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Serbia has been lagging behind in the development of biomedicine and biotechnology

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“The data on published works in recognized scientific journals, as well as the number of registered patents, show that we are somewhere near the bottom of Europe.” For example, Germany registered almost 26,000 patents last year, Croatia 22 patents, and Serbia eight,” he states in his written answer.

Stojković also said that this is not surprising, because we are a very poor country, so “a minimal amount (of money) is allocated for science and education”.

“The largest part of the budget is allocated for salaries, but not for the development of scientific infrastructure,” says Stojković.

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Young people leave because there is no investment in them

Modern biomedicine deals with human health and clinical industry.

Innovations in the field of biomedicine include regenerative medicine, the development of new drugs, the discovery of new disease biomarkers, and genetics.

“Meanwhile, biotechnology deals with the science of life and develops useful products for the agricultural, food and medical industries. This implies the emergence of a large number of practical purposes and products… In parallel with that, investing in the education and training of young people who will be involved in the entire process, not only the application but also the development of new technologies. We don’t have that here, that’s why they leave,” says Stojković.

Serbia is working with a Chinese company on genome sequencing

He adds that he sees a great positive contribution of the Center for Genome Sequencing and Bioinformatics, which was opened in Belgrade in December 2021, because scientists and clinicians will have the opportunity to advance science and practical diagnostic applications with modern analyses.

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“The sample does not have to be sent abroad, there is no need to wait a long time for the results or pay much more than necessary.” “The doctor will have important information about the root of the disease, he will have a diagnosis and the ability to prescribe the appropriate and more effective therapy for the patient,” says Stojković.

It is only negative if there is no connection between the Center and the aforementioned users, especially patients, he says.

Let us remind you that the Center was opened in cooperation with the Chinese company BGI.

When asked if he thinks that BGI is a good choice of partner, Stojković says that the company is known all over the world and is active in over a hundred countries, as well as that it participated with other world laboratories in the exceptional scientific achievement of sequencing the human genome.

“Whether he was the best choice, whether there were other similar candidates or whether he was the only one should be answered by someone else.” As of 2021, BGI is owned by China’s largest state-owned development company, and in some countries it has been classified and placed on the list of Chinese military companies. If we concentrate on science and its practical application, then BGI is a good choice,” answers Stojković.

Stojković explains that the sequencing of the human genome is increasingly being used in various health systems in the world.

“Clinical screening programs aim to examine genes or variants to identify increased risk and thereby prevent future disease.” For example, an increased risk of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, or infertility. At the same time, they help to examine the unwanted effects of drugs without first testing them on humans, but on cells that can react mutagenically to new drugs,” he says.

In 2021, Reuters announced that BGI developed tests for the detection of the risk of structural and numerical aberrations of chromosomes using a non-invasive method (NIFTY), which are made from the blood of a pregnant woman, in cooperation with the Chinese military.

Possibilities of prenatal tests

Serbia should also do these prenatal tests at the Center, which continued in cooperation with BGI.

Stojković says that NIFTY tests are available on our market through the presence of foreign companies, but “unfortunately, samples are sent abroad”.

“It would be better if the tests were done here because NIFTY provides the possibility of early detection of abnormal syndromes or diseases of the offspring already in early pregnancy,” he says.

In the case of IVF, a similar procedure (PGT-A) is performed to prevent hereditary diseases by scanning early embryos and returning only healthy embryos to the future mother.

“At the same time, the decision on the application and (in)ability of the tests should be left to the parents, and it is up to the legislator to order and guarantee the confidentiality of the data.” This means not breaking the law, having the permission of the biomedical administration or ethical commissions and the parents/sample donors themselves – otherwise the data must not be used. That should apply to everyone, not only the cooperation between the Center and BGI,” says Stojković.

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