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Eight biotechnology companies leading the charge in Poland

Over the last decade, Poland has seen the rise of its biotech industry. While the country’s pharmaceutical industry has traditionally focused on developing generics, many of these companies have started moving towards developing biologics. Meanwhile, biotech startups in Poland are working on developing new technologies, with a strong focus on treatments for cancer and autoimmune disease. 

As the country sees success stories in its biotech sector, more and more academics and entrepreneurs have been encouraged to take the leap and start a business in Poland’s flourishing biotech industry. Here, we have selected eight companies at the forefront of Poland’s promising biotech industry. 

Table of contents

    Bowil Biotech

    Bowil Biotech uses bacterial fermentation to produce biocellulose on an industrial scale. The company currently sells wound dressings and face masks made of biocellulose. It is researching many more applications, including heart prostheses, analgesic dressings, contact lenses, and high-strength paper.  

    The Poland-based biotech company’s flagship product line, CelMat, includes various biocellulose-based medical devices ranging from wound dressings to specialized implants for reconstructive medicine. These products are noted for being hypoallergenic and free of animal-derived materials.

    Additionally, in collaboration with the Cardiac and Vascular Surgery Department at the Medical University of Gdansk, Bowil Biotech is developing bioimplants for heart valves and vascular prostheses currently in the pre-clinical testing phase.

    Captor Therapeutics

    With offices in Wrocław and Basel, Captor Therapeutics employs a proprietary targeted protein degradation (TPD) platform to discover and develop drugs that can break down disease-causing proteins. This approach lets the company go after disease targets that were previously considered undruggable. 

    Captor is building its own drug development pipeline based on this technology, with five drug projects in the discovery and preclinical phase focusing on cancer and autoimmune diseases. Its lead asset, CT-01, is aimed at treating hepatocellular carcinoma and is poised to enter clinical trials. The company is also exploring treatments for other severe conditions through its TPD technology.

    Captor Therapeutics went public in 2021, listing on the Warsaw Stock Exchange, marking a significant step in its growth trajectory. In 2022, the company entered into a collaboration with Ono Pharmaceutical to develop treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, pushing its TPD platform beyond oncology and autoimmune diseases. 

    Celon Pharma

    While it started as more of a traditional pharmaceutical company, Celon Pharma has shifted from developing generics to developing innovative biologic drugs, such as bispecific antibodies and messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutics. Celon Pharma has been listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange since 2016. 

    The company finances its research activities through the sales of its generic drugs, and has also secured funding from EU programs aimed at fostering innovation. 

    Celon Pharma’s pipeline includes treatments for drug-resistant unipolar depression and metabolic diseases. The company recently completed the construction of a new Research and Development Center to support its growth and development strategies.

    Molecure

    Formerly OncoArendi Therapeutics, Molecure develops small molecule therapies that can regulate RNA and underexplored protein targets for the treatment of incurable diseases, including cancer and fibrotic and inflammatory diseases. 

    Their most advanced drug candidate, OATD-01 is a phase 2-ready chitinase inhibitor for inflammatory lung diseases. While it was thought that chitinase and chitinase-like proteins could not be found in humans, studies have demonstrated that they are present and play an important role in regulating the intensity of the immune response. OATD-02, slightly less advanced, is a dual arginase inhibitor designed to treat cancer currently in phase 1 clinical development​.

    Arginase inhibitors are particularly interesting in the context of cancer therapy and certain metabolic disorders. In cancer, tumor cells often express high levels of arginase to deplete arginine, which is crucial for T-cell function. By inhibiting arginase, these inhibitors can potentially restore arginine levels, thereby promoting an immune response against the tumor.

    NanoVelos

    A spin-out of the Warsaw University of Technology in Poland, biotech company NanoVelos is developing nanoparticles to deliver cancer drugs. The nanoparticles, made of dextran molecules, are designed to only release the drugs they carry when inside a cancer cell, thus increasing the drug’s efficacy while reducing its potential side effects. Dextran is a hydrophilic and biocompatible complex derived from glucose, useful in medical and pharmaceutical applications. Its solubility in water and biocompatibility make it ideal for various applications such as drug delivery. The technology is still in preclinical development, with some of the projects focusing on enhancing generic forms of existing drugs.

