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Feature Articles : May 1, 2008 ( )
Capitalizing on Abundant Opportunities in Wales
Taking Advantage of Resources, Bioscience Sector Has Posted Double-Digit Growth Lately!--h2>
Wales’ most famous life scientist, Professor Martin Evans of Cardiff University, was one of the speakers at the recent “BioWales” meeting. Sir Evans won last year’s Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for work on stem cells. At the meeting, he talked about the opportunities and challenges involved in delivering stem-cell therapies.
“There are already some big opportunities in stem cells for biotechs—those selling culture equipment, tissue culture, and media are doing well at present. This market will be especially good for companies that can get their processes validated,” he added. Once issues of safety, efficacy, and methods of delivery are sorted out, then stem cells will move to the clinic, although this may take many years, and it is hard to know which treatment will get there first. “I am sure stem-cell therapies will come through, because the ideas behind them are so good,” he concluded.
Although Wales is a small country, financial support from the EU and strong support from the Welsh Assembly Government are building up a bioscience industry with double-digit growth and a turnover of £1.3 billion. There are now about 200 bioscience companies in Wales, located mainly around Cardiff and Wrexham, with interests ranging from traditional biotech and agriculture to medical devices and diagnostics.
Recent initiatives include the new Institute for Life Sciences in Swansea, which will be a magnet for high-tech companies, and the extension of the region’s clinical trials infrastructure in cancer as well as other therapeutic areas.
Industrial biotechnology is growing in importance in the U.K., and the Centre for Biocatalysis, Biotransformations and Biocatalytic Manufacture at Manchester University (CoE Bio3) is a hotbed of activity.
A number of small companies with promising drug products and cell technologies for medical and veterinary applications were showcased at “BioWales.”
Centers of Academic Excellence
It has been proven that centers of academic excellence can help launch and grow biotech companies. The Institute of Life Science (ILS) is the new research institute for the Medical School at the University of Swansea. ILS is a £52 million collaboration between the Welsh Assembly Government, IBM, and Swansea University.
Wales has a signficant infrastructure for clinical trials in place, anchored by the Wales Cancer Trials Network (WCTN), set up in 1998 and funded by Cancer Research U.K. and the Welsh Assembly Government.
Major Biotechs in Wales
Meanwhile, Wales is also home to several large biotech companies. GE Healthcare has a 30-acre site at Bridgend, the Maynard Centre, where it manufactures a wide range of life sciences products and services. Ortho Diagnostics is opening a facility at the new Pencoed Technical Park where it will carry out the manufacture of diagnostic kits for HBV, HCV, and heart attack.
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