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The Polish Science Voice
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From the Publisher
December 1, 2014   
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Biotechnology is an increasingly important area of expertise for Polish researchers. A Cracow-based biotechnology company is working on a new drug to replace antibiotics in treating infections developed by patients suffering from burns and diabetic wounds. The drug, which could also be used to treat cancer patients susceptible to bacterial infections after undergoing radiation therapy, will contain bacteriophages, or “good” viruses that infect and destroy bacteria.

The new drug is being developed by the Biomed company with the help of microbiologists from the Jagiellonian University Medical College in Cracow. The zl.8 million project, called Onkofag, aims to forge new standards in the treatment of certain kinds of chronic wounds, says the project’s manager, biologist Ewa Olchawa.

For now, in European Union countries, pharmaceuticals containing bacteriophages can only be used to treat patients for whom all other methods have failed. However, in the future, Olchawa believes phage therapy may become routine clinical practice and a standard form of treatment.

The new phage-based drug will particularly target bacteria resistant to antibiotics and could mark a breakthrough in modern medicine, according to Olchawa. As part of the project, the researchers are working to select the right type of phages, develop the drug, test it in the laboratory, and conduct clinical trials. Later on they plan to go commercial with their research results and patent the drug. The project will run for five years and end in 2019.

Internationally, there are already phage-based drugs available in countries such as Russia, Georgia and Slovakia, according to Olchawa, but these drugs contain many impurities, while the Polish product will be of higher quality.

While the Onkofag project requires high-level expertise in biology, chemistry and other sciences, another project that we report on in this issue of The Polish Science Voice seems to be very down to earth. What could be simpler than cleaning, most often the job of a cleaning lady with a mop and detergent. However, Polish company Robotics Inventions and a team of researchers from the Institute of Electronic Systems at the Warsaw University of Technology have eliminated the human factor from this equation—they have designed an environmentally-friendly cleaning robot that will be able to autonomously clean industrial spaces, offices and conference rooms.

With the new design, the cleaning process will be cheaper than with classical cleaning machines. A device that works on its own saves time, energy, water and cleaning agents, says Sebastian Jarocki, the technical manager of the project. He adds that the device can work continuously without vacations or lunch breaks, regardless of the time of day. “People should do less strenuous and more responsible kind of work that requires precision or an individual approach,” Jarocki says.

The biggest advantage of the robot is its autonomy resulting from a set of algorithms. Human intervention is reduced to the minimum. The operator does not need to know the details of how the device works; he only needs to turn it on.

There are few robots out there for cleaning industrial surfaces that do not have to be handled by a human operator, according to Jarocki. Two rival foreign designs are being put out on the market, but the Polish design is more user- and environmentally- friendly, he says.
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