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.
Dr. Engin Alp Önen, one of the scientists working at the plant for development of the vaccine, said they administered the vaccine to 60 mice. “They are the most suitable breed for animal trials since they have an ACE2 receptor like humans and like humans, COVID-19 causes pneumonia in mice,” he said, referring to a protein that serves as a gateway into the body for the coronavirus.