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Biotech Beckons in Bonny Scotland

By Lorna Jack
Oct 17, 2005 | Global partnerships, international expansion, and investment initiatives are factors that drive life science companies to succeed in today’s business world. For several years, Scotland has been a prime example of how the combination of these factors can be utilized to set a single country on the path to become a world leader in the life science industry.

However, Scotland’s life sciences sector is not comprised only of Scottish companies but rather a network of global partnerships and collaborations, especially with U.S. companies. International expansions and collaborations not only contribute to the economic development of our nations but also more importantly contribute to our wealth of knowledge that will shape the industry within the next century.

Scotland’s life sciences sector is one of the most successful in Europe. U.S. biotechs are commonly attracted to Scotland because of the excellent opportunities available for collaboration with biomedical innovators. Such innovations include the cloning of Dolly the sheep by Ian Wilmut and his team at Roslin Institute, near Edinburgh, in 1996, and the discovery of the p53 tumor suppressor gene by Sir David Lane at the University of Dundee. Scotland’s status in life science research offers American biotechs the opportunity to collaborate with premier scientists, enhancing their reputation, innovating their research initiatives, and developing their business. Moreover, investments are highly motivated by the worldwide recognition and caliber of Scotland’s life sciences.

Investing in Scotland
Investors in Scotland can benefit from a range of venture capital firms, such as Scottish Equity Partners and the economic development agency Scottish Development International (SDI), the role of which is to attract inward investment and promote international development. To date more than 1,300 companies have chosen to invest in Scotland. U.S. life sciences companies that choose to expand in Scotland will reap the benefits of the support offered by SDI.

Such support has resulted in many notable success stories. For example, Massachusetts-based Inverness Medical Innovations (IMI), a leading manufacturer of medical diagnostic products and developer of advanced medical devices, recently established a subsidiary in Scotland, Stirling Medical Innovations Ltd. The company plans to invest more than $6 million in R&D programs and another $55 million in manufacturing and commercialization of new products. This program’s success is attributed to the support and financial backing it continues to receive from SDI and the Scottish Intermediary Technology Institute Life Sciences.

The expansion of companies such as IMI is not only a major endorsement of what Scotland has to offer global companies, but it is also further evidence that Scotland is at the forefront of developments within this cutting-edge sector. Scotland offers global companies an ideal environment to expand, with its internationally acclaimed scientific community, highly skilled workforce, and significant support from public sectors.

U.S.-Scottish Collaborations
U.S. biotechnology companies can form strategic alliances with Scottish life sciences companies, whether through collaborations and sharing resources or physical expansion into Scotland. New discoveries often are a result of research initiatives funded through such collaborations. For instance, when a life science company holds exclusive ownership of certain chemicals or molecules, joint partnerships can facilitate new applications of these materials.

Recently, Cyclacel, a biopharmaceutical company in Dundee, Scotland, began a collaboration with U.S. based Genzyme. Cyclacel is known for its drug development program using cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitors to treat cancer. Genzyme aims to use CDKs to research treatments for kidney disorders, showing that these molecules may be used for treating diseases other than cancer.

In addition, U.S. biotechnology companies are partnering with some of the world’s leading research institutes, also located in Scotland. Viragen, a U.S. biotechnology specializing in protein-based drug therapies, has established a joint collaboration with Roslin Institute in developing an avian transgenic drug manufacturing system. This egg-based platform is expected to speed the production of human protein-based drugs, significantly reduce their manufacturing costs, and should provide a better quality of product, thus improving the safety and tolerability of many products. These are just a few of many examples of the advancements contributing to the life sciences industry through the joint efforts between U.S. and Scottish organizations.

Getting Involved
Whether Scotland serves as a market, a partner, or a source of fresh talent, U.S. life science companies have many options in taking advantage of these incentives. The support of SDI can guide U.S. firms in their decisions whether to partner or develop networks with Scottish firms, or expand into Scotland.

SDI works to determine the most advantageous site selections and/or partnerships and important decisions in any globalization attempt. A majority of the life sciences companies in Scotland are concentrated around the central belt, surrounding Edinburgh, Dundee, and Glasgow, maximizing the resources for new life science companies. The International Business Opportunities service offered by SDI is an online database that companies can access, submit business proposals, and then be appropriately matched to Scottish companies. SDI also provides U.S. companies with a variety of resources to determine how to strengthen their reach in the U.K. market and take advantage of Scotland’s close proximity to other global markets.

SDI works closely with UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the government organization that supports international business partnerships and expansions into the U.K..  By delivering UKTI services in Scotland, SDI offers a broader range of support for companies wishing to partake in international business opportunities. It is yet another resource companies can use for their development and business needs.

Scotland can offer American corporations resources that are scarce in other regions. Developing partnerships with economic development agencies is an excellent way to guide these globalization efforts, maximizing their potential. Scotland welcomes global partnerships to share in exciting breakthroughs that are paving the future of the life sciences sector.

Lorna Jack is president of the Americas for Scottish Development International. E-mail:



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