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Anna Krzeminska

The records of pharmacological research in Polish archives, in particular the Archives of the Institute of Pharmacology of the Polish Academy of Sciences
cehic 06/05/2009

Anna Krzeminska
Anna Krzeminska

Pharmacological research in Poland is undertaken in medical universities in the Pharmaceutical Faculty, clinical hospitals, which existing at universities, and the Institute of Pharmacology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Cracow.

The history of pharmacology in Poland dates back to the early days of the first Polish academy – the Cracow Academy. Initially the vocational education for doctors and pharmacists was consolidated, however with the development of medical sciences these became separate professions. As early as at the beginning of the 16th  century the Faculty of Medicine of the Jagiellonian University had two departments – one professor lectured on so called practical medicine and the other – theoretical medicine which included a subject called materia medica, marking the beginnings of contemporary pharmacy and pharmacology. According to the notable pharmacologist, founder of the Institute of Pharmacology of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) in Cracow, professor Janusz Supniewski, the beginning of pharmacy in Cracow – as a science, separate and independent from medicine, – may be dated back to the year 1609.

The development of pharmacy, as a science, was the result of the nationwide reforms of Hugon Kołłątaj in 1780. Afterwards the new university centers with faculties of medicine, also offering training in the field of pharmacy, came into being. One thriving centre was Warsaw where the Faculty of Academic Medicine was established in 1809,  the University of Warsaw in 1816, Medico-Surgical Academy in 1857 and the Main School in 1862. The second significant centre was Vilnius, which at the beginning of the 19th  century presented a high level of scientific works, and the third was the Jan Kazimierz University in Lviv. Both Vilnius (today Lithuania), and Lviv (today Ukraine) were at that time situated in the Polish territory and only the revision of the borders after  World War II made the cities  part of the territories of other countries.

The current science distinguishes between pharmacy and pharmacology. Pharmacology is a field of medicine and pharmacy – the  science of the effects of drugs on the organism. As a science dealing with the most important aspect of drugs, it is sometimes equated with  pharmacy itself. Meanwhile  pharmacy is a field of science superior to all issues concerning drugs. Both these sciences remain strictly connected that is why the records of research in the field of pharmacology can be found in the documentation of the units conducting pharmacy-oriented activity.

Currently in Poland  the faculties of pharmacy at the medical universities conduct scientific works in the field of pharmacology and pharmacodynamics, and there are 10 of them. Most centers carry out research on the assessment of the pharmacological activity of new chemical structures based on  close cooperation with Pharmaceutical Chemistry units of the chemical and pharmaceutical industry. The fields of interest are: the central and autonomous nervous system, the pharmacology of the cardiovascular system, research on the pathogenesis of pain, research on the new chemical structures of potential antitumor effect, research on plant drugs. In Cracow  new honey preparations have been developed and have received the adequate certificates, also pharmacological research on pollen extracts is being conducted.

The records of research undertaken at the medical universities are found in the archives departments of these universities. In conformity with the Polish archives law the universities’ archives are so-called ‘archives with entrusted collection’. Therefore they are entitled to keep the records and these do not have to be handed over to the State Archives. Unfortunately, even though universities conduct numerous and various scientific research in the field of pharmacology (the details of which can be found on web sites), the documentation which lands in the universities’ archives is extremely scanty.  First of all they refer to the financial aspects of the conducted research. These include research grant applications, contracts and reports on scientific-research works which mainly contain information on the utilization of financial resources, and only supplementary brief descriptions of research and its results. The documentation is handed over to an archive by a section dealing with the coordination of research works in the university scale, not by the units or departments which directly conduct scientific research. However there are still universities which try to collect not only the financial but also the substantial documentation of research. The records covering the documentation of individual research projects then contain: research projects (including: research topic, information on the performers, a substantial description of the project, the methodology of work, literature concerning the planned research and the cost estimate), permission from the Bioethics or Ethics Commission to conduct the planned research, reports together with the attached published scientific papers connected with the carrying out of the project.

