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STAFF OF THE JAGIELLONIAN UNIVERSITY FACULTY OF PHARMACY ARE DEVELOPING A NEW PAIN KILLER

Dr. Anna Waszkielewicz

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esearch conducted in the Faculty of Pharmacy at the Jagiellonian University on a shortlist for a new drug to treat neuropathic pain and for epileptics has reached an advanced stage. It’ll be the first drug of its kind, working on the principle of a novel mechanism to block the sigma receptor. The project is being done under the supervision of Professor Henryk Marona, by a team coordinated by Dr. Anna Waszkielewicz from the Bio-Organic Chemistry Department. Dr. Waszkielewicz has received many tokens of appreciation from the academic community. She won a competition entitled Innowacja jest kobietą (Innovation is a Woman) organised by the NGO Fundacja Kobiety Nauki (Foundation for Women Scientists and Scholars), and got the chance to promote her invention at iENA 2013, the 65th “Ideas – Inventions – New products” International Exhibition in Nuremberg, Germany, where she was awarded the silver medal. She has also received a distinction from GWIIN, the Global Women Inventors and Innovators Network in Stockholm, Sweden; and has been nominated for this year’s Soczewki Focusa, a readers’ plebiscite conducted by the Polish magazine Focus, in the medical innovations category. In addition in 2013 the new medication Dr. Waszkielewicz is working on won the special prize at Technicon Innowacje, the 9th Industrial Technology, Science and Innovation Fair. Dr. Waszkielewicz talks to Anna Wojnar about the innovative drug. □ “You’re coordinating research on a new group of chemical compounds which are to help patients suffering from epilepsy and from neuropathic pain, which is extremely difficult to treat. What exactly does the research involve?” ■ “At present there is no drug dedicated to the treatment of neuropathic pain, and the progress of pathological changes at the molecular level in damaged nerve cells has only been tracked fairly recently. Hence the need for research leading to new drugs that patients need so much. The aim of my project is to design new chemical compounds which will have a therapeutic effect, synthesise them, and work with specialist research teams from a number of fields to see whether we can select a potential candidate from the group of chemicals to produce the drug. The specialist fields are pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, analytical chemistry, biotechnology, and drug delivery technology. My job is coordinating these tasks, for often the parameters that are obtained from these different areas overlap and are each other’s outcome. To a large extent our research consists in the analysis of physical, chemical, and biological parameters which are to be applied in the assessment of how and in what doses the given drug will be useful in treatment, and for what doses might unwanted side-effects appear, how the compound may be determined in the blood, what percentage of a dose administered orally gets into the blood, after what time it is removed from the body, what its metabolites are and whether they are toxic. There is a colossal amount of information which must be collected before we start administering the drug to people in clinical tests, and our overriding aim is the health and safety of patients.” □ “What made you interested in this area of research?”

■ “I come from a family of chemists and I think I’ve got the right predisposition for this job. Usually people either love chemistry or they hate it and wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole. I love it. In my pharmaceutical classes I was interested in the central nervous alma mater No. 166 26

system. I wanted to enhance my own memorising processes and knowledge of the way the brain works proved helpful. I like what I’m doing, and challenges make it all the more exciting. Also I think it’s worthwhile doing things that are going to be useful rather than engaging in art for art’s sake, and that’s why I am where I am, applying and advancing my knowledge. I feel this is the right place for me.” □ “Which foreign institutions are you working with and what is the extent of your cooperation with them for this project?” ■ “First and foremost with the US National Institutes of Health, with which the JU MC Faculty of Pharmacy has been collaborating since 1996 within an anti-epilepsy drug programme. Samples of the compounds we have synthesised are sent out for testing on animals with induced epileptic fits or neuropathic pain. There are also tests for neurotoxicity. I’m also working with companies that carry out such tests on contract: their global reputation is a tremendous help in the pharmaceutical industry.” □ “At what stage are you now in the project?” ■ “We have covered all the stages that could be done in the university. We’ve obtained the patents needed for the global pharmaceutical market – in the United States, the European Union, Russia, and Poland as well. We’ve tested our compounds on large mammals and determined the dosage for humans for clinical tests. We’ve done the cost estimates for the technology and drawn up plans for the work ahead, which means obtaining patent protection in other countries, synthesising a large quantity of the compound, testing for chronic toxicity in compliance with the GLP (Good Laboratory Practice) standard, production of the drug’s pharmaceutical form, and clinical tests.” □ “Thank you for the interview.”

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