The Polish-Swiss Forum for Health Dialogue

dr. hab. med. Michał Wszoła the speaker during the 11th edition of the Polish-Swiss Forum

On 22 June, the 11th edition of the Polish-Swiss Forum for Health Dialogue took place.

How to bridge the gap between researchers and entrepreneurs – Key Question of the 11th edition of the Polish-Swiss Forum for Health Dialogue.

Poland has great potential in pharmaceutical manufacturing and late-stage clinical trials. Scientists are making promising discoveries, but bringing them to market is proving problematic. What could Poland do to bridge the gap between the academic community and the private sector? How can Poland strengthen its research and development (R&D) and start-up ecosystems in the field of pharmacy and life sciences? These questions, among others, will be answered by experts during the 11th Polish-Swiss Forum for Health, which will take place on 22 June 2021.

The 11th edition of the Polish-Swiss Forum for Health Dialogue is a platform for discussion for the medical community, scientists, entrepreneurs and industry experts. It is a place to talk about
what experts from Poland and Switzerland can learn from each other, how to create an environment conducive to successful research and development and investment in the pharmaceutical and life sciences sector. Thanks to the cooperation, scientists and entrepreneurs from both countries can benefit from each other’s experience and qualifications and use the international background to build new initiatives.

The speakers at the June Forum will be representatives of both Polish and Swiss institutions and companies:

  • Piotr Arak, Director of the Polish Economic Institute,
  • Jürg Burri, Ambassador of Switzerland to Poland,
  • Piotr Dardziński, President of the Łukasiewicz Research Network [Sieć Badawcza Łukasiewicz],
  • Bart Dzikowski, Managing Director of Novartis Venture Fund,
  • Neil Goldsmith, Director Strategy BaseLaunch,
  • Liliane Brunner Halbach, Expert in global pharma and life sciences,
  • Jacek Jemielity, President of ExpoRNA Therapeutics,
  •  Jan Krzewinski, CEO of Polpharma Biologics Gdansk,
  • Jordi Montserrat, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Venturelab,
  • Radosław Sierpiński, p.p. President of the Medical Research Agency,
  • Michał Stępień, President of the Management Board of the Polish-Swiss Chamber of Commerce, Country Head UBS Poland,
  • Michal Walczak, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Captor Therapeutics,
  • hab. med Michał Wszoła, transplant surgeon, President and Founder of Polbionica,
  • Irma Verberič, Roche General Manager.

The speed with which scientists, governments and pharmaceutical companies are working together to develop and implement diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for the new SARS-CoV-2 virus is historically unparalleled. This is possible because the threat to public health and the global economy posed by this particular virus is unprecedented: this sense of urgency has helped raise unprecedented resources. When the pandemic subsides and the world finally emerges from crisis mode, there will be many conditions and diseases for which there is no effective and efficient treatment available. There is even no therapy. However, it is optimistic that medical research is growing rapidly, for example in biotechnology. It is difficult to overestimate the economic and social benefits that progress in this area can bring. Therefore, it is so important to skillfully use the scientific and research potential and to create conditions for developing cooperation between research centres and businesses.

Pablo Padrutt, Head of the Economic, Financial and Scientific Section of the Swiss Embassy in Poland, inviting to the Forum, says: “There is no modern health care without diagnostics, vaccines and treatments. When a scientist discovers something that can help patients, what happens next? What does it take to translate scientific discovery into an effective product? In many countries, the gap between researchers and entrepreneurs remains very wide. As the most innovative country in the world, Switzerland can share a lot of interesting experiences and knowledge on how to support R&D for new treatments and effectively bridge the gap.”

 

Roche and Novartis in Poland

 

Swiss companies, particularly Novartis and Roche, which have long been present in Poland, have brought valuable knowledge and advanced treatment methods to our country. Both Novartis and Roche are part of a highly successful, innovative pharmaceutical and life sciences cluster in Switzerland that brings together scientists and entrepreneurs. These are model examples of the symbiosis of the two environments.

