Centers of Excellence - A spotlight on the areas of Scotland which have become the hub of life sciences activity in recent years - BioPharm International


Centers of Excellence
A spotlight on the areas of Scotland which have become the hub of life sciences activity in recent years

BioPharm International

Pathways from academia to industry are proven. Crucial Genetics (, for example, a University of Glasgow spinout, specializes in DNA profiling and became the first such company in Scotland to be approved by the Department of Constitutional Affairs for supplying court-admissible tests.

Great Expectations

People of the Highlands and Islands have historically maintained a respect for learning in general and the science of life in particular. This strong tradition, particularly in the field of medicine, has continued through the centuries until today.

It is little more than 10 years since Inverness Medical Ltd was established in the Highland capital, initially employing just 30 people to design and manufacture glucose test strips and electronic meters for the global fight against diabetes. Now known as Lifescan Scotland Ltd (, a wholly owned subsidiary of US multinational Johnson & Johnson, it employs around 1,500 workers in Inverness. Of these, 150 are scientists involved in research and development.

The arrival of the company and its subsequent expansion beside Raigmore Hospital has given an enormous boost to the area. Intertwined with the continuing development of the embryonic University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) towards full university status, there has been development of health sciences in the Highlands with clear opportunities for more.

The Center for Rural Health was created at Raigmore six years ago as a research institute exploring new ways of delivering rural healthcare under the joint umbrella of Aberdeen University and UHI. It now employs over 20 staff and has achieved an income of over $6 million.

Last year, the approximately $41-million Center for Health Science, a new institute for healthcare research, business development and training, began construction on the Raigmore Hospital campus. This project is being funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), with approximately $5 million support from the European Regional Development Fund.

In view of the proximity of Lifescan to Raigmore, there is a proposal for a UHI Department of Diabetes/NHS Diabetes Center within the hospital. The possibility of creating a chair of diabetes is also being explored.

Mike Crowe, managing director, LifeScan Scotland, sees what the industry owes the Highlands. "I believe myself to be very fortunate, working and living in the Highlands," he says. "A large proportion of our workforce comes from the local area and I am always surprised when I see just how many people are connected to our manufacturing facility, both directly and indirectly."

But the impact of sciences–based employment isn't only being felt in Inverness. In the west, beside the village of Dunbeg, there is another pillar sustaining this remarkable Highland development of health science—the Scottish Association of Marine Science (, with its headquarters in Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory.

"The life sciences sector in the Highlands and Islands is expanding rapidly and it's exciting to be a part of it," says Crowe.

"Critical to its sustainability will be to foster collaborative opportunities between stakeholders within the life sciences community, such as academia, the NHS and industry, to encourage innovation, through people and knowledge transfer. By working together, we can create a critical mass of a world class standard to compete at a global level," he concludes.

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Jenny Cartwright and David Ross contributed to this article.

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