The research documentation, which lands in universities’ archives is – one may say – an “official documentation”, carefully prepared both in the phase of the project and the phase of reporting. Meanwhile a lot of information on the carrying out of the project “step by step” or “day by day” is not kept. It can be traced only in the personal documentation of the persons engaged in the research and found in their private papers. But this is only in the case of eminent persons and scientists, such as professor Janusz Supniewski (whose private papers is preserved in the Archive of Science in Cracow), professor Edmund Przegaliński (whose private papers is preserved in the Archive of Institute of Pharmacology PAN), or files of a pharmacist Zdzisław Kłosowski who lived in the years 1853-1919 (preserved in the State Archive in Zamość).

Information on pharmacological research can also be found in the State Archives among the documentation of pharmaceutical manufacturers, beceause many research projects were conducted either upon commission or in cooperation with pharmaceutical companies.  However it should be stressed that this is practically only the information from plans and reports thus it is not a full documentation of the carried out projects. One of the Polish potentates in pharmacological industry was the Pharmaceutical Works (Zakłady Przemysłu Farmaceutycznego) “POLFA”, with their offices in various Polish cities. There are also other, smaller pharmaceutical and chemical works which have been conducting their activity since the early 20th  century. Cracow was a thriving centre of pharmacology. There were also two Pharmaceutical Research Institutes – in Cracow and in Warsaw. Currently only the Warsaw’s Institute performs its activity and acts as a scientific and service unit. It is able to develop and implement the technology for manufacturing medicinal products. The research works performed in the Pharmaceutical Research Institute cover both generic and original (innovative) drugs. The documentation of research & development works is developed in accordance with binding requirements (GMP, GLP). [1]

A special scientific-research unit dealing with all kinds of works in the field of pharmacology is the Institute of Pharmacology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Cracow. The Institute was established on October 5, 1954 as The Department of Pharmacology. The department then consisted of two sections: the Pharmacology-Chemistry Unit, headed by Professor Janusz Supniewski, which shared laboratories with the Department of Pharmacology of the Cracow Medical Academy, and the Medicinal Plants Unit, headed by Professor Marek Gatty-Kostyal. In 1974 by order of the Polish Academy of Sciences Executive Committee, the Department of Pharmacology achieved status of an institute, and its laboratories became individual departments. Now the Institute of Pharmacology consists of 13 departments [2] located at 12 Smętna Street in Cracow.

The Institute employs 140 people in scientific positions and an administrative staff of over 40. Moreover the Institute has an active Garden of Medicinal Plants and Animal House, since the Institute carries out laboratory tests on animals. There is also an active Bioethics Commission attached to the Institute. [3] The Commission’s responsibilities are, among others, to accept experimental procedures using animals, to express their opinion from the viewpoint of bioethics on manuscripts prepared for publication, and to check up conditions of breeding animals in the Institute’s labs.

The Institute of Pharmacology initiated the research in the field of neuropsychopharmacology in Poland. Professors: Janusz Supniewski, Józef Hano and Jerzy Maj created the Polish school of neuropsychopharmacology, which gained international prestige and recognition. The Institute has special achievements in the research on the mechanism of antidepressants.

Since 1984 the Institute has organized Winter Schools dedicated to the latest achievements and directions in the development of neuropsychopharmacology all over the world. Participants of these schools are scientists workers of the Institute and researchers from centres cooperating with the Institute and from similar institutions. Up to the present twenty six such schools have been organized.

The Institute has been cooperating with Poland's pharmaceutical industry for many years. This cooperation consists in research and systematic testing of new products and generic drugs, as well as in giving lectures and training in pharmacology. The Institute has been implementing long-term collaborative scientific projects with a number of foreign research centers.

Professors Maj and Przegaliński were the regular pharmacological consultants of the Pharmaceutical Works POLFA. In 1974 a Polish Academy of Sciences-POLFA Scientific-Research Team was created. It was to initiate the creation of a large industrial-scientific institute dealing with research works, similar to institutes existing in large pharmaceutical concerns in Europe and USA. It was dissolved after five years as POLFA gave up financing the team’s activities.

The Institute of Pharmacology has its own archives department, in which are preserved records of its activities. But the institute’s archives department preserves records for only 25 years and then hands over these materials to the Archives of Science of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) and Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences (PAU) in Cracow. These Archives have the status of ‘archives with entrusted collection’. The Archives of Science make records available to researchers and all who are interested to learn the history of sciences.

