the Initiative. This group includes more than 200 students, professors and researchers from the Partnership's member universities, who will benefit from the training activities, in which they will learn about new technologies and methodologies for the development of new natural products.

In addition, professionals working in the pharmaceutical and food industries in Cuba, as well as officials from public entities, such as the Ministerio de Salud Pública (Ministry of Public Health) and the Dirección Nacional de Farmacia (National Pharmaceutical Directorate), will benefit from training for the introduction and commercialisation of natural products.


Financing - ADELANTE Window: 74,781.32 €

Co-financing - Triangular Cooperation Partnership: 48,795.00 €

Total budget: 123,576.32 €


Subscribe to the ADELANTE 2 newsletter

I agree to the processing of my personal data in accordance with the Privacy Policy

*Mandatory fields