The Roche Regional Clinical Research Center for Central and Eastern Europe, which is responsible for clinical trials in 11 countries, is based in Warsaw. Poland thus plays a significant role in Roche’s global product development strategy. The company gives patients access to clinical trials in Poland’s first Early Phase Research Unit at the Cancer Center Institute. This is a cutting-edge oncology agent that allows researchers to actively participate in the development of new drugs at such an early stage.

Novartis coordinated the certification of three centres in Poland treating with CAR-T cells. The CAR-T method uses the patient’s own immune system and advanced genetic engineering to fight cancer with genetically modified T lymphocytes. For adult patients, these include the Department of Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplantation at Poznan University of Medical Sciences, The Department of Bone Marrow Transplantation and Onco-Hematology at The Maria Sklodowska-Curie National Research Institute of Oncology (Gliwice Branch). Przylądek Nadziei in Wrocław is currently the only pediatric centre in Poland where CAR-T can be treated. Four Polish children have already received CAR-T cells. Experts estimate that with CAR-T, about 50 percent of the patients, leukaemia patients and approx. 40 percent of patients with lymphoma (DLBCL and ALL), are likely to achieve durable remissions.

Novartis conducts the majority of its globally launched clinical trials in Poland, with the number of trials increasing each year. The research and development intensity in Poland remains significantly higher than the EU average, amounting to 3%. The company’s commitment to supporting the development of the biotechnology sector shows that Poland is a key market for Novartis in Central and Eastern Europe.

Both companies have a long-standing commitment to fostering dialogue between the private and government sectors. From the history of the Dialogue Forum itself, one can see how great is the need to establish such an understanding. Ulrich Schwendimann, Managing Director of the Polish-Swiss Chamber of Commerce summarises 11 years of joint ventures: “Since 2011, the Polish-Swiss Forum for Health Dialogue has covered a very wide range of topics, from preventive medicine and health promotion to the implementation of oncology strategies, to data-driven healthcare and pandemic management. In total, more than 100 policymakers and experts from Poland and Switzerland met at the Forum to reflect on current trends and challenges in healthcare. Over 1,000 participants experienced a lot of mutual inspiration and learning from the perspective of various stakeholders from our two countries. “

 

Innovation as a priority in the National Recovery Plan

 

The 11th edition of the Forum for Health Dialogue with the topics to be addressed by speakers from Poland and Switzerland is part of the National Recovery and Resilience Project (RRF). In its assumptions, the most important challenge is to properly support innovation at the stage of conducting research works and consistent commercialization of emerging medical and technological solutions.

The National Recovery Plan reads, “In some countries, the high potential of the biotechnology community has become one of the key tools for an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the enormous potential of the entire sector, supported by numerous scientific and research institutions, the spending of the entire biotechnology sector in 2017 on R&D activities related to biotechnology were far behind the leading European markets. Last year’s Industrial Research and Development Scoreboard did not include any Polish companies from the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector. The available reports of this sector in Poland show that there is no availability of funds for innovations in the early stages of development and that over 50% of investments were made by companies producing medical equipment, and only a small percentage is invested in innovative drugs, which indicates a low propensity to risk on the part of commercial companies and private investors. Pharmaceutical innovation should be one of the priorities in the emerging biomedical sector development strategy.”

The benefits of collaboration between research and development centres and the business world seem obvious. Tangible results of this cooperation, such as the implementation of innovative solutions, access to the latest knowledge or higher product quality cannot go unnoticed. The exchange of experience and the opportunity to develop researchers who can use their inventions in practice is also extremely important.

The Polish-Swiss Forum for Health Dialogue is an annual initiative aimed at discussing the shape and direction of reforms in the Polish health care system and developing a model for relations between stakeholders based on open dialogue, drawing on the Swiss experience. The event, organised by the Swiss Embassy in Poland and the Polish-Swiss Chamber of Commerce, allows for an exchange of views and a joint discussion of people involved in the health care system in Poland on solutions tailored to the needs of the Polish society. The event is dedicated to the medical community, medical experts, scientists, entrepreneurs, patient organisations, pro-health associations and foundations.

Roche and Novartis are partners of the event.

More information about the Forum at:/forumdialogu.swisschamber.pl/

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