German-based BioNTech is in talks with Turkey to set up a research center in the country, the Turkish industry and technology minister told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday.

Ugur Sahin, the Turkish-German co-founder of BioNTech, “wants to work on cancer research in Turkey, and continues to negotiate with the authorities to build a center,” said Mustafa Varank.

“We discussed with Sahin what can be done in Turkey apart from vaccine development work. He’s preparing his plans now and wants to set up a cancer research center here.”

Sahin and Hasan Mandal, head of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK), have been in talks as far back as last April, Varank said.

Relevant institutions told Sahin about both public and private sector capabilities, Varank said and added:

“We proposed joint vaccine production to them. It’s at the heart of the agenda. We will be pleased to welcome them and be home their center in Turkey.”

Underlining that global firms have been heavily investing in R&D, Varank said if Sahin comes to Turkey his work will benefit from the contributions that Turkey has to offer.

Turkish vaccines to begin human trials

In an update of Turkey’s work to develop a coronavirus vaccine, he said it currently has three vaccine candidates – inactive, VLP and adenovirus-based – ready to begin human trials.

“We have completed all the necessary studies of these three vaccines and submitted our intermediate results to the Health Ministry,” he added.

Varank also said the government is currently negotiating with countries, bringing proposals to countries with very large populations to do Phase 3 studies together.

“We’re currently negotiating with them to see if we can do joint production,” he added.

On the local vaccine candidates, Varank said: “I am a candidate to be a volunteer, I’ve already registered. I call on Turkish citizens to join forces and contribute to scientific research.”

Turkey has drugs in the works that would both prevent the spread of the virus and be used to treat it, the minister added.

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