– If we only do less innovative projects, focused only on the domestic market, we do not exist in the world and we cannot improve our international position. – emphasizes Marta Winiarska, chairman of the board of directors of the Polish Association of Innovative Medical Biotechnology Companies BioInMed in the second part of the conversation.
Referring to the funding thread, do you think the program of the government’s plan for the development of the biomedical sector, prepared for this specific time, i.e. until 2031, will sufficiently cover the current demand for funding of biomedical projects?
Any additional opportunity to fund projects, taking into account that we have strategically determined the direction we want to go and what actions need to be taken so that Poland can also be present in the field of innovative medicines and original medicines, is very useful and necessary. As an example I can mention the competition announced for the near future, with an allocation of 250 million PLN for the development of new cell therapies based on protein preparations, which is both a large and a small amount. This is certainly an amount that allows to develop several projects, probably not from the beginning to the end, as it requires greater financial expenditure, however, but with such an amount, you can freely start or continue working on multiple projects.
As we mentioned, research and development projects carry a high level of risk. Not everything is predictable, it is working with a living organism. For example, medical biotechnology projects are very different from engineering projects, where many more problems are predictable. In practice, about 1 in 8,000 molecules becomes a drug, so we need to run as many of these projects as possible because this way we have a greater chance of success on a sectoral scale. One example is BioNTech, which, despite ongoing projects, was loss-making for 12 years until it co-developed a vaccine against Covid-19 with Pfizer.
Suddenly it turned out that one project more than pays for all investments, both public and private. Moreover, not only for the projects of this particular company, but also for many others from the biotechnology sector. Therefore, the more projects we have in different technologies, in different therapeutic areas, the more likely one of these projects will be successful. In addition, the good news is that Poland is developing more and more modern tools, increasing the chance of project success. Technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning enable us to design experiments in preclinical research and clinical trials in such a way that these projects have the best chance of success. †
What do you think the distribution of these funds will be? Which areas? For drug therapies, for biotechnological innovation?
Today it is really difficult to define it unambiguously. We were quite shocked in the early stages of the plan’s development that there was a lot of emphasis on generics on the one hand, and on the so-called advanced therapy products, ie cell therapies and gene therapies, on the other, which, although in line with the latest scientific trends, are still a niche – not just in Poland, but all over the world. Of course, this does not mean that we do not have to run projects in this area, but the portfolio of projects should certainly be diversified.
There was a big gap between the work done so far and the desired work?
Yes, but we didn’t even mean this range as we believe that the latest technologies are worth funding as much as possible and want to do even the most modern things. The problem was that the plan initially lacked the key competencies of Polish biotechnology companies, ie research on small molecule drugs and biologics. Fortunately, however, it was replenished.
We can already see that the first competitions for the development of original medicines are starting in Poland. Currently, a competition has been announced in July that will focus on cell therapies and protein-based therapies, which will create an opportunity for biologics to be funded. A new competition for nucleic acids and small molecules will be announced at the end of the year, so it really looks like the full spectrum of technologies currently being developed in Polish companies, these projects can be supported by the Medical Research Agency.
Of course, there are also competitions for medical devices, different types of technologies related to artificial intelligence, but also for generic drugs. If, as a country, we want Poland to gradually become the Biomedical Valley mentioned at the outset, or if it has become a permanent partner in the value chain of international innovations, we must certainly bear in mind that our willingness to take risks must increase and the financing much higher. Such a situation gives us the opportunity to actually have projects that are commercialized internationally and that will improve the lives of patients around the world in the next few or more years.
This is, in a sense, becoming a self-driving machine – the more successful it is on a global scale, the greater the interest from potential investors.
Absolutely yes, but we have to keep in mind that if we ask ourselves in Poland what to do instead of act, the whole world will not stand still and wait for us. The world is also moving forward and technologies are constantly being developed in different countries. You should be aware that as a country we are in fact racing with the whole world and the moment when we wait for certain decisions, when we do not fully implement the adopted plan, works against us. Excessive procrastination and reflection will allow the world to just do its thing, and Poland will be left behind by investing only in smaller projects that are only commercialized nationally and not globally. Unfortunately, in such a situation, we will not be able to monetize them well, because only international commercialization brings the greatest return on investment. Only on such a scale can we speak of a truly innovative engine of the economy.
If we only do less innovative projects, only focused on the domestic market, we don’t exist in the world and we can’t improve our international position. We will most likely not be able to propose our own groundbreaking solutions to patients and we will fall out of this race, which is constantly ongoing.
You have to realize that the right moment is here and now. We have almost everything you need to be successful. Projects taking place in Poland show that our country can, has, has and has scientists. You just need more patience and resources to carry out your plans.
Which projects are currently in progress and what is the market most waiting for?
Sure, these are studies of acute myeloid leukemia, 30 percent of them. survives 5 years from diagnosis, using currently available therapy. We also wait with hope for the results of projects on triple negative breast cancer, with 62% surviving 5 years. patients from the time of hearing the diagnosis. Also multiple myeloma, lymphomas, gliomas, pancreatic and liver cancers, fibrotic diseases and diabetes – both of the first and second types, as well as chronic, drug-resistant depression and autoimmune diseases. It is certainly also worth waiting for the effects of the work on therapies for rare diseases – multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or blistering skin diseases. There are really a lot of areas where projects are underway, and what is important, everything is progressing dynamically, therefore in each of the above aspects, in the perspective of a few years, groundbreaking things can happen, which give hope and most importantly , real treatment options for patients.
How will the role of the Polish Association of Innovative Medical Biotechnology Companies BioInMed change after the implementation of the Government’s Biomedical Sector Development Plan?
Our sector’s National Development Plan certainly reflects the government’s strategy, which we are very pleased with, and I think it is not without reason that this plan coincides in a sense with the creation of BioInMed. This is the exact moment when we are no longer talking about individual companies executing their projects.
We are already talking about the core of the medical biotechnology sector, which is ready to fight together for a radical change of position and a change in what is happening in Poland in the context of research and development of medical projects. We as BioInMed want to be a partner for the public side, especially because we associate different companies with different experiences, including those from foreign markets. In the beginning there were 11 of them, and today we are happy to join another, already 17th company.
In recent months, 6 member companies have joined us, which perfectly demonstrates that biotechnology companies in the Polish market have and feel the need to work together for the development of the entire sector. We see what is happening in other countries and are happy to tell you about our experiences. We want to be a partner and we want to share what we know, “best practices”, which can also be useful to government agencies such as the National Center for Research and Development, the Medical Research Agency, the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Development. We would just love to sit down with other experts and work together to develop solutions that actually lead us to the goal we have set ourselves.
Thanks for the interview.
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Marta Winiarska (BioInMed): In practice, 1 in 8,000 molecules becomes a drug, so we need to carry out these projects as much as possible (INTERVIEW II part)† If you think a comment should be removed, you can report it via the ‘report’ link.