Scotland looks to beef up life sciences sector

Scotland is looking to keep life sciences jobs in the country, even as Merck MSD says it will have to close a site in Newhouse by the end of the year. Finance Secretary John Swinney recently met with officials from the company to explore how to protect employment in Newhouse, and officials at Scottish Development International and Scottish Enterprise have formed a project team with company management to look at all options.

Swinney points out that the proposals put forward are in line with Scotland's efforts to support the nation's life sciences sector. "We are investing £15 million in the Scottish Academic Health Sciences Collaboration, creating a platform for excellence in clinical research and generating some 250 research jobs in Scotland. And we are supporting the growth of young life sciences companies in Scotland through various forms of financing. In the past year Scottish Enterprise's equity investment schemes have invested £7.7 million in companies in the life science sector," he says in a statement.

Swinney also highlights the £24 million investment in a bio-incubator within the Edinburgh BioQuarter. The BioIncubator building is expected to open its doors in 2012 and will become home to some of Scotland's most promising life sciences firms. The facility will provide a mix of office and laboratory accommodation for a range of specialist life science companies of various sizes, including early stage start ups and spin outs.   

In a recent op-ed, Mike Capaldi, commercialization director at the Edinburgh BioQuarter, emphasizes the need to beef up the sector, especially with the decline in venture capital investment. "Venture capital has largely disappeared from early-stage life science investments, particularly drug discovery and drug development. The remaining attention has shifted to medtech and diagnostic companies, where returns are quicker, less risky and less capital intensive." Capaldi says he is working to identify the technologies being developed at the University of Edinburgh and NHS that have the greatest commercial potential and attract investors to back them. 

- check out Swinney's statement
- read the BioQuarter release
- see Capaldi's op-ed