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Scottish Government publish “Life Sciences Innovation and Responding to COVID” report

Scottish Government publish “Life Sciences Innovation and Responding to COVID” report

Excerpt from “Life Sciences Innovation and Responding to COVID” ministerial report from Ivan McKee, minister for trade, investment and innovation.


This report aims to provide a snapshot of just some of the innovation in the sector to support testing supply chains as well as vaccine development and associated supply chain. It cannot possibly capture all of the activities taking place and I would like to reiterate my thanks to all those who have played a part in any way to help Scotland continue to tackle this virus. I must also mention the many highly skilled lab technicians and researchers within our universities and hospitals who are working long and hard to support our aims.   Our work will continue for as long as it is needed and we will continue to need your support in those endeavours.



Section A: Life Sciences Sector In Scotland

Scotland  has  a  thriving  life  sciences  sector  and  is  home  to  many  world  leading companies, academic and research organisations and is at the forefront in scientific innovation across a number of fields.

The Scottish Government recognises  the  important  of  the  sector  and our holistic approach is reflected in our strategy, The Life Sciences Strategy for Scotland: 2025 Vision.  The implementation and momentum of the strategy is led by the Life Sciences Scotland (LSS)Industry Leadership Group, which brings together key figures from the private and public sectors to drive industry-wide collaboration and alignment.  Its aim to increase the industry’s contribution to the Scottish Economy to £8billion by 2025.

We have made strategic investments in conjunction with our enterprise agencies over a number of years to ensure Scotland is the location of choice for new inward investors and to provide the environment to see our home grown success stories expand and venture into new markets.

Our approach forges the vital close working relationship between industry, the NHS and academia(the ‘triple helix’).  We have invested in developing centres of excellence in order to keep making those ground-breaking discoveries in medical treatments and attracting  world  class  researchers  who  see  Scotland  as  a  choice  location  for collaborative research.  There have also been significant investments in city deals in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Aberdeen and Dundee to support the sector.

This investment by the Scottish Government and our agencies has helped the sector play a valuable role in the economy, by contributing £2.4billion GVA and the sector has achieved, on average, year-on-year turnover growth of 10% since 2010.

It also contributes just  under one fifth of  our  Business  Enterprise  Research  and Development spend, and is a major contributor to our exports.


Section B: Life Sciences industry support for COVID-19

Many Scottish business have been involved in supporting the COVID-19response in Scotland  as  well  as wider  UK and  global responses. We have been  working  with Scottish-based companies in the key areas of Testing supply, Repurposing Drugs; Vaccines Development and Vaccine Supply Chain.

Testing Supply Chain

Since the start of the  pandemic  the  demand  for  test  capacity,  and  the  materials required to take samples and process them in labs, has increased exponentially. In March 2020 the Scottish Government’s requirement was to secure enough supply of test capacity and test sampling kits to undertake 30,000diagnostic tests per week in Scotland.  This has since increased significantly as the Test and Protect plans have developed.

The most recent testing strategy will increase thatfigureup to65,000tests completed per day for Scotland, with many more tests being processed in Scotland to support the response across the rest of the UK.

One  of  the companies which  helped  to  meet  the  greatly increased demand  for test swabs was  Dundee-based Hutchison  Technologies which works in many sectors including  in  medical  technologies. The  company  pulled  together  a  commercial proposition  ensuring  NHS  Scotland  could  purchase  approved  and  quality  assessed medical supplies.  played a major role in sourcing viral test swab kits to address urgent  shortages  in  NHS  Scotland  and delivered a  total  order  of  3.4million  swab sample kits. The company is now looking to expand its international operations after successfully supporting NHS Scotland with virus testing equipment in the fight against coronavirus.

A similar supply issue across the UK during that time was the provision of extraction media for use with the test swabs. E&O Laboratories based in Bonnybridge rose to the challenge. The company  had  previously  received  support  to  expand  their premises including a £425,000Regional Selection Assistance (RSA)grant in 2015 to build a new manufacturing facility in Cumbernauld.

In response to the pandemic, the company expanded from making filled petri-dishes for  the  NHS  to  include  ready-to-use  products  and producing a  special  type  of  Viral Transport   Medium   that   makes   the   analysis   of   test   samples   safer   and   more straight forward.

By using a formulation from NHS Scotland labs the company used their skilled staff in research and development, business development, and procurement to find out what, where, when and how to best respond. The company also set out to understand and adapt including re-engineering machines for automation and retraining of staff. This innovative  approach  led  to  the  company  obtaining  a £7millioncontract  with  NHS Scotland.

Testing in Scotland has taken place in both NHS labs, rapidly expanded to meet the demands of the crisis, and the Lighthouse Laboratory in Glasgow.  To optimise results both key NHS labs and the Glasgow Lighthouse Laboratory have received dedicated support from the enterprise agencies, in particular the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service, which is working to optimise the throughput of test samples by the adoption of LEAN manufacturing principles.

ThermoFisher Scientific, with Scottish sites at Inchinnan and Perth, has been a key industrial partner of the NHS work at the Lighthouse Laboratory at the University of Glasgow, Queen  Elizabeth  University  Hospital  Campus. Other partners include Scottish based businesses BioAscent and BioClavis and also the University of Dundee and the Beatson Institute.

The company supplies both testing machines, used in Lighthouse Laboratories across the UK, and the chemical test kits used to process test samples in the laboratories. The company is seeing increased demand for their products used in the COVID-19 PCR testing workflow and is building increased manufacturing capacity in Scotland This multi-national company will shortly supply 20 million tests per week globally.

They are also supporting  the  UK  response  with  4.5  million  sample  collection  and transport kits provided weekly as a result of a $25millioninvestment by ThermoFisher Scientific in Perth.

