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Energy Boardroom

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Interview

with Sebnem Yildirimoglu, Country Manager , Quintiles Turkey

20.08.2012 / Pharmaboardroom

sebnem-yildirimoglu-country-manager.jpgOmega CRO was the first clinical trial company in Turkey. A few years later, in 2002, we saw a sharp increase of similar businesses, including Quintiles. What spurred the establishment of Quintiles in Turkey?

In terms of presence, Quintiles was in fact the first in the market in 1996, with some field based employees. This was the time when Quintiles was entering the Eastern European markets, which Quintiles had always considered Turkey to be a part of. Moreover, Quintiles is the first global CRO which began operations in the Middle-East excluding Turkey. In 2002, we marked a milestone by establishing a local representative office of Quintiles Transnational.

Moreover, in January of 2012, Dr. Dennis Gillings, Quintiles’s Chairman, highlighted at our global leadership summit the company’s vision with Turkey being a growth market. He specified Quintiles’ focus on BRAMET the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, Africa, the Middle East, and Turkey.

What have been the main achievements of the Turkish affiliate since its creation?

Beginning in 2002, the establishment of Quintiles first representative office in Turkey was of course a principal milestone for us. Next, in 2009, the instituting of our business as a limited liability company was another hallmark in the affiliate’s history, signalling our long term commitment to the Turkish market. This year, 2012, is also a landmark year for the affiliate as it marks our decennial anniversary.

Most notably, however, Quintiles Turkey has recently participated in a country and industry wide survey, examining the best workplace environments, of which I am proud to announce that we have earned the first place position. For me, the as head of Quintiles in Turkey, this is an exceptional achievement to maintain such a high level of employee satisfaction and I am committed to preserve this philosophy.

In terms of regulations, the CRO market in Turkey has recently experienced somewhat of a rollercoaster ride. How would you describe the current state of affairs and what can be done to improve this?

In its path to honing its efficiency and market appeal, regulations pertaining to clinical trials have indeed experienced many challenges and hurdles since 2009 up until late 2011. Although these were turbulent times for clinical research organizations, casting doubt about the future of the market, I believe that this ultimately presented the industry as a whole with a positive effect.

One positive effect was the coming together of various industry participants in order to voice their concerns. This included investigators, ethics committee members, CRO’s and pharma companies. It is akin to the saying that goes, ‘adversity binds us together.’ This was crucial because had we not put aside our individual interests to achieve a common goal, the likelihood of the market fading altogether would have been too great. Moreover, I must commend the clinical trials regulatory authorities for their approachability and willingness to collaborate and overcome those issues at that time. Another beneficial side effect that stems from this is the increased awareness on all levels, particularly on the government level, of the importance and potential of the clinical trials industry in Turkey.

Finally, despite the turbulent times we have faced, I am pleased to say that the times of uncertainty are now behind us and CRO’s in Turkey now have an advantageous regulatory foundation that is conductive to business and investment. Undoubtedly, this will help the whole industry further develop and grow.

Having been in the country and the pharmaceutical sector for many years, do you believe Turkey has the potential to become a regionql hub for clinical research?

Certainly. Turkey is characterised with all of the required elements that would constitute a Regional hub for clinical research. We have a highly diversified, large and soon to be aging population of approximately 72 million inhabitants. This provides clinical researchers with a set of very specific and unique patients and diseases to analyse. Moreover, Turkey boasts plenty of well-educated investigative physicians and a highly developed infrastructure and healthcare system. Finally, Turkey’s potential in this field is mirrored in the size differentials between the pharmaceutical industry and the research industry, of which there is at least a hundred fold difference. Altogether, these qualities position Turkey ideally as a potential hub for clinical research.

How would you describe Quintiles’ competitive advantage, making it the partner of choice?

Quintiles has over 25, 000 employees in more than 60 countries of the world. This implies that we can offer globally minded but locally tailored clinical studies in every region of the world. This is of course advantageous as our global network is able to offer significant synergies. For example, Quintiles has the tacit knowledge and expertise required to position itself in the Turkish market as we have previously penetrated other emerging markets in Asia Pacific and Eastern Europe, among others.

Do clinical operations remain to be the company’s core business in Turkey, or has the service mix shifted toward a more balanced approach?
Since the shift in the global pharmaceutical paradigm in 2009, Quintiles has expanded its scope of activities. In addition to clinical trials, Quintiles also offers commercial, consulting and capital services.

In Turkey, however, we are currently providing clinical and commercial services. Our commercial services are offered through Innovex, which is a joint venture company of Quintiles and Bell Holding. Innovex offers outsourced commercial and marketing activities on behalf of pharmaceutical companies. Nonetheless, clinical research has always been Quintiles core business and it remains to be so in Turkey.

Over the recent years, there hasn’t been a trend of significant net value growth in the Turkish pharma market primarily due to government price cuts. How has this affected your business and what strategies are you employing to address this?

Broadly speaking, Quintiles’s Turkish operations have also not been largely affected by these budgetary cuts. This is because a majority of our business is derived from companies abroad.

Moreover, the greatest impact has been felt by the pharmaceuticals companies. In turn, they have responded by cutting their own costs, streamlining their businesses and increasing outsourced activities. As a result, this was beneficial for our Quintiles’s global services business units that cater to their outsourcing needs. This has led us to develop a range of innovative and tailored solutions for our customers based on our global knowledge and expertise.

What are your ambitions for Quintiles over the coming 5 years in Turkey and the region?

At this point, Quintiles Turkey has well established its presence in the local market. In order to progress forward, I believe that we must develop our relation relationships with stakeholders including regulators, pharmaceutical companies, other CRO’s as well as actively participate in relevant associations,. In due course, we aim to nearly double the size of our workforce, creating job opportunities and strengthening our global network by bringing Quintiles’s international expertise and know-how to the local market.

What is your final message on behalf Quintiles Turkey to your prospective & current partners, investors and government?

With respect to the overall market, Turkey has incredible potential. However, in order to realize this, the clinical trials industry must increase its competitiveness. Many emerging markets across the world have already begun taking such measures in order to stimulate the growth of such industries. In fact, Europe is reviewing its guidelines to make that happen. Indeed, as I mentioned earlier, the authorities have been very supportive so far and are well aware of the markets potential. However, time is of essence and we must act quicker.

On the other hand, as an enterprise, we are passionate about the services we deliver and we derive a sense of fulfilment when we are reminded that we facilitate the creation of new treatment opportunities for the public. Our priority is people’s health.

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