Turkish industry group builds new platform to support biotech
A major local pharmaceutical industry group in Turkey is leading the formation of a new biotechnology platform that will focus on lobbying the government to create a more friendly investment environment, and promote joint projects and training. Given ongoing official moves to attract investments in the pharma and biotech field, the initiative appears to align well with broader existing policies.
The Turkish government’s strategic economic development plans aim for a pharmaceutical industry that mostly produces and exports high value biotechnology products. The country wants to attract investments from multinationals in this field, but the incentives and policies adopted have so far not been enough to bring in substantial corporate commitments.
The total market for all therapeutic biotech/biologic products in Turkey reached TRY3.4bn ($914m) in 2016, accounting for around 17% of the national prescription market. However, almost all such products are being imported and domestic production remains very limited, with home grown original R&D in the field almost non-existent.
Under these circumstances, a new platform designed to bolster the sector has recently been hatched by the local pharma industry association, IEIS. The Biotechnological Pharmaceutical Platform (BPP) initiative brings together 18 companies, mostly IEIS members, including Abdi Ibrahim Ilac Sanayi ve Tic AS,
Centurion, EİP Eczacıbaşı, Hasbiotech, İlko, Koçak, Mustafa Nevzat, Nobel, Sandoz International GMBH, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., TR Pharm and Turgut.
While one part of the program will involve developing contacts with universities and NGOs in Turkey and abroad, it looks at this stage like the main thrust of the BPP will be lobbying of the government for new supportive policies and improvement of the biotech investment environment through new incentives.
Shaping Policy, Regulations
While specifics have still to be elucidated, the grouping would like to see new and lasting policies across areas including product licensing, pricing and reimbursement, as well as other new mechanisms to provide support. It will also focus on pushing for training programs to increase expertise, and work on developing research areas in which different companies can cooperate at the pre-competitive stage.
At a press conference announcing the BPP, it was clearly stated that the platform plans to be “influential” in shaping regulations, and wants to provide a forum through which companies from both Turkey and abroad can make contacts and receive information about biotech investment mechanisms.
While some recent investments in biotech/biologic product manufacturing infrastructure have been made by local firms including Kocak Farma, Abdi Ibrahim, TR Pharma and Ilko Ilac, and Iran’s CinnaGen is putting in $100m in Turkey, these moves focus mostly on developing capacity for the production of biosimilars. The level of investment in R&D is still quite low.
IEIS Explains Thinking
Given the apparent challenges in promoting more corporate commitment to the biotech and biologics sector, Turgut Tokgöz, Secretary General of the IEIS, answered a series of questions posed by Scrip on the new platform, and on a variety of other issues in the pharma and biotech sectors.
Scrip: Is the new platform open to members of other professional pharmaceutical associations, and what are the criteria for companies to join? Many members of IEIS are not there.
Turgut Tokgöz – The Biotechnological Pharmaceutical Platform was established at the end of 2016. There are 18 firms in the platform; some of them are our members, some not. The platform is open to any pharmaceutical company in our country, which is active in production and development of biotechnology products or plans to be active in this field.
Has IEIS exchanged opinions with the government before establishing the platform? Will it be fair to say the platform has the government’s blessing?
We have established this platform in order to provide an effective contribution for the development of the field of biotechnology pharmaceuticals. For many years now we have been emphasizing the importance of close collaboration and high coordination between government, industry and universities in this field.
IEIS aimed to create synergy by bringing pharmaceutical companies, working in this field, together under the roof of this platform. We had positive feedback and support from the government. So we started working in close collaboration with the government and universities without losing any time.
Although we did not seek any approval from government while we were establishing this platform, they accepted us in a rather short span of time. We have started to meet and work with government officials.
Can there be joint R&D or production projects in this field between different companies of the platform?
In recent years, many firms that are active in this field prefer to create partnerships and close collaborations at the R&D and production stages. Particularly in pre-competition areas, similar partnerships might be established in our country too. Our platform has determined it as one of our [the IEIS’s] five main fields of work. We have established a Pre-Competition Collaboration Working Group and we want to set off work in this field.
What is the current potential of the Turkish pharmaceutical industry in biotechnology and what is the existing infrastructure in this field? Do you think Turkey should focus on developing original biotech products, or will it be more realistic to focus on biosimilars?
There is a tendency towards biotechnology products in our country, as in the world. The market share of these drugs increases every day [and] we expect this trend to continue. With TRY3.4bn, biotech drugs have a 16.5 % share in the prescription market.
Our companies are making high-cost investments with a long-term approach. Members of our platform have completed or are making ongoing physical investments worth $600m. Planned development investments are around $200m. Companies work hard to make our country strong in this field, and many companies have started development and production activities. We expect significant outputs in this field within five years.
Our industry’s target is to strengthen its R&D infrastructure and become a global player that can develop, produce and export to the world biotech products. In time we also aim to develop reference biotech drugs, already there are companies working in this direction.
What regulatory moves are urgently needed in Turkey to support development and production of biotech pharma products?
We see approaches that promote local development and production of biotech products in the government’s strategic action plans. However, these plans need to be developed and turned into concrete proposals.
In order to compete with our rivals, it is very important that the government increases its support for R&D and biotech investments and designs different incentive mechanisms.
It is also necessary to create a regulatory environment that is supportive of our targets. The government should particularly regulate the licensing, pricing and reimbursement system in such a way that investments would make sense.
Do you think the global pharma industry is ready to make biotech investments in Turkey?
The Turkish pharma industry is working hard to make progress in biotechnology. The government is aware of the strategic importance of this field, universities are also conducting important research. Our companies are already in collaboration with companies abroad. There are companies that have already invested in this field, and it seems possible that these investments will increase in future.