The power of ‘Nine’ helps pioneering new companies

In just over four years the Edinburgh BioQuarter has spun out more than ten new life science businesses. Picture: Dan Phillips
In just over four years the Edinburgh BioQuarter has spun out more than ten new life science businesses. Picture: Dan Phillips
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Research base will benefit the world, says Mike Capaldi

Edinburgh BioQuarter, a partnership of Scottish Enterprise, the University of Edinburgh and NHS Lothian, brings together scientists with commercial research companies to collaborate on and accelerate the development of new drugs, diagnostic tools and medical devices to treat diseases.

A BioQuarter Commercialisation Team was established in 2010 to accelerate engagement with industry, encourage commercialisation within the NHS and academia and create new companies based on Edinburgh’s world-class research base.

In just over four years we have spun out more than ten new life science businesses which have collectively attracted £30 million of funding and generated 24 jobs. More are set to follow thanks to a recent cash injection of £500,000 to support business creation activity.

The cash, awarded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), will be used to provide additional, specific business and innovation advice and support to world-beating technologies and innovations emerging from the University of Edinburgh and NHS Lothian. Ranging from the development of new vaccines to improved surgical equipment, sophisticated software and analysis techniques, each enterprise will contribute to the Edinburgh economy while improving the health and wellbeing of those in Scotland and throughout the world.

Why is this so important? Well, these small start-ups all have one thing in common. They are all led by motivated and optimistic people with an innovative approach and a strong understanding of their marketplace, which will make them successful and vital to our economy in future years.

SMEs bring innovation into the economy. Because of their size, SMEs are often much better at identifying and embracing new trends in the industry and, therefore, driving the innovation within the sector. This allows them to be pioneers in emerging technologies, paving the way for bigger and braver investments.

SMEs can be much more adaptable to change than larger and more complex organisations. Such adaptability also brings more balance to our economic growth and ensures that local communities participate in stimulating growth. Small businesses account for 99 per cent of all companies in the UK and can be real drivers of economic growth, creating employment opportunities for local communities and generating income.

Our company creation pipeline currently contains 13 companies that we are actively working on with a view to spinning them out over time. These include a company that is developing stem cells to be used in the development of new drugs, to a company looking at how “big data” can be used to improve healthcare, and a company developing drugs for the treatment of rare kidney diseases.

All originate on the BioQuarter campus and benefit from the fact there is a business incubation centre on site, known as “Nine”. It offers office and laboratory space for newly-formed companies, access to a like-minded group of tenants and established leaders in the biopharmaceutical industry, and is ideally placed to access the range of clinical research assets on site. Nine is now home to 17 companies and that number will grow as the research community at the BioQuarter continues to expand.

Five companies which have gone through the BioQuarter Company Creation process now call Nine their home, most recently Edinburgh Molecular Imaging (EMI), a company developing products that will enable the bedside diagnosis of life-threatening diseases which are currently difficult to detect, such as early-stage lung cancer, thus significantly improving treatment outcomes for patients.

EMI’s new neighbours include fellow BioQuarter spin-outs i2eye Diagnostics Limited, which is commercialising a novel and highly innovative visual field analyser; Aquila BioMedical, which provides highly specialised preclinical efficacy services, focusing on multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disease, immunology and analgesia; Neurocentrx Pharma, which focuses on cancer-related pain and the palliative care market; and Pharmatics Ltd, which is developing intelligent software and services to uncover useful structure in data, with the focus on medical applications.

Nine is also home to a number of more established life science companies such as Mölnlycke Health Care, Fios Genomics, Calcivis, IOmet Pharma Ltd and J&J Innovation.

The BioQuarter company creation initiative is just part of a larger, 25-year project to establish a world-class biocluster in Edinburgh that will continue to attract companies from all over the world and help boost Scotland’s economy. More importantly, by creating this ecosystem for innovation and commercialisation, we are ensuring that discoveries made by our scientists and entrepreneurs here in Scotland continue to deliver benefits to people around the world.

Dr Mike Capaldi is director of commercialisation at Edinburgh BioQuarter