For more than 200 years, Scotland’s scientific discoveries have served as some of the most critical stepping stones for the advancement of modern medicine. From the introduction of anesthesia and the discovery of penicillin, to the development of MRI and CAT scanners and the identification of the p53 tumor suppressor gene, to the more recent development of the first bionic hand, Scotland maintains a distinct ability to foster innovation and inspire scientific discovery.
In taking stock of Scotland’s life science sector today, it is clear the country’s openness to scientific discovery is still very much alive and well, particularly in the field of stem cells and regenerative medicine. Scotland is one of Europe’s largest and most highly regarded stem cell and translational research locations, adding its share to the more than $4.5 billion that life sciences contribute to the Scottish economy annually. It is home to academic institutions renowned for their stem cell leadership, such as The University of Edinburgh’s MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine and The Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic, as well as a burgeoning cluster of cell-based technology and manufacturing companies’ including Roslin Cells, Cellartis, and Angel Biotechnology.
Building on the discoveries that produced the first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, in 1996, technology has evolved rapidly and investment in talent and infrastructure continues to grow.
By supporting stem cell companies and both embryonic and adult stem cell academic research including induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), Scotland offers a vibrant commercial supply chain working alongside global life science corporations such as EMD Millipore, Charles River Laboratories, and Life Technologies.
At the heart of Scotland’s life sciences and regenerative medicine community is the Edinburgh BioQuarter, a $1.2 billion 100-acre public/private site that brings together three leading research institutes, a teaching hospital, and a bioincubator building. In November 2011, the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine’s (SCRM) new state-of-the-art facility will open with more than 200 scientists and clinicians researching stem cell therapeutics and technologies for conditions such as MS, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.
Scotland saw the fruits of its stem cell research and clinical testing expertise come to bear after Glasgow was chosen as the location for the U.K.’s first-in-human stem cell trial—ReNeuron’s ReN0001, a stem cell therapy for stroke. Scotland’s ability to manufacture high-quality GMP-grade stem cell product proved especially attractive to ReNeuron, and Scottish company Angel Biotechnology is manufacturing and validating the cell lines for the Glasgow trial.
“As a global leader in regenerative medicine as well as basic, applied, and clinical research and medical technology, Scotland’s strengths can be attributed not only to its scientific expertise and heritage, but also the willingness of public, private, and academic communities to innovate life sciences together,” said Rhona Allison, senior director, Life Sciences, Scottish Enterprise, which, along with Scottish Development International, supports the growth of Scotland’s businesses and economy, as well as new investment into Scotland.
For example, a team of scientists led by the University of Edinburgh’s Sir Ian Wilmut and Professor Siddharthan Chandran are studying potential cell-replacement therapies for motor neuron disease (MND), an incredibly debilitating and deadly condition with no cure or effective treatment. In partnership with King’s College London and Columbia University in New York, scientists at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine are growing nerve cells that can cause MND in order to study the biology of the disease and screen potential drugs.
Finally, as an example of Scotland’s broad-based approach to regenerative medicine, Scotlands’ National Blood Transfusion Service is heading up a $4.5 million project to generate GMP-grade red blood cells from human embryonic stem cells, with the hopes these manufactured blood cells will meet the growing need for healthy blood for transfusions.
Clearly, a new century of discovery and progress is under way in Scotland, building on a scientific tradition—centuries in the making—where collaboration and innovation are both valued and thriving.
Key Facts About Scotland's Stem Cell Cluster
- Scotland is home to one of the largest stem cell clusters in Europe.
- Scotland is first in the world for stem cell research based on citation impact.
- Half of all U.K. stem cell research licenses are issued to organizations in Scotland.
- More medical research is carried out per head of population in Scotland than anywhere else in Europe.
Source: www.sdi.co.uk/sectors/life-sciences/sub-sectors/ stem-cell-research/stem-cells-key-facts.aspx