Part of BIO-GEN is a medicinal leech farm operating under the name Biofarma. The medicinal leech Hirudo medicinalis has been the subject of our research work since 2003. Our efforts have led to the development of the first legal leech breeding used for medical purposes in Poland. It is now one of the largest facilities of its kind in the world.

Biofarma breeds Hirudo medicinalis, Hirudo verbana and Hirudo orientalis medicinal leeches and our customers are from all over the world including Europe, USA, Canada or South Africa. We also handle the process of obtaining a CITES certificate for clients outside the European Union. We hold all the required licences for their cultivation, including being the only entity to hold a licence for the breeding of the species Hirudo medicinalis, and each purchase is confirmed by a certificate of origin, thus guaranteeing the safety of the therapy for the patient.

Hirudo medicinalis leeches are under partial species protection, so special permits are needed for their breeding, sale and purchase. For the purposes of hirudotherapy, leeches cultured in isolated conditions, without contact with the outside world and fed in a controlled manner are suitable. The secretory substances of the salivary glands of the leech, also known as hirudo-compounds, have been given the international name SGS (Salivary Glands Secretion). This was because the salivary gland compounds of leeches are not only derived from the Hirudo species, but also from other non-Hirudo medicinal leeches. New salivary gland compounds are still being discovered. There are currently about 115 of these identified, but only half of them have been classified.

New scientific discoveries have allowed leeches to return to medicine after a hiatus of almost 100 years. Further understanding of hirudo-compounds and how they work opens up new therapeutic possibilities. Among the most important are:

  • Analgesic compounds – not recognised as chemical compounds. They anaesthetise the leech bite sites;
  • The enzyme hyaluronidase, one of the most important anticoagulants, increases the spread of compounds in the host;
  • Hirudin – proteolytic enzyme that inhibits the blood clotting system; Bdelins – exhibit opposite effects to hirudin in the clotting system; Eglins – substances that strongly inhibit inflammation in traumatology and surgery;
  • Antibiotic substances from an endosymbiotic bacterium that kill various pathogens or attenuate their effects.

Biofarma is also one of the few centres organising courses for future hirudotherapists. Our courses cover both the basic level and are delivered to experienced hirudotherapists. We issue certificates on completion of the course.

Leeches supplied by Biopharma were used in experiments conducted by astronauts during the ICAres-1 Mars analogue mission in 2017 and the LUNARES-1 Habitat mission in 2019. One of the aims of the programme was to test the survival conditions of the leeches during a planned space voyage. The experiments and findings were reported by Reuters, CNN and NBC around the world.

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