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The Warsaw Voice » Other » October 28, 2009
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Polish Firms in EU Biotechnology Project
October 28, 2009   
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Two Polish companies, Selvita in Cracow and the BioInfoBank Institute in Poznań, have joined a European research project that aims to develop an innovative technology for the solid-phase synthesis of peptides, complete with equipment to conduct the process.

The project, called Peplaser, is scheduled to last three years as part of the European Union's Seventh Framework Program. Together with nine research groups in three other European countries, the two Polish companies have started work on state-of-the-art equipment to enable synthesis of long polypeptide chains on solid phase material.

The researchers are aiming to find a method to allow growing protein molecules to be bound on the surface of solid phase material.

The project's budget is approximately 4 million euros, including 3 million euros from the EU's Seventh Framework Program, which aims to support scientific research and innovative projects in many fields of science.

"The objective is to improve the competitiveness of European industry by developing new technologies that match market demand and the needs of society," said Nicolas Beuzen, Ph.D., director for science at Selvita.

Mateusz Nowak, Ph.D., Selvita's project manager, seconded, "This project will mark a turning point in proteomics the way the DNA microarray technology did in genomics."

Research consortium
The research consortium working on Peplaser comprises 11 research groups in four European countries, Germany, Austria, Poland and Bulgaria. Alongside the Polish companies, the project involves five partners in Germany (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, KMS Automation GmbH, Pepperprint GmbH, Aims Scientific Products GmbH and Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Foerderung der Angewandted), two in Bulgaria (Microsystems Ltd and the Technical University of Varna), and two in Austria (Upper Austrian Research GmbH and Akatech Produktions- und Handels GmbH). All work is being coordinated by Frank Breitling, Ph.D., from the Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum (German Cancer Research Center) in Heidelberg, one of the world's five largest institutes of molecular biology. Breitling is well known in the research community because he has helped develop a breakthrough peptide printing technology and a prototype peptide printer.

"The work of this prestigious consortium and scientific discoveries we all made earlier independently of one another will translate into the development of new technologies," said Beuzen.

Each partner is in charge of a different part of the project. The Selvita research group is expected to perform analyses of available sequences of antibacterial peptides, search for peptide fragments responsible for cytokine induction and predict the toxicity of bacterial peptides and the cytotoxicity of peptides which induce apoptosis, or programmed cell death (PCD).

Research conducted by BioInfoBank will, in turn, focus on protein engineering, molecule design for new drugs and the application of bioinformatics methods to aid genome sequencing, design new enzymes and new, simple organisms with therapeutic properties.

Selvita was established in 2007 in Cracow. The Selvita research team are scientists from universities in Poland and abroad who are experts in chemistry, pharmacy, molecular biology, biotechnology and computer science. The company provides comprehensive solutions to the pharmaceutical and biotechnological industries, allowing them to cut the costs of putting innovative compounds on the market.

In its strategy, Selvita focuses on synthesizing innovative, biologically active structures of its own design and develops IT solutions to facilitate research and minimize the risk of research failure. It also shares its expertise with other research organizations and provides pre-clinical research services. Selvita laboratories have been recently working on several projects, including a new drug against several types of leukemia and prostrate, breast, kidney and brain cancers. The company is also working to develop a molecule with a strong antipsychotic effect to treat symptoms of schizophrenia.

The BioInfoBank Institute is a nonprofit, research-and-development organization in Poznań. It specializes in designing software for genomics and proteomics. It studies the structure and functions of proteins, develops generic drugs and software for bioinformatics. It also trains specialists in biotechnology and information technology and promotes the commercial application of scientific discoveries.

In 2001-2004, BioInfoBank was named one of the eight most innovative institutions in Poland. Most of the BioInfoBank's work is funded by subsidies from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, grants from the Foundation for Polish Science and EU subsidies. BioInfoBank researchers took part in the second, fifth and sixth Framework Programs of the EU and are now involved in the seventh.

Julia Pawłowska
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