COVID-19 has spread across the world at an alarming pace, overwhelming healthcare systems and wreaking havoc on the global economy. How has COVID-19 impacted GSK Turkey's operations?
As GSK Turkey, we are closely monitoring the situation, in close contact with government and health experts to ensure that we are reacting quickly and responsibly in response to expert and science-led advice. From the very first day, we took all the necessary actions as we seek to safeguard the health and wellbeing of all our employees and their families, limit the spread of the disease, and continue to make our products available to the patients that need them. Starting from March 16th, we have ceased all face-to-face promotion activities and our employees started to work from their home through our digital platforms. This situation, and the uncertainty we are all living with is incredibly difficult. We are a science-led global healthcare company with a special purpose: to help people do more, feel better, live longer. GSK's medicines treat a broad range of world's most common acute and chronic diseases; and the vaccines portfolio consists of more than 30 vaccines for every stage of life, helping to protect people from serious disease for well over 100 years. Therefore, we know very well our mission and what our company is here for, so we will do everything we can for the patients who depend on us. And we will do everything we can to support each other in these challenging times.
All eyes are on pharmaceutical companies as the world rushes to find a vaccine for COVID-19. Broadly speaking, how does Turkey's healthcare landscape match with GSK's expertise in vaccines, as well as in other areas like respiratory care, HIV, and oncology?
GSK is a world leader in vaccines—we have more than 30 vaccines in the market for 21 different diseases and 14 vaccines in development, which makes us an important player in that category. The Turkish market is not as developed for vaccines given its potential but is progressing to approximate the size of the European markets. Respiratory, Asthma, COPD and other respiratory conditions have a high prevalence in Turkey and are a huge priority for us in terms of public health, just like vaccines. Meanwhile, HIV is a key area for us as well. This is not just a health issue, but also carries a social stigma. We want patients to be aware of getting tested and getting the right treatment. For the future portfolio, we are excited about oncology. We want to make sure that we are active in this disease area and addressing high unmet needs. On the COVID-19 vaccine development side, we are contributing our science and expertise where we can have most impact. We are pleased to have started a collaboration with CEPI to make our vaccine adjuvant technology available to scientists with promising technology platforms or candidate vaccines to prevent the virus. The first organisation working with us under this framework with CEPI is the University of Queensland in Australia. We have also announced a further collaboration with Clover Biopharmaceuticals, based in China, to provide our adjuvant technology to support its COVID-19 vaccine research program.
Looking at GSK's operational strategy in Turkey, around 62% of the medicines you supply are also manufactured locally. Can you give me a broad picture of your manufacturing network?
We have achieved significant local manufacturing through strategic partnerships. These strategic partners produce roughly 62% - and will reach up to 74% following localization - of the roughly 80 million packs we supply to patients in Turkey. There are four local companies we partner with—some of them are more manufacturing-oriented, whereas others are strategic partners, meaning that required know-how and production capabilities are provided by GSK. These partnerships also allow us to be agile and flexible. We have also sought greenfield investments, but this is quiet challenging given that we have a very diverse and large portfolio— producing such extent in a market is not feasible or logistically viable. We have to focus on the partnerships we have established here and also find the right balance in terms of what can be imported and what can be produced locally.
What is GSK's future strategy for exports from Turkey?
Our vision is not only to localize but also to expand Turkey's global pharmaceutical footprint. We understand government's agenda to decrease the trade deficit and pharmaceuticals play a key role in this task. Thus, we are now analyzing what can be exported, when, and to which markets, and later on we would like to discuss with the government to understand when those opportunities could best be realized. Turkey boasts of a vital geographical location, and we need to seize its capabilities at its most.
What are the biggest challenges GSK is facing in its Turkish operations?
Economic volatility over the past eight months was a challenge for us from a decision-making perspective, although we have now achieved stabilization. Our company has been present in the market for 60 years and is fully aware of the nature of doing business in Turkey. We strongly believe in the future of this country and its growth potential.
What are GSK's most exciting initiatives in Turkey for 2020?
Our primary plan is to expand our footprint in public healthcare—anything we can do to deliver vaccines and our medicines to the Turkish patients is our greatest reward. And meanwhile, in step with the government's growth agenda, we can play a role in supporting the national economy through localization, exportation and clinical trials.