Assoc. Prof. Gizem Dinler Doğanay Takes A Big Step to Develop Biopharmaceuticals
Aug 23, 2016

ITU scholars of the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences have been at the forefront for their studies on biopharmaceuticals. The project carried out at ITU Dr. Orhan Öcalgiray Molecular Biology-Biotechnology & Genetics Research Center (MOBGAM) aims to turn ITU into a center for biosimilars and biobetter research.

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The project led by Assoc. Prof. Gizem Dinler-Doğanay of the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics includes Prof. Eda Tahir Turanlı of the same department and her students as well. Marmara University and Atabay Pharmaceuticals and Fine Chemicals Inc. are among the partners of the project, which is supported by the Ministry of Development and TUBITAK (The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey).

“We have a four-year time frame for the project. We plan to produce raw materials for biological drugs in the next one and a half years while making the drug itself requires two and a half to three years. But we plan to expedite the process as much as we can and finalize it earlier,” Professor Dinler-Doğanay said while explaining the details of the project, which is a crucial step for the pharmaceuticals sector in Turkey.

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Explaining the details of the research conducted at ITU MOBGAM laboratories, Professor Dinler emphasized the importance of biopharmaceuticals, which are derived from living organisms, as an alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals, which are chemically synthesized. While producing biopharmaceuticals, also known as biologics, DNA is transferred to the bacteria through recombinant DNA technology*, the drug is extracted from the cell, and then characterisation of the drug starts. Dinler explains that this step is followed by biological tests and the drug sample is prepared to be tested on bacteria. Stating that biopharmaceuticals is basically working on proteins, Dinler points to the already existing work at ITU laboratories on proteins and adds that the current work on biopharmaceuticals has taken the existing body of work one step further.

Assoc. Prof. Dinler: “Our student profile and developed infrastructure are our major assets.”

Professor Dinler states that various countries have shown a considerable progress in this area, which requires high amounts of funding. Indicating that countries that are reputable for their success in this area started their studies 20-30 years ago and are therefore at the forefront of biopharmaceuticals technology, Dinler adds that the first studies in this area in Turkey should be considered as a milestone. Dinler also emphasizes that biological medical products are used in cancer treatment and other special fields since they involve lower levels of toxic risk. Professor Dinler thinks that ITU’s student profile and improved infrastructure are two great assets that will contribute to the realization of project goals. According to Dinler, with decreasing brain drain and increasing support of the pharmaceuticals industry, they will be able to fill a lacuna in the field of biopharmaceuticals.

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Given the projection that by 2021 biologics will account for 80% of the pharmaceuticals industry, 55% of which currently chemically synthesized drugs account for, it is possible to see the crucial role of research on biopharmaceuticals. Considering that Turkey lacks a sector that develops biopharmaceuticals from scratch, deriving biologics from existing products becomes a far more crucial task. It is expected that current biopharmaceutical studies at ITU will contribute to a significant decrease in prices in the pharmaceuticals sector, which will in turn pave the way for developing drugs from scratch and the advancement in the scientific research in this field.

* A technology that is used in creating new genetic combinations that are not found in the genome by joining together of DNA molecules from two different species that are inserted into a host organism.