Edinburgh biotech creating 'high-value' jobs after multi-million funds boost

An Edinburgh-based gene therapy specialist is making a multi-million-pound investment in a move that will create “high-value” jobs in the capital.

Ken Macnamara, Chief Operating Officer, AskBio Europe; Rosheen Caw, Director of Business Operations, AskBio Europe; Jude Samulski, President, Chief Scientific Officer and Co-Founder, AskBio; Sheila Mikhail, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, AskBio; Michael Roberts, Chief Technology Officer, AskBio Europe; and David Venables, President, AskBio Europe.

AskBio Europe, formerly Synpromics, has been awarded almost £2 million in research and development (R&D) grant funding from Scottish Enterprise. The firm is also pumping in £3.4m of its own money.

The investment will be used to fund research into the “manufacturing challenges” associated with scaling gene therapies, to further develop technologies to improve the safety and efficacy of current therapies and to enable the treatment of genetic diseases with more complex disease pathways that the industry is not yet able to address.

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The firm noted that gene therapy had the potential to treat a wide range of diseases including certain forms of muscular dystrophy, congestive heart failure and some diseases of the central nervous system but, at present, only two market-approved therapies were available. It pointed to “significant barriers” before gene therapies can become more “broadly impactful”.

David Venables, president of AskBio Europe, said: “Scottish Enterprise has played a significant role in funding the development of our technology. This grant will allow us to undertake important research into the scalability of gene therapy manufacturing to help bring potentially transformative therapies to more patients.”

Innovation minister Ivan McKee said: “This funding will support AskBio’s research into improving the treatment of genetic diseases, something that could be life-changing for patients.

“It will also create new and highly skilled job opportunities at the company’s research and development facilities in Edinburgh."

Nick Shields, head of business support services at Scottish Enterprise, added: “We have supported Synpromics, now AskBio Europe, for a number of years and have been pleased to witness its growth as well as the progress of its innovative technology towards helping patients worldwide.”

With the initial creation of 11 high-value jobs in Edinburgh, the AskBio team will further enhance its Pro10 platform, described as a “simplified, robust and cost-effective” manufacturing process that can be scaled and applied throughout the wider group.

The company, which was founded in 2001, has its global headquarters in North Carolina in the US.

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