Interview: Professor Dame Anna Dominiczak, keynote speaker at Scotland's Life Sciences Awards

It is an economic and academic success story that has Scotland genuinely leading the world. Our Life Sciences sector continues to grow every year, bringing huge benefits to the country and the wider world through innovation and research.

The Imaging Centre of Excellence
The Imaging Centre of Excellence

And that success is set to be celebrated again at an awards ceremony in Glasgow this month as industry leaders gather for the annual Scotland’s Life Sciences Dinner and Awards.

The awards, which have been running since 1999, take place at the Hilton in Glasgow, having previously been held at the National Museum of Scotland.

Scotland’s Life Sciences supports more than 37,000 jobs, and an ambitious new strategy aims to double the worth of the sector to £8bn by 2025

Professor Dame Anna Dominiczak. Picture: Contributed

Ahead of the event, we spoke to the night’s keynote speaker, Professor Dame Anna Dominiczak, Regius Professor of Medicine and Vice Principal and Head of the College of Medical, Veterinary, and Life Sciences at the University of Glasgow.

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“It’s a great year for the awards to be in Glasgow, we are really seeing the ‘triple helix’ philosophy (collaboration between industry, academia, and the NHS) in action in the city, in particular at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, where industry and the NHS work with Glasgow University at the Clinical Innovation Zone,” Professor Dominiczak told the Scotsman.

She added of the awards themselves “The University of Glasgow have been regular attendees, we take a number of tables and we also invite colleagues from the industry, and we are proud former winners, we won the ‘Innovative Collaboration award’ in 2015 for our work at the new hospital.”

Professor Dame Anna Dominiczak. Picture: Contributed

“It’s always been a tradition that people from various parts of the sector meet at the event and interact, it’s a real melting pot not just of people, but of ideas.”

The awards ceremony is always special, but 2017 has been a banner year for Scotland’s Life Sciences sector.

Prof Dominiczak said: “One of the highlights of 2017 for me personally was the opening of the Imaging Centre of Excellence at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital campus, with a number of companies co-locating with the University and the NHS at the new site, including BioClavis, a new spinout which is investing £10.5m in Scotland.”

Part of that triple helix are academics at the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences headed by Professor Dominiczak making sure that the skills they teach match up with the jobs in the industry.

She added: “We have a Masters course in precision medicine which is preparing people to take on these jobs that didn’t exist before.

“It is all part of that important ‘Triple Helix’, this Masters course in particular involves an extensive industry placement so students gain important industry skills; our aim is always to ensure that our students are ready to work in these new Life Sciences jobs from day one.”

Professor Dominiczak is enthusiastic about the strategy that was unveiled by the Scottish Government, and believes the £8bn turnover target is achievable.

“The targets are ambitious, but we can only achieve success by being ambitious, and I believe that the £8bn figure can be reached if we continue to work together and welcome young innovators, we will meet that target,” Prof Dominiczak said.

“Scotland has the opportunity to be the best in the world, we have huge strengths, and with everyone working together we can achieve that goal.”

Professor Dominiczak said that she is not only optimistic about the future, but pleased that the political will exists to grow the sector, telling the Scotsman: “We are very proud that the Scottish Government’s programme for this year contains a prominent mention of precision medicine as something that Scotland could excel in.”

The world-leading academic is keen to see those involved in the sector to overcome the trademark ‘Scottish cringe’ and shout from the rooftops about this burgeoning sector.

Prof Dominiczak said: “In Scotland, we have a habit of being too modest about our achievements, and we all need to develop our ability to brag, whether that be a website, or a paragraph, or even a powerpoint slide, to ensure that we have that information to hand.”

“This bragging is an acquired skill, it’s not something that comes to us naturally, and in Scotland, our Life Sciences strategy and the successes highlighted at the awards, shows that we have a lot to brag about.”