Stem Cell Industry Puts Scotland in the Spotlight

Scotland's international acclaim for its stem cell research can be attributed to several factors, including a skilled workforce, government support, and a top academic community.
Dec 02, 2006
By BioPharm International Editors

Some of the most significant contributions to the life sciences in Scotland have been in the field of embryology and developmental biology, including the cloning of the first mammal, Dolly the sheep, ten years ago at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh. This research has provided a platform for pioneering developments in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine research. Scotland is home to some of the most advanced basic research and clinical facilities in the world and consistently attracts leading experts to the country to take advantage of its immense resources.

Scotland's success and international acclaim for its stem cell research can be attributed to several factors, including a skilled workforce, government support, and a top academic community. More medical research is conducted per capita in Scotland than anywhere else in Europe, and Edinburgh is at the forefront of stem cell research. The city is home to the University's Institute for Stem Cell Research (ISCR,, a designated MRC, a designated Medical Research Council center of excellence. Edinburgh also has one of the largest concentrations of clinical scientists and researchers, whose stem cell research activities in Edinburgh are supported by major infrastructure investments.

Most recently, the Center for Regenerative Medicine was established at the new $1-billion Center for Biomedical Research ( in Edinburgh, encompassing a state-of the-art teaching hospital, the University of Edinburgh's world-renowned medical school and research institutes, and a 100-acre science park development. Professor Ian Wilmut, creator of Dolly the sheep, has been appointed to lead this new Regenerative Medicine Center, which will include scientists from the ISCR, the Roslin Institute, and the University of Edinburgh Medical School. Such investments are designed to strengthen the capabilities in basic research and its translation into clinical reality. Moreover, start-up companies are given the opportunity to build a solid foundation among an internationally acclaimed stem cell community.

Paul De Sousa, MD, formerly of Roslin Institute, recently relocated to the University of Edinburgh, where he is focusing on developing good manufacturing practice (GMP) procedures for human embryonic stem cell derivation. In September 2006, with financial backing from Scottish Enterprise, Dr. De Sousa and colleagues launched Roslin Cells (, which aims to advance stem cell research in Scotland and abroad by making it more economical to purchase lines derived using GMP procedures.

Prior to his involvement with Roslin Cells, Dr. De Sousa successfully created human embryos through virgin conception (i.e., parthenotes) and was granted a human-cloning license, along with Ian Wilmut, by the UK's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (

Scottish stem cell excellence
International companies are also expanding into Scotland to utilize the expertise offered by research institutes, universities, and the industry as a whole. For those looking to take advantage of Scotland's major stem cell and life sciences laboratories, access is easy, with 80% of the entire life sciences industry within a 50-mile radius of three of the country's main cities—Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dundee.

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