On July 25, 2016 Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Gowin – Minister of Science and Higher Education signed a document submitting Poland’s membership in the International Organization associating biobanking institutions from Europe (BBMRI-ERIC). At the same time, he appointed Dr. Łukasz Kozera as the National Coordinator for Biobanking for five years. Thus, the Biobank of the Wrocław Research Centre EIT + has become the National Lead Centre.
This is the next stage, after approval by the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Poland of the decision on Poland’s accession to the Consortium for the Research Infrastructure of Biobanks and Biomolecular Resources (BBMRI_ERIC), of the creation of new biobanking rules in Poland. It means that after Poland’s formal entry into the European biobanks network, Biobank Wroclaw Research Centre EIT + along with the remaining seven partners from Poland (Central Bank of Tissues and Genetic Materials in the Medical Laboratory Diagnostics Department of the Medical University of Gdańsk, Laboratory of Tissue Engineering in the Department of Histology and Embryology of the Warsaw Medical University, Biobank Laboratory at the Department of Molecular Biophysics in the Faculty of Biology and Environmental Protection, University of Lodz, Medical University of Lublin, the Piastów Śląskich’s Medical University in Wrocław and the Regional Science and Technology Center in Chęciny near Kielce), will contribute to the development of personalized medicine, that is, tailored to the individual needs of each patient.
– We increase public participation in scientific research – says Dr. Łukasz Kozera, manager of Biobank Wrocław Research Centre EIT + and national coordinator for biobanking and BBMRI-ERIC – Poland finally ceases to be a gray zone on the map of European biobanks, and will become an equivalent partner. The potential of our scientific centres is huge and will certainly be noticed by other scientific partners as well as pharmaceutical companies.
Already in 2009, the “Times” magazine recognized biobanking as one of the ten most significant ideas changing the world. In the international scientific and medical environment, biobanks have been recognized for years as research centres that are the future of medicine and diagnostic research. In Europe, the role of biobanks in the development of biomedical sciences was noticed many years ago, which is confirmed by numerous initiatives undertaken at the national and EU level, which aim to develop such infrastructures.
– Biobanks can be defined as sets of samples of human biological material – explains Dr. Łukasz Kozera. – Saying biological material I mean blood, blood-like products, tissues including: cancerous; saliva and other. Biobanks are therefore places where patients can donate and scientists take biological material for scientific research, which is why their functioning is of particular importance for the research and innovation sector, which is, after all, dependent in this area on the selected and well characterized biological material. This is also the way to a personalized medicine so important to all.
Therefore, the potential recipients of biobanks in Poland will be primarily scientific and research units, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, hospitals that will be able to obtain well-characterized biological material for conducting research. Importantly, personalized medicine is just one of the areas – recently gaining a lot of importance – where collecting biological material is a necessity and a guarantee of development. Further research areas, the development of which will be possible only when providing access to large collections of human biological material, include research on rare and incurable diseases, development of new diagnostic methods and drugs, or conducting advanced environmental research (eg on the influence of toxins).
– An important goal of biobanks is also the collection of the largest possible pool of biological material that can be used in the future by scientists using currently unavailable methods – adds Dr. Kozera. – It is also worth paying attention to the potential of biobanks in the context of the rapid development of the ICT sector, thanks to which new, previously unknown opportunities open up to scientists. Currently, the so-called “e-health registers” become, among others, a very valuable source of data both in the individual and population dimensions.
Poland’s accession to BBMRI-ERIC (Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure – European Research Infrastructure Consortium), that is to the organization that associates over 225 institutions and research institutions (mainly biobanks) from 30 countries, will enable our country to participate in making decisions on strategies for the development of biomedical science in Europe and applying for grants under the current EU Framework Program “Horizon 2020”, aiming at obtaining highly competitive results of research, publications and implementations. However, this is not all.
– Participation in BBMRI-ERIC carries a number of other positive consequences. The project will develop solutions that will result in the implementation of uniform standards in the field of biobanking across the European Union – emphasizes Dr. Kozera. – This is mainly about collecting and processing biological material, collecting and processing data and making them available to other entities, which is of great importance for at least two reasons. First of all, it translates into the quality and reliability of scientific research conducted using human biological material. Secondly, it increases the possibilities of cooperation with industry, which requires scientific partners to apply specific procedures and have appropriate accreditation.
An extremely significant opportunity associated with Poland’s participation in the consortium is therefore potential economic benefits. There is already visible interest in cooperation with Polish biobanks from the domestic industry, which from year to year spends significant resources on clinical trials of various products in other European countries. The reason why these funds are not spent in Poland is the lack of a national network of biobanks, operating on the basis of internationally recognized principles and procedures. According to the available estimates, in this context, over PLN 100 million is mentioned annually, which Polish pharmaceutical companies spend on preclinical research in other EU countries. These studies mainly concern new drugs and new substances that serve better diagnosis.
Posted by Wrocławskie Centrum Badań EIT+, Posted on 26.07.2016