Case study

Case study

Polish potential in the development of innovative pharmaceuticals – the history of WPD Pharmaceuticals

WPD Pharmaceuticals is a biotechnology company founded in 2017, developing therapies in Poland that will ultimately help in the treatment of neoplastic diseases, especially brain cancer, leukemia, pancreatic cancer and melanoma. What was the company’s development like and why is Poland a good country to conduct clinical trials?

WPD Pharmaceuticals was founded by prof. Waldemar Priebe, a world-renowned medical chemist and entrepreneur, who currently works in the USA as a professor of medical chemistry at the Department of Experimental Therapies at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, together with Mariusz Olejniczak, president of the company’s management board.

– Professor Priebe has previously successfully run two biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies in the US that have had considerable success. He also decided to set up a company in Poland, because our country offers good, interesting business opportunities, especially in the field of clinical trials. Thanks to the combination of our experience, WPD Pharmaceuticals was created – says Mariusz Olejniczak, president of the company’s management board.

Poland as a good place for development

In 2017, the company signed the first license agreement with Wake Forest University and became the sole licensee of global rights to two technology platforms allowing the development of new medicinal products, which allowed them to develop in Poland. However, it would not be possible without the grant support received by the company.

One of the arguments for establishing a company in Poland is the possibility of obtaining funds, such as grants from the National Center for Research and Development. It should be added that Poland is a very good place to conduct clinical trials. Due to the large market, small organizations find it difficult to conduct clinical trials in the USA, the saturation with clinical trials in Europe, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, is much lower – comments Olejniczak.

The company operates in two locations – in Wrocław and Warsaw. This division allows the company to separate two areas of its activity – product development and more formalized scientific work. In Wrocław, work is being carried out on the development of the company’s portfolio, preliminary research or patents. WPD Pharmaceuticals has chosen Wrocław because the city has a base of specialized experts and well-educated graduates.

Acquiring funds for R&D development is a constant challenge

Currently, WPD Pharmaceuticals is developing several projects, including two key projects that have received funding from the National Center for Research and Development.

 In the initial phase of operation, our financing was limited, which is why we applied for funding from the NCBR several times. It is not a quick or simple process – it requires patience and determination. Applying for a grant several times increased our chances of success. Finally, we obtained grants for the implementation of our two projects. Importantly, the funds obtained in conjunction with the licenses that we have obtained made our company interesting enough that we managed to enter the stock exchange in Vancouver – says the company’s president.

When applying for funding from NCBR, WPD Pharmaceuticals used the Grant Voucher mechanism, under which the Wrocław Technology Park finances up to 100% of the costs of preparing a grant application.

The process of preparing a grant application is time-consuming and generates costs – both external and internal. When applying for subsidies, you need to secure funds that will allow for its proper preparation so that it can be successful. Support such as the Grant Voucher is especially important for small and medium-sized enterprises and is crucial especially at the beginning of their operation, a critical moment for their success. It is also a motivation to act, try, sometimes once again, in competitions that allow you to gain funds for the development of innovation –  says Mariusz Olejniczak.

Development of innovative therapies

WPD is currently implementing two major projects that are entering the next strategic development phases. In the case of one of them, the company will soon be ready to start clinical trials on patients with gliomas. The company’s goal is to introduce a new medicinal product to the market for patients with cancer, especially glioma, for which no new therapeutic methods have appeared for over 20 years, and those that are available do not bring the expected results.

The company’s portfolio includes products developed by two Poles working in the USA – prof. Waldemar Dębiński and prof. Waldemar Priebe, who independently tried to find new ways to fight glioblastoma using American grants. WPD Pharmaceuticals combined their knowledge, which opened new perspectives in the area of pharmaceutical development. It is a long process, but it means constant development for the company.

The milestones in the development of our company are our first licensing agreement, going public in Canada and the upcoming entry into the clinical trial stage. We hope that it will end successfully in the next 2-3 years – comments Olejniczak.

The activity of WPD Pharmaceuticals is largely based on the flow of innovation, know-how and exchange of experiences. The President of the Management Board emphasizes that the company operates in the paradigm of open innovation, which means that the company is based on network cooperation with other organizations.

In the case of the development of innovation, not only in pharmaceuticals, in Poland we must overcome mutual distrust and focus on cooperation. The development of innovations, especially pharmaceutical ones, is like a coral reef – no one can do everything by himself. This is true for both small and large biotech companies. It is worth adding that organizations such as WPT support these processes by generating a natural cluster of organizations that function side by side and have a similar scope of activity – sums up Mariusz Olejniczak, CEO of WPD Pharmaceuticals.

Read more about WPD Pharmaceuticals >

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