SCOTLAND’S life sciences industry has secured a share of a £169 million European Union drug research programme, which could trigger a wave of further investment across the sector.
Glenn Crocker, whose BioCity Group teamed up with Dundee University to bring part of the giant pharmaceuticals project to its site in Lanarkshire, said 40 jobs would initially be created.
But Crocker said there would also be a “knock-on effect”, with a “substantial” number of jobs being created in the long term.
Under the initial deal, 500,000 chemical compounds will be examined at the BioCity Scotland incubator centre in the former Merck drug factory in Newhouse to see if they can be turned into medicines.
A site run by not-for-profit body TI Pharma in the Netherlands will also handle some of the samples as part of the “European Lead Factory” project, which is organised by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). The Dutch site, at Oss, is also a former Merck factory.
Seven pharmaceutical companies will together donate about 300,000 compounds from their “libraries” of chemicals, while a further 200,000 potential targets will be supplied by universities and small businesses.
The project will bring at least £16.3m of research funding to Scotland, with the Scottish Funding Council and the Scottish Government supplying a further £3.5m of support.
Crocker said: “Small companies will get free access to equipment at the Newhouse site to test their compounds. They could then go on to sign licensing agreements with the big pharma companies or they could do more development work themselves.”
Dundee University professor Andrew Hopkins, who is director of the Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance (SULSA), added: “We will use the opportunity provided by the IMI project as a spring-board to win further investments in the field of drug discovery innovation to benefit not only academic research but wider economic and societal benefits for Scotland.”
Hopkins said the scheme could help to win back clinical trials work to Scotland and the rest of the UK from developing countries.
He highlighted the advantages of Scotland’s patients database for finding people to take part in such studies.
First Minister Alex Salmond welcomed the deal. He said: “This provides enormous opportunities for Scotland’s life sciences sector and it is fantastic recognition of the talent and expertise of Scotland’s life sciences community.
“In particular, this shows the combined strength of our universities and commercial experts.”
News of the deal came ahead of last night’s Scottish Enterprise life sciences dinner in Edinburgh, a key date in the industry’s calendar that attracted more than 700 guests.