By Aysu Bicer
ANKARA (AA) - Turkey is set to build a facility producing drugs and molecules used in cancer imaging and treatment, a senior official said Tuesday.
In a written statement, Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank said the facility would be built in the southeastern Gaziantep province, "the country's gateway to the Middle East."
With this initiative, Varank said Turkey would be supporting innovative cancer treatment research, while at the same time reducing its dependence on imports.
The proton acceleration and radiopharmaceutical facility would be the largest-budgeted project undertaken by the ministry's Directorate-General of Development agencies.
A total of 47 million Turkish liras ($5.9 million) were allocated to the facility, which will host research and development activities and where radioactive drug production is planned to begin in 2021.
The facility will produce radioactive materials used in critical and reliable medical tests to diagnose diseases, especially cancer, as well as to discern which stage it is in and identifying metastases.
Dr. Umut Elboga from Gaziantep University's Nuclear Medicine Department explained that Turkey has spent a significant amount of resources on radioactive drugs used routinely in cancer diagnosis and treatment.
"We'll get rid of these expenses. Then we plan to export the different molecules we produce to neighboring countries. When these targets are achieved, our facility will pay for itself in three to four years."
Gaziantep province is located on Turkey's border with Syria, and is on a critical crossing point between the Middle East, Asia, North Africa and Europe.
"We aim to reduce the current account deficit in Turkey's pharmaceutical industry with this investment. With this support we give to the production of cancer drugs, Gaziantep will show the world that it can compete in qualified high-tech products within the global ecosystem," said the head of a local development agency taking part in the project.