You can change history, but not your genes!

 With genotyping, which we will publish soon, we managed to prove whether our ancestors were Slavs or ancient Macedonians.

You can change history, but not your genes! You can, with various agreements, change the history textbooks, change the books, force historians to write according to the government's demands to change history, but you cannot change the genes and the blood that flows in our veins! Literally, the history of Macedonia flows in our veins. After the announcement of the results, all hypotheses about the origin of the Macedonian people should be closed and what we will claim should be made official. Even what we have so far as a result, will cause an earthquake among the Macedonian public, geneticist Dzundev says in an exclusive interview for Macedonian newspaper VEČER.

Who is Dimitar Dzundev, the man the world knows about, but few in his native Macedonia?

I was born in Gevgelija, where I completed my primary education, and then continued to secondary school in Skopje. During my secondary education, I won about twenty first places, awards, medals and recognitions in national and international competitions in chemistry, mathematics, physics and astronomy. At that time I was one of the most awarded high school students in general since independence until then.

Thanks to all these awards, I was accepted to study at several elite universities, all ranked in the top 100 best universities in the world. Since among the top-ranked universities, a genetics graduate study program exists only at the University of Sheffield in Great Britain, I finally decided to go to Sheffield and continue my education there. For the first time there I had the opportunity to work with some of the best scientists in the world, and on the day of graduation I was also awarded the prestigious Sheffield Graduate Award.

I continued my postgraduate studies at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich (LMU), which is one of the oldest and most elite German universities. During my master's studies, I had the opportunity to spend part of my studies for one semester at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) and seven months at the prestigious Center for Geogenetics at the University of Copenhagen. At ETH Zurich I worked on research on the settlement of the Maori in New Zealand, while in Copenhagen I worked on bioinformatic analyzes of the genome for the determination of Macedonian origin. Everywhere I studied I had phenomenal learning and working conditions, worked with some of the best scientists and was educated to be a good geneticist. In addition, I have gained work experience in the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts, the Russian Academy of Sciences, as well as in the Swiss Federal Institute for Water Science and Technology (EAWAG), and I spent a short period of time in the Polish Academy of Sciences. With the knowledge and experience I gained at the best universities in the world, I returned to Macedonia and founded Genem - the first start-up for ancient DNA and paleogenomics in the world.

Why did you decide to return to Macedonia?

Although I had many offers to work in one of the European countries, with a sincere hope and ambition to help my homeland in these difficult historical times, I decided to return to Macedonia. Because it is my duty and I feel that Macedonia is calling me, as a member of the Macedonian intelligentsia I feel responsible and called to do everything in my power to help it.

I want to build a world-famous company here in Macedonia, which every Macedonian will be proud of. Already, Genem produces world-class science and operates according to the world's highest quality standards. I am working hard to design and bring to market new products and services, as well as to build a company that will offer the most innovative and accurate genetic tests on the market. Despite all the problems in the country, I want to prove that everything is possible in Macedonia, I want to create something that will be world class, but "Made in Macedonia"!

I belong to a new generation of Macedonians, who were born and grew up in independent Macedonia. I want to prove and show that the Macedonian can, that the place of the Macedonian is to be at the top and be the first in the world. I know that this is too ambitious, but every Macedonian is an ambassador of Macedonia, we must do our best to be among the most successful in the world in the field in which we create and work. I am aware that this is a hell of a long and hard road, but if we put in enough effort and energy, I know that one day we will succeed.

Where did the idea for the research on the connection between today's Macedonians and the ancient ones come from, how long and with whom did you do the research, how many samples were collected and where were they examined?

I grew up hearing the stories of our origins from the cities of the ancient Macedonians and stepping on the ground full of bones of the people who lived on this land thousands of years ago. It is logical to ask ourselves who we are, what is hidden in the blood that flows in our veins, whether the ancient Macedonians or the Slavs are our ancestors...

Therefore, I started research in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN) about the origin of the Macedonian people. I received a grant from the German, ie Bavarian government, and the RAN had its own resources with which we started the research, for which we had funding for about 80 samples. Later, the research expanded to a total of 250 people, from Macedonians and two other ethnic groups. The samples were taken from all parts of ethnic and historical Macedonia, in accordance with the Macedonian dialects, and I continued the laboratory work at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. At RAN, I analyzed the variants of the Y chromosome, which exist among Macedonians, that is, the male ancestors of the respondents. By genotyping, we managed to make a clear distinction and define whether the ancestors of a certain person were Slavs, who settled in these areas, or whether they were indigenous ancient Macedonian population. The method of work includes complex analyzes of whether the tested persons are direct biological heirs or how close they are to the ancient people who lived in Macedonia, in the Balkans, behind the Carpathians, and in other regions of the Mediterranean and Eurasia.

For the research to be supported by solid evidence, it is necessary to carry out additional sequencing of the genome, as well as a series of other complex analyzes with which no one in the world will dare to refute our research. But everything that is of high quality is also too expensive, and also requires too much time and energy.

For such a crucial topic as the origin of the Macedonian people, the Macedonian (former) government did not give a penny, so at the beginning the German (Bavarian) government had to finance and support part of the research. Unfortunately, apart from the German, or rather the Bavarian government and the Russian academy, no one else was interested in the research, especially not in Macedonia. Even a state national institution hindered my work with the excuse of the research that, I will quote them in their own words, "Greece doesn't want that". Literally, institutions mix politics with science, which is absolutely unacceptable. There are many places in the world for financing science with grants for examining scientific topics and problems, but no one will finance the research of Macedonians, because it is not in their interest. I have received offers to work on the demographic history of the Danes and other peoples, but I have no motivation and desire to do it, my goal is to discover the secrets of the blood that flows in us.