Till 1991 the scientific research in Poland had been carried out in the framework of the so called Central Programme for Basic Research and Central Programme for Research & Development. The programmes constituted the system for financing research. Currently there is a research financing system based on grants. The documentation in the Institute’s Archive includes scientific research carried out in the framework of the central programmes. These were long-term programmes (usually of five years) marked with numerical symbols and within the programmes various research tasks were performed. Within a certain programme a Coordination Team was created in the Institute to decide on the course of research. The archive contains the documentation of the works of such teams: the composition of the Team, materials for meetings and the appointment of the commission for the collection of results. The Institute’s employees submitted certain research topics and, based on their selection, a coordination plan was determined. Individual research topics were reviewed thus the Archive also contains the correspondence with the reviewers. Within a certain programme working conferences of a scientific character were organized and their documentation contains information on the course of conference, reports, communications. An important type of document produced in the course of scientific research and preserved in the Archive are contracts connected with the realization of topics, concluded for the performance of specific tasks. The most precious are the annual and five-year reports, which show the progress in the research performed and the tasks which have been executed. The whole records in the Archive comes from the Section for Coordination of Scientific Research.

Besides the archives structure of the Institute of Pharmacology there is also the Library and the Division of Documentation and Scientific Information, which collects documentations of researches too.

In conclusion, a few words on the most eminent figure in the Institute, professor Janusz Supniewski, a great scientist and a great man. This is how his student, professor Ryszard Gryglewski, describes him: “A man of steadfast integrity of character, a rock on which to build one’s own system of values in science and life. Supniewski taught me the basic tricks of the trade: don’t speak if you don’t know; don’t miss any occasion to learn something, no matter how far it would be from your interests; published papers are your most precious treasure; prepare for your lecture ten times longer than the lecture lasts; a lecture is your calling card.”
A J. & J. Supniewski Foundation currently exists. Foundation was created and registered in 1985, following a one million zloty bequest from the estate of Associate Professor Jadwiga Supniewska. This donation has been and continues to be supplemented by single or regular donations from the domestic pharmaceutical industry or from foreign pharmaceutical firms that cooperate with the Institute. From the beginning the Foundation has provided for funding of young and promising scientist. These awards are granted, as provided by separate regulations, by the Board of the Foundation based on recommendations from the Institute's Scientific Council. Between 1986 and 2007 a total of 31 grants were awarded. The Foundation's statute was amended in 1991: presently its funds can be applied to assist young and outstanding scientist at the Institute to cover the costs of their research or trips abroad (for research, consultations, active participation in congresses or symposia, etc.), and for presentation of annual awards.


[1]  GLP stands for Good Laboratory Practice. The term refers to the quality system together with the procedures applied in all and every studies, except for clinical studies, undertaken in order to ensure the chemical safety for humans, animals and the environment. The procedures specify the manner in which the studies are planned, performed, monitored, recorded, reported and archived.
GMP stands for Good Manufacturing Practice. It refers to a set of principles and procedures in the field of the production of drugs, medical products and food. GMP determines, among others, the conditions which should accompany the process of production, storage and distribution. A significant part of the regulation includes the requirement to keep an adequate documentation of a production process.

(2)  Department of Behavioral Neuroscience & Drug Development, Department of Brain Biochemistry, Department of Experimental Neuroendocrinology, Department of Medicinal Chemistry, Department of Molecular Neuropharmacology, Department of Neurobiology, Department of Neurochemistry, Department of Neuro- and Psychopharmacology, Department of Pharmacokinetics and Drug Metabolism, Department of Pharmacology, Department of Pharmacology of Pain, Department of Physiology, Department of Phytochemistry.

(3)  The Commission issues opinions on animal research carried out in the following institutes: Institute of Pharmacology, Institute of Animal Production in Balice near Cracow, Institute of Ichthyobiology and Aquaculture PAN in Gołysz, Institute of Nuclear Physics PAN in Cracow, Institute of Serum and Vaccine Manufactory "Biomed" S.A., Institute for Research & Development "Biogen" Sp. z o.o. in Kostkowo near Cracow, Faculty of Forestry of Agricultural University in Cracow.