European biotech experts gather in Ljubljana
Ljubljana is hosting experts in one of the most promising and fastest developing fields for the 13th European Biotechnology Congress. Held in Slovenia for the first time, the three-day event will examine advances and challenges of various fields of biotechnology.
Talking with the Slovenian Press Agency before the official opening on 4 October, Polona Žnidaršič Plazl of the Ljubljana Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology described biotechnology as a promising field addressing key challenges such as food, health, environment and energy.
The congress will see Slovenian and foreign experts discuss progress in various fields of biotechnology, such as medical, food, agricultural, environmental, industrial, marine and water biotechnology, and talk about biocatalytic processes (biocatalysis).
Addressing the opening of the event, Helena Prosen, vice-dean of the Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology, noted the rapid advances in the field and the good prospects it has in Slovenia as well.
She singled out the pharmaceutical industry in particular as a progressive and recognisable field in Slovenia in which biotechnology is present.
"Pharmaceutical companies have definitely recognised the value of biotechnological processes and are developing them at an accelerated pace to produce medications," Prosen said.
Many small companies in Slovenia are active in this field, but have not yet managed to place their products on the market.
Maja Ravnikar, director of the National Institute of Biology, sees the congress as an opportunity to raise awareness among stakeholders about the high value added generated in biotechnology, which "needs to be cultivated in order to develop the economy".
Roman Jerala, a biochemist and researcher at the Institute of Chemistry, pointed to a shortage of properly qualified staff in the pharmaceutical industry and called for measures to attract young people.
The pharmaceutical industry is not the only well-developed field in Slovenia. "Biotechnology is also developing well in medicine, especially in terms of cancer immunotherapy and treatment of genetic diseases," Jerala told the Slovenian Press Agency.
He expects even greater progress in biotechnology in Slovenia in the next five to ten years. "Technologies such as machine learning, mRNA and others are being increasingly applied, which will enable more accessible treatment for patients."
The congress is being hosted by the European Biotechnology Thematic Network Association, this year in cooperation with the Ljubljana Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology, National Institute of Biology and the University of Zagreb.