    The company’s technology focuses on poly(lactide-co-glycolide) (PLGA) and acrylic acid-based nanoparticles that protect drugs from enzymatic degradation and target specific endogenous ligands. This delivery system is particularly advantageous for cancer therapies, providing targeted treatment and reducing damage to healthy tissues.

    Poltreg

    Poltreg is a biotech company based in Gdańsk, Poland, specializing in the development of T-regulatory cell therapies for autoimmune diseases. The company cultivates T-regulated lymphocytes that are utilized in therapies for diseases like type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and potentially other autoimmune conditions.

    The company is currently advancing several clinical trials aimed at type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

    Poltreg has developed its own manufacturing facility, intending to enhance its capability in cell and gene therapy production. This facility is designed to support both their proprietary product needs and offer contract development and manufacturing services to other entities​​.

    The company went public in 2021, listing on the Warsaw Stock Exchange, to support its growth and development​​.

    Pure Biologics

    Located in Wroclaw, Poland, biotech company Pure Biologics specializes in the discovery and development of innovative biologic drugs and extracorporeal therapies. The company primarily focuses on immuno-oncology, autoimmunology, and rare neurological diseases.

    Pure Biologics is notable for its expertise in the selection of aptamers and antibodies, with a significant emphasis on the biophysical analysis of molecular interactions and the production of recombinant proteins.

    Aptamers are short, single-stranded DNA or RNA molecules that can bind to specific target molecules with high affinity and specificity. They are similar to antibodies in their ability to specifically recognize and bind to proteins, but they offer several advantages, including smaller size, easier synthesis, and the ability to modify them chemically for various applications.

    The company’s portfolio includes new immuno-oncology therapies and treatments for autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases​​.

    The company has established a subsidiary, Doto Medical, focused on the accelerated development of PB103, a key aptamer project for treating chronic kidney disease (CKD). The project aims to develop a medical device for CKD patients.

    Ryvu Therapeutics

    Originally operating under the parent company Selvita, Ryvu Therapeutics and Selvita underwent a corporate split in 2019 to separate the oncology therapeutics and contract research business units. 

    Ryvu is a clinical-stage drug discovery and development biotech that is focused on developing small-molecule therapies as alternatives to current cancer treatments. 

    The most advanced program in their pipeline is a targeted therapy for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) currently in phase 2 trials in partnership with the pharma company Menarini. Ryvu Therapeutics’ pipeline includes several promising compounds, with a strong focus on precision medicine approaches in oncology. Key projects include RVU120, a clinical-stage program targeting CDK8/19 for various cancers, including AML and solid tumors. The company is also exploring the potential of PRMT5 inhibitors, addressing specific genetic alterations in cancer cells.

    Poland biotech: Room for improvement

    Poland’s biotechnology sector is recognized for its vigorous research and development activities, particularly in drug development and medical diagnostics. The country has a notable concentration of research institutions and biotech companies.

    However, Poland’s biotech industry lags in several critical areas, notably in enterprise support and the commercialization of biotech innovations. According to a biotech innovation report, Poland scored relatively low in enterprise support, which assesses the ease of doing business and availability of capital for startup companies. This indicates potential hurdles in entrepreneurship and innovation commercialization​​.

    For Poland to improve its biotech standing, there should be an increase in funding for biotech ventures and a concerted effort to improve the regulatory environment to support biotechnology businesses. Improving infrastructure and ensuring consistent governmental policies will also be crucial for nurturing a thriving biotech ecosystem. Additionally, fostering a stronger linkage between academia and industry could accelerate the translation of scientific research into marketable biotech innovations.

    This article was originally published in September 2019 by Clara Rodriguez Fernandez and has since been updated by Jules Adam in April 2024.