“We should be independent in the production of medicines in Europe, thereby making us independent of production in India or China. First the pandemic and now the war in Ukraine have shown that this is a key challenge” Niedzielski said.
NIEDZIELSKI: WE MUST BE INDEPENDENT OF CHINA AND INDIA IN DRUG PRODUCTION
The pandemic and the war in Ukraine have shown that one of the key challenges is to make drug production in Europe independent of India and China, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told PAP. The minister took part in a conference on Polish-American cooperation in biotechnology, held in Washington, D.C. As he assessed, cooperation with the US is important for fulfilling Polish ambitions to become a regional leader in the field of biotechnology.
Niedzielski mentioned the issue of independence from Asia as one of the three biggest challenges and lessons from the pandemic. In doing so, he emphasized the importance of countries’ resilience to crises. “When we experience crises – and we are still experiencing this during the war in Ukraine – we find that we don’t have certain ingredients used to produce medicines” – Niedzielski said. “Covid-19 showed that those supply chains that were based on manufacturers in India and China were not a model that worked well. The bottom line is that we should work together to make sure our markets are fully secured” he added.
Among other key lessons from the pandemic, Niedzielski mentioned the rapid aging of the population in the face of the growing demand for medical care and the shortage of personnel in healthcare. He said that the key to overcoming this problem is investment in innovation in biotechnology. He added that Poland „ has already started walking along this path”, by creating the Medical Research Agency.
“We have more and more elderly people in society, multi-disease will become more and more common, and we increasingly need diagnostics and other services. However, the daily reality is that we don’t have enough specialists,” the minister said. As he explained, innovation could help, for example, through the development of a telecare system or health monitoring devices.
The minister also said that COVID-19 demonstrated the crucial importance of public-private sector cooperation, pointing out that it was only through such cooperation that it was possible to “cut through the disaster” developing vaccines at a tremendous pace and scale.
Education Minister Przemyslaw Czarnek, joining from Warsaw, said that Poland intends to become a leader in our region in the field of biotechnology.
“We are convinced that it is research in this area that can drive Polish innovation” he said. He noted that important to this ambition will be cooperation with the US and the adaptation of global best practices and models in this discipline.
“We already have such a dominant position in the region when it comes to pharmaceutical production. If we look more broadly, Poland has the sixth position in terms of medicines sold. So, this is a good starting point to respond to some of the lessons that come out of Covid-19, especially in terms of independence” Niedzielski told PAP.
The exchange of experiences with the US was one of the main topics of discussion at the conference at the Willard Hotel in Washington among Polish and American specialists from scientific centers in both countries, representatives of authorities and private companies. Experts pointed out, among other things, the need to streamline and digitize research, better commercialize it and create an environment friendly to innovative research. Former Health Minister Prof. Lukasz Szumowski said at the same time that cooperation with the USA must be mutually beneficial, and Poland has much to offer to America. In doing so, he mentioned the possibility of exchanging clinical trial data with the US.
Speakers also spoke about the importance of biotechnology to the economy and security. Among other things, they advocated the need for more money to invest in research and science, both in the public and private sectors. In doing so, they pointed out that in Europe they are at a much lower level than in the US.
During the conference, Minister Niedzielski also presented the nomination of Professor Maria Siemionow to the Council of the Medical Research Agency. Siemionow is a world-renowned surgeon working at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who became famous for, among other things, performing the first successful face transplant operation in the US.
In an interview with PAP, Siemionow encouraged Polish medics and scientists to educate themselves in the US.
“Those scientists who come here almost all come back, so they contribute to the development of science in Poland. They learn discipline here, hard work. So, this is a good investment for both sides” she said.
Monday’s event was the seventh edition of the conference held as part of the series “The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Create it” launched in 2019.
The conference was financed by the Ministry of Education and Science with funds from the “Excellent Science” program – module: support of scientific conferences.