The company is supporting global vaccine development work. Thermo Fisher Scientific is making a significant investment of $100 million in the Inchinnan site in support of Europe, Middle East and Asia bioprocessing customers and importantly the vaccine development work happening in the UK. This will also increase headcount at the site.


The company has previously received Regional Selection Assistance (RSA) funding of £1.9million from  Scottish Enterprise to bring  £12.6millioninto  the  Advanced Granulation Technology facility in Inchinnan, creating 30 jobs and safeguarding 47.


BioAscent is a  contract  research  organisation  based  in  BioCity  in  Newhouse, Motherwell. The company helped create Scotland’s new Lighthouse Laboratory and provides biotechnology and pharma expertise by using its library of compounds for companies to design, make and test new drugs.

BioClavislaunched its operations in Scotland at the end of 2017.  It is a personalised diagnostics spin-out from BioSpyder, a US-based biotechnology company established in  2012. BioClavis is based in Scotland’s Precision Medicine space on the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus in Glasgow.  Its mission is to enable the cost-effective healthcare of individual patients through the use of gene-based diagnostic testing in coordination with established healthcare systems.

Repurposing Drugs In response to the virus ,the approval and use of drugs required a quicker process to ensure  companies  could  secure approval that could  cut  years  off  the  time usually taken  for medications  to  become  available  to  people  with  illnesses  related  to  their COVID-19diagnosis. In Scotland this had led to some companies obtaining Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency(MHRA)approval to test drugs for use in treatments in related conditions.

Novabiotics in Aberdeen has been testing one of its drugs on COVID-19 patients with secondary lung infections.  The antibiotic helps them tackle difficult to treat and drug-resistant bacteria.

Since 2005 the Scottish Investment Bank has supported NovaBiotics with over £3 million  in equity and loans, representing a18.2% stake in the company. The company also works closely with the University of Aberdeen.

Glasgow-based  biotechnology  company TC  BioPharm(TCB)is  planning initial clinical trials at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. to start safety trials on an experimental therapy designed to kill COVID-19 infected cells. The company is a world leader in clinical use of gamma-delta T cells (GDTs) which are the first line of defence in viral infection and are pre-programmed to target a wide range of diseases including many cancer  types.  TCB  is  a  pioneer  of  the  first  scalable  allogeneic  gamma  delta  T  cell therapy platform.

The company have had significant Scottish Enterprise support totalling £4,685,160 in equity and grants.

ILC Therapeutics based in BioCity in Newhouse is currently developing a treatment for  moderate  and  severe  psoriasis  and  in  June  2020  announced  work  with  the University  of  St  Andrews  to  progress  a  potential  treatment  for  COVID-19  towards clinical trials. The partnership will focus on ILC Therapeutics’ drug Alfacyte and the role it can play in preventing COVID-19 induced Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)which could help reduce the need for patients to be on a ventilator and also limit the damage to a patient’s lungs.


Also in BioCity and responding to the prevention of ARDS is Lamellar Biomedical Limited. In April 2020 the company announced a new programme to address the potentially fatal consequences of COVID-19 on respiratory function to reduce the damaging and often fatal inflammatory response known as Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) seen in patients.  Lamellar is backed by both institutional and private investors, including Invesco and Scottish Enterprise.

Pneumagen in St Andrews has accumulated evidence indicating that its drug candidate successfully treats coronavirus infections. In  May  2020,  the  company announced it  had received £4  million  investment from Thairm  Bio  and  the  Scottish Investment  Bank to  allow  the  clinical  development  of  Neumifil  for  the universal treatment of respiratory tract infections caused by flu andCOVID-19.The company is progressing towards first-in-human trials early 2021.

Across  Europe  there  is  also  work  to  develop  greater  public-private  partnerships  to accelerate  the  discovery  and  development  of  urgently  needed  medicines  to  treat SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Exscientia, a spinout from the University of Dundee, is part of the new CARE (Corona Accelerated  R&D  in  Europe)  consortium  supported  by  the  Innovative  Medicines Initiative (IMI) and launched on 18 August 2020.  The company specialises in AI drug discovery  to  accelerate  the  pre-clinical  phase  of  drug  discovery  and  following significant investment has established further operations in Oxford (HQ) and Osaka, Japan. Exscientia  will  lead  the  small  molecule  drug  design  activities  in  the  CARE consortium, using the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to accelerate the pre-clinical phase of drug discovery.

To  help  with  continued  supply for  the  relief  of  respiratory  symptoms,  GSK  sites  in Scotland have also been critical to producing salbutamol for use in inhalers and has been working with NHS National Services to produce additional stock to be used within COVID-19 hubs and assessment centres across NHS Scotland.

Global pharmaceutical company, GSK, has a significant presence in Scotland and is critical to the global pharmaceutical supply network producing active pharmaceutical ingredients for  antibiotics, respiratory  inhalers,  HIV  medicines  and  dermatology products that support over 23 million patients on a daily basis worldwide.



The demands of this pandemic are unprecedented. Scotland’s response has been innovative, collaborative and one which we can all be proud of. The  Life  Sciences sector in Scotland was already a success story, and the experience of recent months demonstrates how much potential there is to increase its strength and grow into the future, making a difference to the lives of people across the world and continuing to provide economic opportunities in Scotland. This report provides a snapshot of some activities and my thanks go out to the many more businesses from the 770 organisations and 41,000 staff in the sector who are supporting  this  work  and  those  that  are working  at  the  forefront  of scientific  and technological advances in other treatments and therapeutics. It is important that the sector in Scotland continues to invest in innovation to support the global response to the pandemic.


Read the report in full