The Fungi Extract Bank® is a project implemented by the Institute of Forest Sciences of Bialystok University of Technology (INL PB) in a modern Research Centre in Hajnówka.

Researches with fungi were initiated on the initiative of Prof. Sławomir Bakier, DSc, PhD, Eng, Ewa Zapora, PhD and Marek Wołkowycki. Their interest in extracts was the result of cooperation with Prof. Jordan Zjawiony from the University of Mississippi (the US) and the implementation of a 3-year grant financed by the National Science Foundation entitled: IRES: U.S. – Poland Student Research Experience to Study Plant Species Interactions in the Unique Ecosystem of the Bialowieża Forest.

The Fungi Extract Bank is an innovative research project. The basis of the activities is many years of experience and the current development of modern knowledge, as well as extensive national and international cooperation. The successful implementation is a result of passion and intuition of experts who are associated with the Białowieża Forest region.
The project takes into account the prospects for the development of scientific research on the biological activity of various fungal species, which directly translates into an increase in the practicality of the results and the possibility of their commercialisation.

The uniqueness of the Białowieża Forest region and the diversity of mycobiota present here provide opportunities to discover new species for science and the opportunity to learn, in cooperation with other scientific bodies, their biological properties. According to modern world knowledge, fungi as compared to other kingdoms are known only to a small extent. So far, only approx. 3-8% species have been catalogued. However, the study of their biological activity is negligible.

Fungi produce a whole spectrum of unique chemicals, unique in other groups, which act in a multidirectional way on living organisms. Even one species can show a whole range of biological activities.

Observed in recent years, a huge increase in interest in fungi as reservoirs of natural active compounds is a result of the wide range of their biological activity. The possibility of using fungi for the preparation of medicinal products is determined by their two important characteristics: the ability to biosynthesise secondary metabolites with a strong biological effect and the presence of an extremely extensive enzymatic apparatus that allows complex biotransformation reactions.

Medicinal mushroom are a group with proven strong pharmacological properties. Studies confirm their properties: anticancer, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, antiparasitic, antihypercholesterolemic, detoxifying, hepatoprotective or antidiabetic. There are approx. 30 the most widely studied species, among the currently known and described medical mushroom. These are e.g. Ganoderma lucidum, Phellinus igniarius, Pleurotus ostreatus, Trametes versicolor, Laetiporus sulphureus, Inonotus obliquus, Piptopporus betulinus.
Photochemical studies of medical mushroom have led to the identification of many chemical compounds responsible for the different directions of their pharmacological properties. Often, complex preparations obtained from fungi show greater pharmacological activity than pure, isolated substances. The most effective, obtained from Macromycetes, and used in medicine, are polysaccharide fractions, which are mainly β-glucans, as well as polysaccharide-protein complexes. Numerous bioactive compounds are also triterpenoids, phenolic acids, glycoproteins, steroids.

The Fungi Extract Bank is a collection of extracts from several hundred species of Macromycetes – mostly from the morphological group of polyproid fungi (suprapubic, suprarenal, mainly saprotrophs and parasites). The bank is constantly increasing its resources in order to obtain new research material.
Fungi come mostly from the Białowieża Forest. It is worth emphasising that the species are derived from different types of substrate, which can be important in the identification of chemical composition and further studies of their biological activity. In addition, there are also extracts from species from other countries of Europe, as well as North and South America.

photo: Michał Obrycki