Biomaterials in Turkey and in the World
Materials that are developed and used to remedy the loss of function caused by the loss of or damage to tissues are called biomaterials. Examples of commonly used biomaterials include contact lenses, hip implants, artificial vasculature, wound dressings and artificial cornea. In the last decades, tissue engineering products are also added to the biomaterials range. These products differ from the classical biomaterials due to the addition of living cells and bioactive agents into their biodegradable structures. Most tissue engineering products integrate into host's own tissue upon implantation, and heal the defect site while gradually being replaced by the regenerating tissue.
Only 15% of the medical materials and devices used in Turkey are produced locally and the rest is imported from USA, Germany, UK, France and recently, from China. According to a report published by TOBB (The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey, 2009), Turkey has a qualified labor force in this field, and universities to support them. However, since the ties between the universities and the medical sector are not strong enough, the public confidence in local products is low, and the state mechanisms to enhance the use of local products are not sufficient. As a result the high import/export ratio is inevitable.
METU is a pioneer in education and research in the Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering field. Since the early 1980's METU has conferred M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees, offered biomaterials related courses, conducted research, and organized seminars, workshops and conferences (e.g. BIOMED symposium series). Even though the research projects have the potential to lead to high value-added products, the unsuitable legal and financial environment and the low technological level of the medical sector, this potential could not be turned into local medical technology success stories.
Establishment of the Center of Excellence
In 2010 the "Center of Excellence in Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering" was established within METU with a grant supported by the Presidency of Strategy and Budget (formerly the State Planning Organization of Turkey and later Turkish Ministry of Development). The "Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Application and Research Center" was established with the approval of METU Senate and The Council of Higher Education (Turkey), with the acronym "BIOMATEN".
At inception BIOMATEN had members from the Departments of Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Mechanical Engineering, Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, Engineering Sciences, and Biotechnology of METU, and had GATA (Gülhane Military Medical Academy), OSTIM and SEIS, two NGOs from the medical sector, in its advisory committee. The Center of Excellence has a broader membership profile; in addition to academic members from METU, there are also members from Hacettepe, Yeditepe, Near East, Istanbul Technical, Çukurova and Acıbadem Universities. Professors from world famous universities in the USA (Harvard, MIT, Drexel, and Tufts), Germany (Johannes Gutenberg) and UK (London) also supported us as by serving as members of our International Advisory Board. In addition, “Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Society of Turkey”, established in 2008 by some BIOMATEN members, is one of the non-governmental organizations that support the Center.
Our Aims and Goals
BIOMATEN aims to become a national and international reference and counseling point, to be able to advise and guide the state institutions in making decisions, and also financially support projects, medical industrialists, and young as well as expert researchers. We also wish to support the medical sector in the development and production of high added value products, and characterization and certification of medical products. Our goal is to put the products developed within the Center into clinical trials and release them into the market in the coming years. We believe this translational process is of great importance for us and our country.