Molecular virology and COVID-19 Cooperation and Research Development at the University of Gdańsk

Rector of the University of Gdańsk, Professor Jerzy Piotr Gwizdała and Chief Sanitary Inspector, Professor Jerzy Pinkas held a meeting with researchers from the Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology UG and MUG, Professor Krystyna Bieńkowska-Szewczyk and dr Łukasz Rąbalski, concerning further cooperation on Covid-19 research. The research carried out at the University of Gdańsk makes a significant contribution to learning molecular evolution of the virus, which will help develop vaccine and medicines in the future.

The meeting was also attended by: Governor of Pomerania - Dariusz Drelich, Pomeranian Voivodship Sanitary Inspector – Tomasz Augustyniak, also UG Vice-Rector for Development and Cooperation with Business and Industry – Professor Krzysztof Bielawski and UG Vice-Rector for Education – Professor Piotr Stepnowski.

The meeting concerned developing cooperation in, among others, coronavirus genome sequencing, conducting virus biology related research and improving biosecurity level at one of the laboratories at the Faculty of Biotechnology to BSL-3+ level (Biosafety Level 3+). At the moment, two laboratories at the Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology UG and MUG use BSL-2 with enhanced precautions safety protocol. Improving one of the laboratories to BSL-3+ would allow to work with a ‘live’ virus. It would be the second such laboratory in Poland.

Guests toured the Faculty of Biotechnology of the University of Gdańsk, one of the most technologically advanced buildings in Poland, located at UG Gdańsk Oliwa campus (investment co-financed by EU funds under the Operational Programme Infrastructure and Environment).

During the meeting, Rector of the University of Gdańsk, Jerzy Piotr Gwizdała highlighted the uniqueness of the Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology UG and MUG, as on-of-a-kind facility on a national and European scale. A place where outstanding, world-recognized scientific teams work and its major asset being the cooperation of both universities: University of Gdańsk and Gdańsk Medical University. Chief Sanitary Inspector, Jerzy Pinkas stated that further opportunities for cooperation are considerable and both infrastructure and research carried out at the Faculty are on the top European level.

Molecular virology in Gdańsk

The discipline of molecular virology has been developed in Gdańsk for over 25 years, since the establishment of  the Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology UG and MUG, University of Gdańsk researchers have made world-recognized achievements in that regard. In this time period, over 30 virology related projects have been implemented by Faculty researchers, financed under Polish and international grants. Faculty employees conduct scientific work on influenza viruses, herpesviruses, hepatitis type B,C, D viruses and the Zika virus.  

It is worth reminding that dr Łukasz Rąbalski from the Laboratory of Recombinant Vaccines of the Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology of the University of Gdańsk and the Medical University of Gdańsk was the first person to obtain the whole genetic sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus isolated from the Polish patient (further research was conducted to obtain additional information on virus present in northern Poland). State Sanitary Inspection reached out to the University of Gdańsk to determine which virus strain infected miners in Silesia Region. The use of advanced sequencing technologies allowed for determining and transferring information regarding the strain of the virus in the matter of days. The data has been published in the international GISAID database and made available for all researchers studying virus’s changeability.

Professor Krystyna Bieńkowska-Szewczyk is the Head of UG Laboratory of Virus Molecular Biology, Member of Gdańsk Virology Team and Member of the Advisory Panel on preventing, counteracting and combating COVID-19 under the Minister of Science and Higher Education.

Professor Krzysztof Bielawski is the Head of Laboratory of Molecular Diagnostics, for years researching genetic changeability and drug resistance of hepatitis type B and C (HBV and HCV) viruses.

The meeting took place on 7 July 2020 in UG Rector’s Office and at the Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology UG and MUG.


Press Office of University of Gdańsk