Building a Solid Foundation: Turkey's Journey towards Biopharma Advancement

Pharma and biopharma, despite sharing a prefix, are distinct in their challenges, development processes, and commercialization approaches. Biologics and biosimilars, larger and more complex molecules, require specialized expertise and face unique considerations throughout their lifecycle. Turkey, relatively new to the biopharma segment, is grappling with the lack of industrial know-how and expertise needed for successful bio-synthesis and compatibility studies. However, the country is making strides in bridging the knowledge gap by fostering collaborations between academia and industry and investing in research centers.

Universities in Turkey play a crucial role in training students in the science of the latest treatments. While they contribute to basic scientific research, they often lack the industrial experience and training required by the biopharma industry. Recognizing this, educational institutions are tailoring courses to meet the needs of the sector. For instance, Acibadem University introduced a microbiology course three years ago, focusing on empirical research projects. Furthermore, grants and funding from institutions like Tübitak and the European Council have supported universities in developing their competence in biopharma.

To strengthen the fabric of knowledge in biopharma, collaborations between academia and industry are essential. The Turkish government has provided grants to both industrial players and research centers to encourage partnerships. The Istanbul Technical University (ITU) established a Genomic Lab with funding from the Ministry of Health to work on personalized therapies and conduct research with cancer patients. Additionally, the establishment of research centers, such as Sunum, with initial government investments, has facilitated industrial partnerships and helped bridge the gap between academia and profit-focused industry.

Funding initiatives, including Tübitak’s 1004 project, have facilitated collaborations between industry and academia, particularly in the development of biosimilars. Atabay, a prominent pharmaceutical company, has partnered with universities to produce biosimilar products, reducing the need for protein imports. These collaborations have not only advanced biosimilar production but also provided valuable training opportunities for scientists and researchers.

One of the key challenges lies in the legal framework, which places the responsibility on individual professors rather than making universities accountable for long-term projects. To overcome this, there is a need to shift the nature of contracts from individuals to institutions, promoting stronger and more sustainable partnerships. While biosimilars can bring economic benefits, experts emphasize the importance of producing original products to ensure long-term success and innovation in the biopharma sector.

Turkey has made significant strides in developing its biopharma industry, driven by collaborations between academia and industry, targeted funding initiatives, and investments in research centers. By addressing the knowledge gap, fostering industry-academia partnerships, and nurturing original product development, Turkey aims to establish itself as a leading player in the biopharma field. With continued support, Turkey’s journey towards biopharma advancement holds promising prospects for the future.

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