12.01.2018 change 12.01.2018

Deputy Minister of Science: We want to strengthen the Polish sector of medical biotechnology

Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education Łukasz Szumowski. Photo: PAP/ Michał Szalast 26.01.2017 Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education Łukasz Szumowski. Photo: PAP/ Michał Szalast 26.01.2017

In 10 years we want the Polish medical biotechnology sector to be one of the strongest in Europe - Deputy Minister of Science Łukasz Szumowski told PAP. This is the goal of establishing the Institute of Medical Biotechnology, which will fund basic research on new drugs.

"In 10 years we want the Polish medical biotechnology sector to be one of the strongest in Europe" - Deputy Minister of Science Łukasz Szumowski told PAP. - "We need this sector because today it is one of the fastest growing areas of research. In many countries it is also an increasingly important area of the economy, because biotechnology is entering various fields. In order to start thinking about designing Polish drugs, we have to have very good basic research, also in the area of cell biology" - he stressed.

In conducting this research, Polish scientists will have the support of the Institute of Medical Biotechnology (IB-Med), the concept of which was presented at the end of December by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Science and Higher Education Jarosław Gowin. According to their announcements, the new institution will invest half a billion zlotys in research conducted in Poland on the creation of new drug molecules.

"People usually associate clinical trials with drugs - but this will not be the domain of the Institute of Medical Biotechnology" - says Deputy Minister Szumowski. - "In order for clinical trials to exist at all, there must first have something to test. We want to use the money for science to fund this initial phase: molecular modelling, in vivo research, research on cells, cell lines, animals. Since 1945, only three molecules of drugs designed in Poland have reached the stage of research on humans".

IB-Med is modelled on the Flemish Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie (VIB), created in the mid-1990s. "Instead of financing specific research projects, the Flemish government simply invested money in R&D in the biotechnology sector" - explained Szumowski. - "As a result, one of the best biotechnology institutes in Europe was created. So many companies and economic initiatives formed around it that one of the most important areas for the biotechnology economy in Europe was created" - he added.

Such an approach - assuming the financing of research groups with a large number of completed independent projects - the Ministry of Science and Higher Education wants to implement in its initiative. "A very good research group usually has already completed a number of research projects and it can be assumed that this next project will also be successfully completed" - said Deputy Minister of Science. - "Here, following the evaluation of the achievements of the principal investigator by international committees, we have a chance to give these groups greater flexibility".

He explains that the Ministry of Science wanted to apply the "trust but check" approach: after two years, a preliminary verification of the projects will be carried out, and after three more years- final evaluation, to show concrete results.

"This does not mean that during these few years researchers will create a new drug molecule" - emphasised Szumowski. - "We would like to fund the groups operating at Polish universities, whose research has implementation and application potential, which means that ultimately, during the project, they will create processes or mechanisms that may be in the area of economic interest".

Deputy minister estimates that currently in Poland there are about ten research teams working at a level that would allow to obtain funding from IB-Med.

First, however, the heads of the Institute must be appointed. According to Szumowski, the activity of the virtual research institute is based precisely on the persons of two directors: the science director who will manage the institution and the technology transfer director. According to the assumptions, the latter will support scientists in the commercialisation of IB-Med research results.

"There could be very different sums in play here" - said Szumowski. - "I imagine that if a molecule is of interest, for example, to a large pharmaceutical company, it should largely cover the investment in research. If a Polish company run by a scientific institution or the researchers themselves is interested in further work on the molecule - the conditions will certainly be different".

Deputy minister emphasised that in the Flemish model most of the profits from the sale of the results of the work of scientists are invested in further research. He suggested that theoretically, after the development of a new molecule, it would be possible to include the Ministry of Health in the work on the future drug.

"It is a known fact that there is a gap in the field of clinical research in the Polish research funding system: we do not have a medical research agency. I believe that in the next few years this gap should be filled, and IB-Med is a good contribution to the work on the concept of financing the stage of clinical trials" - said Deputy Minister of Science.

PAP - Science in Poland

Author: Katarzyna Florencka

Editor: Anna Ślązak

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