Establishment Aims and Objectives of School of Pharmacy of Bahçeşehir University (BAU)
Prolonging the average life expectancy of the aging population in the world, socioeconomic and ecological changes will increase the need for health services in the coming period. In parallel with the increase in the level of welfare, the average life expectancy in the world is also increasing. The world population, which was 6.5 billion people in 2005, has reached 7.9 billion today. Currently, the number of people aged 65 and over in the world is 10% of the total population, while this rate is expected to reach 16% in 2050. In our country, while the elderly population, aged 65 and over, was 6.5 million in 2015, this figure increased by 23% and reached approximately 8 million people in 2020. According to population projections, the proportion of the elderly population in Turkey is expected to be 12.9% in 2030, 16.3% in 2040, 22.6% in 2060 and 25.6% in 2080. Therefore, the need to develop healthy and active aging policies is increasing.
With the prolongation of the average life expectancy, the probability of being exposed to health problems and chronic diseases in later ages also increases. Considering these dynamics, while the need for healthcare services increases, innovative drugs will help prevent diseases and reduce treatment costs, so innovative drugs and rational treatments will gain more and more importance in the pharmaceutical industry.
In addition to population growth and prolongation of life expectancy, an increase in the duration of exposure to chronic diseases is also predicted due to the effect of changing dietary habits and a more sedentary lifestyle. Deaths from chronic diseases are expected to increase by 17% in the next 10 years. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) data, there are more than 500 million diabetics in the world today, and 80% of them are in developing countries. While 639 million people in developing countries had hypertension in 2004, this number is expected to increase to 1 billion in 2025.
In the next 20 years, it is expected that the earth will warm up by 0.2 oC and the associated greenhouse gas emissions will increase and respiratory diseases such as asthma and bronchitis will increase. Due to the increase in chronic diseases and their critical impact on human health, the pharmaceutical industry has focused its research activities on the development of innovative drugs.
The role of new drugs and treatments in human life according to the definition made by the EU Higher Committee for Health, new drugs and treatments include “development of a completely novel drug for the treatment of a disease for which there is no cure, or modification of known pharmaceutical formulations to improve benefits for patients, such as a different program of use”. Pharmaceutical research and development (R&D) for the discovery of new treatments and the production of these drugs are considered as one of the priority investment areas in both developed and developing countries, and the pharmaceutical sector is considered as a strategic sector. The pharmaceutical industry is the industry with the largest share in R&D expenditures of countries around the world. While the rate of pharmaceutical R&D expenditures is 16% in the European Union, 24% in the USA and 11% in Japan, it is 1% in Turkey and incentives are made to increase this rate. It has been prioritized to create the necessary ecosystem in our country in terms of R&D, production, qualified human resources and legislation, especially in areas requiring high technology such as biotechnological drugs.
In line with the Vision 2023 targets it has set, the Government of the Republic of Turkey aims for Turkey to be among the top 10 global economies in 2023, to reach an export volume of 500 billion dollars, and to increase its R&D share to 3% of GDP. In addition, in the Turkish Industrial Strategy document, the ideal of our country to be "Eurasia's production base for medium and high technology products" has been put forward. With the "Health Transformation Program" that Turkey has been implementing since 2004, it has come a long way in accessing health services and treatment, and the average life expectancy has reached 74 years, with an increase of 24% in the last 30 years. One of the factors that play a role in the increase in life expectancy is innovative drugs and the increase in access to these drugs.
In the 2023 Industry and Technology Strategy document prepared by the Ministry of Industry and Technology, "Chemistry" and "Pharmaceutical" are given as focus sectors of Turkey under the title of "Development of Strategic Materials for Priority Sectors".
As of 2020-2021, Bahçeşehir University continues to train students in the field of health and carry out R&D studies in this field in order to reach the targets determined within the framework of "Health Workforce Targets Health Education" and "Human Resources in Health 2023 Vision" determined by the Ministry of Health. In line with the targets set by the Ministry of Industry and Technology and the Ministry of Health, it is planned to establish the School of Pharmacy in order to increase the number of faculties engaged in education and research in the field of health at our University.
As of 2022, there are in total 53 Faculty of Pharmacy, 49 in Turkey and 4 in Cyprus. The occupancy rate of all quotas in state and foundation universities is 100% in Turkey. 118.250 of the students who took the exam in 2020 preferred the Faculty of Pharmacy, only 3.3% of them were entitled to be placed in a program.
One of the priority areas of Bahçeşehir University is the development of innovative therapeutics against different diseases.
As a result of drug design and development studies carried out within the body of Bahçeşehir University School of Medicine, national and international patent applications of many molecules have been made in a short time and the intelectual rights have been protected. As a result of the R&D studies carried out within the scope of TÜBİTAK, TUSEB, ISTKA, and Scientific Research Projects (BAP), significant progress has been made especially in computational drug design field.
As an important milestone, Phase-2 studies are currently ongoing in 9 research centers for the drug molecule Montelukast, which was discovered and repositioned within the scope of COVID-19 studies conducted by Bahçeşehir University.
In line with the 2023 strategic goals of our country, we think that the establishment of a School of Pharmacy as Bahçeşehir University will contribute greatly to the training of competent personnel in the innovative pharmaceutical sector. Another of our founding goals is to train competent pharmacists who will take part in all stages of drug discovery from scratch. BAU School of Pharmacy will be in close cooperation with 13 R&D centers in our University and will make great efforts to eliminate the shortage of competent personnel who will carry out "Original drug discovery-development activities" in the sector.
