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Technology for Medicine
April 1, 2015   
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The EIT+ research center in the southwestern city of Wrocław is a modern research and development facility where biomedical experts work on innovative medicines, vaccines, bionanomaterials for medicine and new methods to diagnose and treat lifestyle diseases. EIT+ is also home to Poland’s largest repository of biological samples.

In 2009, EIT+ started a large-scale project called BioMed, short for Biotechnology and Advanced Medical Technology. Focusing on the treatment of lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular conditions, osteoporosis, cancer and diabetes, this comprehensive project has been funded in its entirety under the European Union’s Innovative Economy Operational Programme. Funds for the project to the tune of zl.27.6 million have been disbursed by the National Center for Research and Development (NCBR).

As part of the BioMed project, researchers from EIT+ have been working to develop new methods to diagnose breast cancer and design new anti-osteoporosis drugs and antibiotics based on new chemical compounds. They have also been seeking medical applications for new polymers.

The BioMed project is divided into four main areas of research with a total of 20 individual tasks. Each task is tackled by a different team headed by an expert in a given area. The project’s four-year budget has allowed EIT+ to buy state-of-the-art equipment and materials, as well as present the results of the BioMed project at science conferences. Innovative products and methods developed as part of BioMed will soon become commercially available as biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies have signed contracts with EIT+.

One of the main achievements of the BioMed project is a new biobank, a type of repository where biological samples are stored for use in research on new medicines and treatments. The biobank in Wrocław collects blood samples and material from both healthy individuals and patients suffering from cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases. The biobank’s resources are available to all kinds of research centers and companies that conduct research. For now the biobank only collects samples from patients with a selected group of diseases, aiming to gather a large number of such specific samples, according to BioMed project manager Anna Laskowska, D.Sc.

The BioMed project includes research on coatings for joint replacements and spinal cord injury repair methods involving stem cells. Stem cell research is a highly promising branch of regenerative medicine with a growing number of applications. Stem cells can divide many times to produce more stem cells that subsequently differentiate into specialized cells needed by specific patients.

Stem cell research at the EIT+ center is being conducted by Krzysztof Marycz, D.Sc., from the Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, and by Prof. Lidia Bużańska from the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Mossakowski Medical Research Center in Warsaw. Using biomaterials to extract stem cells from fat tissue and bone marrow, the researchers assess the extent to which stem cells can help regenerate bone and nervous tissue.
Seven BioMed research groups are working on a set of tasks comprising new strategies in the diagnostics, prevention and treatment of bacterial diseases. Prof. Jolanta Zakrzewska-Czerwińska is studying the mechanisms governing the segregation and replication of bacterial chromosomes. Wiesław ¦więtnicki, D.Sc., is working on methods to combat the E. coli bacterium, and Prof. Czesław Ługowski is working to develop new vaccines. Prof. Maciej Zabel is seeking to find out how antibodies could be attached to nanodetectors in order to capture rare cells in blood. Teresa Olczak, D.Sc., is researching the prevention and treatment of periodontal diseases, while Prof. Andrzej Gamian is studying the diagnostics and prevention of bacterial diseases.

Neoplastic diseases including cancer are the focus of a group of researchers led by Prof. Piotr Dzięgiel. The group has researched breast cancer, aiming to find markers that cancer cells release to the bloodstream. Such markers allow physicians to detect a growing tumor and determine how the disease is progressing. Dzięgiel’s team has devised a diagnostic test employing biomaterial obtained through a fine-needle breast tumor biopsy procedure. The test tells oncologists what type of tumor they are dealing with and whether it is benign or malignant. It also helps them plan surgery and follow-up therapy. The BioMed researchers have started working with a diagnostic company keen to start using the test. Joining forces with the Acumen Research Laboratories from Singapore, they have also described the expression of a gene in a type of breast cancer known as ductal carcinoma in situ.

Yet another group of researchers is studying new drugs and biomaterials. Prof. Leszek Z. Ciunik is working to develop innovative antibiotics, while Prof. Zdzisław Kiełbowicz heads a team that is seeking to develop innovative medicines to prevent osteoporosis. Prof. Małgorzata Jeżowska-Bojczuk is working to apply genetics in antiviral therapy. Prof. Jan Szopa-Skórkowski has invented wound dressings made of flax that act like painkillers and make wounds heal faster. Prof. Jacek Otlewski is focusing on biomaterials for special uses in medicine. As part of an interdisciplinary biophysical and chemical project, several scientists are working to find neurotransmitter-based markers for diagnosing tumors.

A team headed by Prof. Piotr Wieczorek has compiled an illustrated Atlas of Polish Hallucinogenic Mushrooms, a valuable source of expert knowledge for toxicology labs.

According to Laskowska, the BioMed project manager, around 250 researchers have contributed to the project so far. The researchers have been backed by a group of experts who take care of making purchases for the project and handle its financial and legal aspects. Researchers from different universities and colleges in Wrocław, ŁódĽ, Poznań, Warsaw and Opole have been working closely together on a variety of projects that have resulted in new technology and inventions.

The BioMed project is nearing completion and its accomplishments will be summed up in the latter half of this year. By now it is clear that BioMed has helped teach a large group of researchers the ins and outs of working on a research and development project. The researchers are now fully aware of the intricacies of intellectual property protection and have gained an insight into the complexity of industrial property regulations. They also know how to use patent databases and have learned how to approach industry with the results of their research. Several innovative technologies developed as part of BioMed project have caught the attention of partners in industry.

The EIT+ research center has been established by the authorities of Wrocław and several universities from that city, including the University of Wrocław, the Wrocław University of Technology, the Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, and the Wrocław Medical University. The EIT+ research center’s other partners include the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy in Wrocław, the University of Opole, and the Mossakowski Medical Research Center in Warsaw. Researchers involved in the BioMed project have also worked with research centers in Aachen, Germany, and in Singapore.

The BioMed project is expected to produce around 150 publications and 20 patents by the time it is completed. In addition to new technology, the lasting outcomes of the project will include state-of-the-art research equipment, know-how and expertise as well as valuable ties between academia and business.
Karolina Olszewska
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