Making a Career at Home is Contenting
With almost 40 million people Poland is an enormous potential market but considering the status of it's biotechnological industry it is a white spot. How much 'biotech' is there in Poland, the biggest of the EU candidate countries? EuroBioTechNews spoke with Prof. Tomasz Twardowski, president of the recently established Polish Federation of Biotechnology (PFB) about the brain drain problem, possible solutions and the benefits of making a career at home.
In which areas is the Polish biotechnology very active and which parts have not been sufficiently established yet?
The most efficient, and let's say the most 'powerful' activities take place in the molecular areas of biotechnology particulary in plant molecular biology and bioorganic chemistry. What is not functioning efficiently yet are the roles of the state authorities and the general logistics. This makes co-operation between academia and industry difficult. This regards in particular the transfer of innovative technologies and applications of scientific ideas into the practice. This is generally due to the problems correlated with the very restrictive national legislation and particularly to lack of knowledge of intellectual property rights.
Can you give us a short overview on the process how the PFB was founded? Who initiated it - the academic institutions or the biotech companies?
Unfortunately, and I'm saying this for a reason, the Polish Federation of Biotechnology was initiated and organised from academic institutions. We have received only minor input from the Polish industry. For basic reasons: the Polish biotechnology industry plays only a minor role in the Polish economy itself. We have quite a strong scientific society and a lot of people that are interested in and engaged with biotechnology at the academic level, but very few envisage themselves as industry biotechnologists. There used to be a strong classic biotechnology industry in Poland, but modern biotechnology is mostly in the hands of multinational companies. They actually don't conduct their research here, they are merely interested in the market.
What are the main milestones you would like to achieve for the Polish biotech companies in the next couple of years?
At first, we would like to establish a Polish industry which will be founded on national innovative technologies, that is Polish ideas. Secondly, we want to establish international cooperations and collaborations. Today there is a good co-operation between the Polish Acedemy of Sciences and the German Max Planck Society.
How do you plan to stop the so called 'brain drain' phenomenon - the problem that many Polish researches emigrate to western countries?
My idea might sound like a joke, but we will be looking and following what other western countries will do about it. This is because they have the same problem. We have a brain drain going from East to West. More and more people from Russia, the Ukraine and even from Vietnam and India apply for positions in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. And again, scientist from these three countries are seeking positions in Germany, France and the UK. Many researchers in Germany on the other hand chose to do their research in the US. So this is a common problem. Ideas like those of the German Max Planck Society, to grant so called 'come back' research fellowships might help. The first part of such a fellowship is to go abroad, the second part grants money to establish the laboratory at home.
In your career you too have been with Roche in the USA and at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. What were your reasons to continue your career in Poland?
A career in Poland is more satisfying and also more pleasant. In my home country, with my mothertounge, my family and my friends - I feel at home. And I'm pursuing my career at home.
We thank you for the interesting interview, Prof Twadowski!