“Computational Drug Design Center - HİTMER” supported by Istanbul Development Agency (ISTKA) in 2021 will be one of the biggest advantages of our Faculty. This center will pave the way for drug discovery studies to be developed together with different pharmaceutical companies.
With the prolongation of the average life expectancy in the world, the interest in innovative and rational drug research and development issues for the discovery of new treatments and new treatment mechanisms against the risks of developing health problems and diseases in advanced ages is increasing in academia and industry. High-throughput screening methods developed by the pharmaceutical industry in the 1990s have proven to be very expensive and have had limited success in finding new drug precursors. For this reason, a kind of innovation is needed in industry and academia, and new more rational approaches are needed in the field of drug development that can also benefit from developments in molecular biology, molecular modeling and computational chemistry and biology. The increasingly defined crystal structures in recent years and the availability of access to these structures from the protein database have enabled these data to be used as successful template targets in molecular modeling studies. Computational chemistry offers various simulation and virtual scanning tools and algorithms used for the identification of protein-ligand bindings, statistical methods and models for the analysis of binding data to help predict suitable ligands, and molecular modeling tools to facilitate the design of new ligands.
Especially in recent years, advances in computer technologies and parallel computation methods, rapid developments in high-performance computation and simulation techniques have made it possible to simulate many physiological environments with high accuracy. 
Accurate identification of protein-ligand interactions is important for studies in molecular biology and pharmacology. For this purpose, the structures of ligand-bound receptor complexes were defined by X-ray crystallography and NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance), from rate constants of binding energies and amino acids that are important in binding as a result of mutagenesis studies. Although these experiments contribute to the adequate characterization of the protein-ligand complexes, they are often demanding and difficult to perform routinely. It has been shown by different studies that similar information about protein-ligand complexes can be obtained more easily by using molecular modeling techniques such as molecular docking and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. The identification of ligand-protein interactions is critical in drug design and subsequent search for new treatment models. Computer-aided simulation techniques are successfully used not only in the discovery of new drugs, but also in the examination of the side effects and mechanisms of action of existing drugs or drug candidate molecules under investigation.
Industrial statistics reveal that between 5,000 and 10,000 compounds are synthesized and tested for each original drug approved for medical use. Preclinical studies take approximately 3-6 years. Of these compounds, only 100-250 compounds on which tests are carried out enter the clinical trial phase. These phases last 7-8 years in total and cost about 1 billion dollars. The drug repositioning or repurpose approach significantly reduces the costs and time of drug development from scratch. Since licensed drugs used in the clinic, their toxic effects, pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties are well studied in preclinical and clinical drug development processes and information about these drugs is available, these molecule libraries make suitable candidates for study for new indications.
The use of machine learning approaches in identifying these candidate hits facilitates a shorter and more accurate selection of the molecule to be determined. In recent years, computer-aided drug design studies and artificial intelligence-based drug development and identification studies have gained momentum in order to save both time and the costs of tests costing millions of dollars today, where millions of molecules can be tested for many years and only one of them can be a drug. It will be one of the priority areas of study in the School of Pharmacy. For this purpose, qualified collaborations will be made with the Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences – Molecular Biology and Genetics Department and Artificial Intelligence Engineering, and related departments of the School of Medicine (for example, Computational Biology and Molecular Simulations Lab) within the body of Bahçeşehir University, and effective national and international projects will be created.
It has been reported that every 1 unit of expenditure spent on the training of pharmacists saves the society 6 units. We will help create this added value. The number of clinical pharmacists in our country is very limited, and there is a need to train clinical pharmacists. One of the main objectives of our BAU School of Pharmacy will be to train researcher clinical pharmacists.
The rate of researcher pharmacists working in the pharmaceutical industry is only around 1%, and this rate needs to be increased rapidly in line with the strategic targets set by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Industry and Technology. In line with the strategic goals of our University and the relevant ministries, one of our primary goals will be to train competent pharmacists who are ready to work in the pharmaceutical industry, and who have gained R&D skills.
According to 2016 statistics, while the number of pharmacists in the USA is approximately 291,000, it is 28,485 in Turkey. While 60% of pharmacists in the USA work in pharmacies, in Turkey corresponding ratio is 90%; and while 30% of pharmacists in the USA work in hospitals etc. corresponding ratio is 8% in Turkey. In USA, while approximately 10% of pharmacists work in academia, corresponding value is 1% in Turkey. Therefore, it is necessary to increase the number of pharmacists who will work in pharmaceutical R&D centers and academia, especially in industry. Planning will be made in this direction at our BAU School of Pharmacy. In order to increase rational drug design studies in particular, we will focus on artificial intelligence-based drug development trainings by working in coordination with the ISTKA supported Computational Drug Design Center, which is planned to be established in 2022, and students will learn at least one of the programming languages (i.e., Python, C, etc.) will be provided with compulsory and elective courses. This will enable students to expand their vision and increase their competencies in this developing field.
Pharmaceutical development studies will be rationalized by establishing joint projects with the Artificial Intelligence Engineering, Software Engineering and Computational Biology and Molecular Simulations Laboratories within our university. This situation will also contribute to the increase of our country's competitiveness with other countries in this developing field.
 AIFD Vision 2023 report. August, 2012.
Turkish Statistical Institute, 18.03.2021, No: 37227. https://data.tuik.gov.tr/Bulten/Index?p=37227&dil=2
 World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diabetes
 Durdagi et al. Molecular Therapy, 2021.
Prof. Dr. Serdar Durdağı
Dean, School of Pharmacy