Strong government support, a talented workforce, and a thriving research environment drive life sciences excellence in Scotland

Dec 02, 2006

Lorna B. Jack
Most cities erect memorials dedicated to political leaders, military legends, or other national heroes. In Scotland, a statue of James Young Simpson, MD, the founder of anesthesia, proudly stands in the center of Edinburgh as a symbol of Scotland's passion and commitment to life sciences for more than 100 years.

Scotland's strong history of scientific innovation and discovery continues to fuel the nation's life sciences industry. Today, this small European nation of just over five million people has established global leadership in stem cell research, biomanufacturing, medical devices, genomics, bioinformatics, and drug discovery and development. Strong government support in combination with a highly skilled international workforce and a thriving academic environment has provided the necessary tools and foundation for Scotland to defy boundaries in nearly every area of biomedical research. Furthermore, Scotland's significant scientific contributions in the field of medicine, including CAT scans, MRIs, and unprecedented expertise in cloning (i.e., Dolly the sheep), have helped quickly establish a reputation as one of the world's preeminent leaders in life sciences and biotechnology.

In the past year alone, Scottish researchers have made remarkable progress in a wide variety of life sciences disciplines, including internationally acclaimed work in stem cells, regenerative medicine, and gene therapy delivery technology. Most recently, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals ( has formed a partnership with Scotland to form one of the largest translational medicine collaborations in the world.

Paul De Sousa, MD, senior research fellow at the Center for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh (, has founded Roslin Cells (, a non-profit company that will be commercializing human stem cell lines without intellectual property rights, facilitating, in turn, more stem cell research among academia and commercial companies.

There have also been several major breakthroughs in Scottish universities, including the University of Dundee (, where one research collaboration led to the discovery of the gene that predisposes people to eczema and another made significant progress in understanding how changes in a gene's behavior lead to diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's disease.


As one of the most successful life sciences centers in Europe, Scotland houses more than 20% of the UK's biotech companies. It continues to stand as a world leader in life sciences with international partnerships, an attractive regulatory environment, robust capital investments from the government, and funding from private venture capital firms.

To help ensure this forward momentum, the Scottish government continues to leverage its international economic development agency, Scottish Development International (SDI, Since SDI's formation, the agency has produced resounding results working with the life sciences industry, and continues to be successful in attracting foreign investment and skilled scientists from around the world.

Furthermore, Scotland's Intermediary Technology Institute (ITI, for life sciences has been highly effective in identifying potential opportunities to commission, manage, and develop projects in emerging technologies across the broad spectrum of life sciences. Launched in September 2003 as part of the Scottish Executive's commitment to technology, commercialization, and development, ITI Life Sciences has a proven track record in using intellectual assets generated by these research projects to increase the strength and sustainability of life sciences companies and organizations based in Scotland. This strategic initiative will continue to invest $280 million over the next 10 years to increase competitiveness in several of its key technology sectors, including life sciences.

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