Turkey can become a world leader in drug research, production and biotechnology if it steps up its investments in medical research and development, Science, Industry and Technology Minister Nihat Ergün said at an İstanbul conference on the biotechnology industry on Monday.
“It is time for the public, the private sector and universities to take the much needed steps for the advancement of biotechnology,” said Ergün, who laid out a plan with six separate targets for bringing together state, private and academic researchers to share research dollars and better coordinate the nation's research and health infrastructure.
Though Ergün described the biotechnology sector as one of the most “debated” research fields, he said that its potential for medical breakthroughs made the industry a critical one, noting that Turkey needs to invest heavily in selected technologies like DNA sequencing.
That technology, which can allow doctors to identify an individual's susceptibility to genetically inherited diseases, would allow Turkey's public health system to identify patients' disease risks and prescribe treatment accordingly.
More investment in medical research could also help to turn around a “worrying” trade imbalance in medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, said Ergün.
“When we look at our foreign trade balance, the percentage of medical imports that are balanced by medical exports is just 16 percent,” he said.
Turkey's pharmaceutical industry employs around 30,000 people and includes 68 production facilities which manufactured around 3,100 different types of drugs in 2012, but the total output has the potential to grow vastly by 2023, the minister said.
The six-point plan presented by Ergün on Monday included plans such as incentives for pharmaceutical companies that expand production, recommendations to Parliament to increase the country's medical research budget, a proposal to expand researchers' access to equipment and facilities in public hospitals and additional funds for public and private universities that set up biomedical research programs.
“We plan for the proposal we've prepared to be made into law as soon as possible and will take a step towards creating a country that is strong in medical and pharmaceutical production. We're going to create an infrastructure to replace the large amount of imports of medicine with new national production and research,” he said. The minister didn't provide an exact date when the proposals might be presented to Parliament as a draft law.
Ergün also said that Ankara needs to help public hospitals better upgrade existing technology and adopt a new generation of disease fighting technologies.
The minister cited author Dan Brown's book “Gates of Hell” where a virus that originates in İstanbul devastates the city and the rest of the world.
Proper health infrastructure and research would help prevent or at least contain a widespread public health emergency, an added benefit to “Turkey's real potential to be an expert in medical production and research,” the minister said.
CihanLast Mod: 28 Mayıs 2013, 10:13