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Turkish factory sets out to be COVID-19 drug, vaccine hub

Turkish factory sets out to be COVID-19 drug, vaccine hub

In Çerkezköy Industrial Zone, one of the largest of its kind in Turkey, scientists clad head to toe in protective gear meticulously examine test tubes and results of the analysis in a facility with high biosecurity.

Nestled among a cluster of chemical plants, the facility, run by one of Turkey’s leading pharmaceuticals companies, is a hub where the staff works both on developing a vaccine and drugs to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Koçak Farma officials say their laboratories are capable of producing hundreds of thousands of doses of a possible vaccine, the only facility able to do so in Turkey.

The 50-year-old plant inside the industrial zone in the northwestern Turkish province of Tekirdağ is busy nowadays producing coronavirus drugs approved by the Health Ministry while in another corner, scientists prepare for human trials in a few months for a vaccine. The company’s CEO, Dr. Hakan Koçak, said they can produce a wide variety of drugs from hydroxychloroquine, favipiravir to enoxaparin, dipyridamole, dexamethasone and azithromycin.

Koçak said they have completed the research and development process for a vaccine.

“We have years of experience in vaccine production. About 100 scientists work here in our laboratories. We plan to wrap up preclinical trials on animals and switch to human trials that will take about six months. If the trials turn out good, our vaccine will be ready for use in mid-2021. So far, we have had good results. Trials showed an appropriate immune response and no sign of side effects. Certainly, the immunity response will be clear in human trials,” he noted.

He said they had a capacity of producing about 6 million doses of vaccine monthly and can increase it based on demand. Koçak pointed out that seven COVID-19 vaccine studies are underway in Turkey and each in different stages, though none started human trials yet. “This pandemic showed us that every country tries to acquire drugs or vaccines for their own people first, so local production of drugs and vaccine is essential,” he said.