How far is the research and when will it end?

It is a research with historical weight, which will not leave a mark in a day or two, but will remain standing for centuries and centuries. The facts and results that we will get will be here to testify about us as a people and our history. We have a sacred right to know our exact past and this is a very important and sensitive topic. That's why what we do must be literally at the top of world science and in terms of quality it must be accepted by literally the entire scientific world of the planet. That is, after the announcement of the results, all hypotheses about the origin of the Macedonian people should be closed and what we will claim should be made official. Even what we have now as a result, will cause an earthquake among the Macedonian public.

Therefore, it is very important that the research is done to the highest possible standards. Hence, we don't want to rush, and until we have the most in-depth, extensive and relevant results possible, we don't want to publish anything. I answer to history for my work, I cannot publish something that is not 100% confirmed and strongly supported by solid evidence. The results will be published when I am satisfied with the quality we achieve, and my personal criteria are much, much, much higher than those of the reviewers in Science and Nature.

There are millions of scientific papers that no one reads, as well as papers like Lavoisier's that are still relevant and read centuries after they were written.

What did the results of the tests completed so far show?

You can change history, but not your genes! You can, with various agreements, change the history textbooks, change the books, force historians to write according to the government's demands to change history, but you cannot change the genes and the blood that flows in our veins! Literally, the history of Macedonia flows in our veins!

Since I know very well what our results mean, I can confirm that I have phenomenal results that would resonate in the Macedonian and scientific public like an atomic bomb, but that is not my goal and that is why I am very careful. The fact is that due to the complex situation in Macedonia, the results will cause far-reaching consequences. Therefore, I am very careful not to color and politicize the research. The overall research and results will be published soon, when the entire scientific process is completed at the highest possible scientific level. I must mention that I absolutely will not allow politics to interfere with science, for which there have already been attempts.

What is it like to be a scientist in the private sector, is it the same or different from being a scientist in universities?

Being a scholar in business and in academia are not the same. In the academic world, scientists fight for the results of their research and their scientific papers to be published in scientific journals and to be read and widely understood. But in the business world it's the other way around, you invest literally years of work and energy into a new innovative product or technology, which solves a certain existing problem, and you must not let the competition find out the way you solve the given scientific problems. Honestly, I'm sorry that as a scientist in the start-up world, I have to spend months and months of work designing scientific experiments, technologies and products, so that at the end of the day the method remains a trade secret that we have to hide and protect from the competition . Unfortunately, this is not electrical technology where you can patent a certain product, in genetics anyone can copy your experiment, thereby indirectly causing you financial damage. In the academic world, you share the methods with everyone, but in the business world – with no one, except for the agencies and bodies that supervise and certify you for work and quality.

What is the experience of having a start-up company in Macedonia and working here?

Our motto is first in Europe and first in the World. Our goal is to create perfection in the tests we run. Our goal is to impress the world with the products and services we design, on which we work hard and dedicatedly.

It is difficult to fight with competitors such as "Abbott", "Pfizer", "Roche", "Thermo Fisher", which have a tradition of several centuries, have over 100,000 employees and a capital of tens and even hundreds of billions of euros. But I am sure that at least in some categories we will be able to strongly beat them.

The companies we compete with were built in the 19th century and we are now the 21st century. You don't build a strong biotech company in a short period of time, and also research, clinical studies, obtaining the appropriate permits, etc. it can take literally decades. This is a difficult and long road, but neither Rome was built in a day, nor Macedonia, and our road is also long and difficult.

We will certainly not see the results right away tomorrow, but when they do come, we work thoroughly and with quality. In this area, due to the need for clinical trials, which can last more than a decade, as well as strict quality rules, successful results take longer.

Our experience of business conditions in Macedonia is not brilliant. We were the first in Europe and in the world to produce technology for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces (handles, tables, chairs, cutlery) as well as a mobile laboratory for ancient DNA. But we did not receive the necessary permits from the Macedonian institutions, which we are still waiting for. The reason is that in Macedonia we work exclusively according to political party books and connections. They are not only harming us, but they are also causing enormous and astronomical harm to Macedonia. Because the success of producing a SARS-CoV-2 test for surfaces would be first of all a huge success for Macedonia, because Macedonia would be the first country in the world to produce this technology and de facto we would be the first, before countries like the USA, Russia, China.

In 2020, the technology for rapid inspection of SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces, which would have applications in restaurants, airplanes, public transportation, was needed and could change the world at that moment. But in 2022, there is literally no need for that technology. Unfortunately, as of 2020, we are still waiting for the appropriate permits and approvals.

Our company has produced technologies that are at the top of world science, but the question is when we will get the necessary permits to be able to put them on the market. I will mention that if in a normal country we had received the necessary permits on time, not only our company would have grown enormously, but also the gross domestic product of Macedonia would have grown, because our products during the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic would have been able to to be sold en masse around the world.

If my start-up was founded in another country, it would probably be worth hundreds of millions, but it would still be a Danish, German, English company, not a Macedonian one. But I don't regret it, I am a patriot who fights for Macedonia and my goal above all is to create works that Macedonia will be proud of. I also hope that I will succeed in that.

Source: Димитар Џундев, генетичар: Можете да ја смените историјата, но не и гените! published by Vecer, 08/30/2022