Polish science can count on support from many different sources. Among others, they help state budget, the European Union, various types of funds, but also businessmen and entrepreneurs. Examples of such activities include companies belonging to one of the richest Poles – Jerzy Starak.
In the last edition of the “100 richest” ranking compiled by “Wprost”, Jerzy Starak was ranked sixth. Owned by a businessman, Polpharma, which produces 400 million drug packages each year, generated a record PLN 3.68 billion in sales in 2021. As it turns out, the entrepreneur not only invests in the development of his company, but also allocates huge financial resources to support the scientific community. This cooperation turns out to be very fruitful for both parties.
Development of the biosimilars market
Jerzy Starak has been involved in the development of the biotechnology sector for a long time through two daughter companies. Polpharma Biologics has been developing and producing biosimilars for over 10 years. What is behind this mysterious name? Well, from the definition adopted by the European Medicines Agency, it follows that these are biological drugs that are developed on the basis of an active substance known from drugs available on the market. The use of this type of medical products can significantly increase the availability for patients, and what is more, it can also reduce the cost of therapy.
Polpharma Biologics stands out from other companies with a similar profile in that it has the ability to carry out the full process of creating a biological drug: from the development of a cell line to the production of the active substance on an industrial scale.
The company has three research and development centers: one of the most modern biotechnology complexes in Europe located in Gdańsk, a plant for the production of medicinal products in Warsaw-Duchnice and a center focusing on the development of cell lines located in the Science Park in Utrecht.
In total, over 350 scientists are employed at the facilities. They already have their first successes – they can boast of over 90 patents. The European Patent Office has repeatedly appreciated the number of patents submitted and awarded Polpharma the title of a leader in this field among Polish entrepreneurs.
Certificates from American and European agency
The drug, which is produced in the Polpharma Biologics Development and Production Center, was the first drug in Poland to receive certificates from the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency.
These documents allow the drug to be placed on the American and European market. In this way, officials appreciated ranibizumab, which is used to treat the wet form of age-related macular degeneration, as well as other serious eye diseases. In total, Polpharma Biologics has 8 biosimilars in its portfolio.
The mission of the second daughter company – JJP Biologics – is to work on the development of innovative molecules that have not been used in medicine so far. It is primarily an immunological drug intended for patients with severe pemphigus, as well as medical products that can help patients with oncological diseases. He is also responsible for the implementation of innovative research programs in our country, which are created in cooperation with Polish scientists.
PLN 20 million to support Polish science
The Polpharma Scientific Foundation has also been operating for over 20 years. It is one of the largest organizations in Poland that finances research projects carried out by Polish scientists. Its motto is: “We help people of science.” A total of PLN 20 million has been allocated to support science so far.
The most important programs implemented by the foundation include a competition for financing research projects from the funds of the Polpharma Scientific Foundation. In recent years, these have included: topics such as “Digitalization to improve treatment results”, “Epigenetic modifications in human diseases” or “Development and optimization of processes in medical biotechnology”.
For many years, the foundation supported the activity of young scientists through a special scholarship program, which is addressed to participants of doctoral studies at medical universities. The award was a scholarship in the amount of 10,000. zlotys. What’s more, the foundation also rewards the authors of the best master’s theses of pharmaceutical faculties. The winners are selected in a special nationwide competition organized by the Polish Pharmaceutical Society.
How does Jerzy Starak help young scientists?
Polpharma also develops direct cooperation with scientific communities. Since October 2018, doctoral students from Polpharma have been working on the so-called implementation doctorates. In this way, doctoral students have the opportunity to work closely with entrepreneurs. This project was initiated by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education in cooperation with, among others, with the Medical University of Gdańsk and the University of Warsaw.
– Polpharma’s active cooperation with Polish universities, aimed at educating highly specialized experts in the field of chemistry and pharmacy, fits perfectly into the program of implementation doctorates and the strategy of building a bridge between science and business – commented Magdalena Rzeszotalska, Director of Corporate Communication and CSR at Polpharma.
In 2015, on the initiative of the Polpharma Scientific Foundation, a special manual for physicians and students of medical faculties was published entitled “Non-compliance with therapeutic recommendations. From causes to practical solutions. It was created thanks to the financial support of Polpharma as part of the compliance project, the aim of which is to consolidate the importance of good cooperation between patients and doctors in the medical community.
New technologies and medicine
Four years later, the foundation held a competition entitled “The use of mobile techniques in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of lifestyle diseases”. It was a response to the unprecedented development of new technologies in many different fields of medicine. The authors of the three best projects received prizes in the total amount of PLN 260,000. zlotys, which were to be spent on the development of the application.
Dr. Wojciech Kuźmierkiewicz, in the past president of the board of the Polpharma Scientific Foundation and currently a member of the foundation’s honorary scientific council, explained that the introduction of new technologies in health care can ensure a more personalized and comprehensive approach to the patient.
– Preventive projects play a huge role, especially those that allow you to constantly monitor the course of certain diseases, mainly chronic ones. Thanks to them, even minor changes can be detected, which in tests carried out once every few months during a visit to the doctor could go unnoticed at all – he explained.
Man does not live by medicine alone
The Staraks support the scientific community not only in the field of biotechnology and medical sciences, but also in the field of art. Together with her husband, Anna Woźniak-Starak runs a family foundation – the Starak Family Foundation – which aims to promote and support young, talented people through various scholarship and grant programs.
The statutory mission of the foundation also includes providing access to the latest achievements in science, technology, culture and economy, as well as activities to improve health and develop preventive health care.
The statutory goals of the foundation are implemented by Spectra edu. As part of a special grant project, “Wena” supports young people and teachers from art schools in the implementation of educational and artistic projects. In previous years, the competitions concerned e.g. “The Art of Fixing the World”. A special jury won ten projects whose theme was care for the modern world, which is becoming more and more dangerous and unpredictable. In another edition of the competition entitled “The world from my window”, the inspiration was: the perception and reception of the world and people changed by the pandemic
The Starak family foundation also organizes the “Horyzonty” scholarship program, which is implemented jointly with the Edukacyjna Fundacja im. Roman Czernecki. This is a support action for young people from families in a difficult financial situation. Thanks to the help for students, their educational opportunities are equalised. In total, nearly 840 people were provided with assistance. More than PLN 30 million was invested in the development of scholarship holders.
– In Poland, as in the whole world, there are many wonderful, talented young people. Often, however, the lack of access to new achievements in technology and science, the distance from the main educational centers or the lack of knowledge of foreign languages stand in the way of achieving one’s own goals or force people to look for “happiness” outside the borders of our country. That is why support is needed today, at the beginning of their journey – stressed Jerzy Starak.