September 15, 2011 (Vol. 31, No. 16)

Editor’s Note

Biotechnology parks have become ubiquitous. Over the past 25 years they have sprung up all over the world. Countries, states, provinces, and cities seek to put their local life science expertise on display while promoting potential job opportunities as each new biotech park or center opens.

One of the first centers still in existence is the West of Scotland Science Park, based near Glasgow. In addition to university facilities, the West of Scotland Science Park contains about 40 biomedical or biotech companies within its premises. The facility also offers access to the technical, business, and leisure facilities of the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde, and connects business advisory services with tenants through Scottish Enterprise’s specialist business growth account management team.

In the January/February 1982 issue, GEN reported on the initial plans of the two universities mentioned above, along with the Scottish Development Agency, to form the $14 million biotech research park. GEN is reprinting this story from 29 years ago since we believe that the West of Scotland Science Park provides one of the best examples of a biotech center done right, and represents a model that has probably served as a blueprint for the development of additional parks around the world.

—John Sterling, Editor in Chief

“As Seen in GEN”—Flashback Volume 2, Number 1, Jan/Feb 1982

Scotland Funds Biotechnology Research Park

By Terry J. Lerner

The Scottish Development Agency (SDA) and two Scottish universities have announced the formation of a $14 million research park devoted to biotechnology. The park, dubbed the West of Scotland Science Park, will be located in Glasgow.

The 70-acre Park site, chosen in conjunction with Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities, lies within a wooded estate owned and occupied by the University of Glasgow. The Park will accommodate a total of 180,000 square feet of R&D facilities, with sites for manufacturing in other areas of the city. The SDA, Scotland’s largest industrial developer, plans to offer ready-made factories ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 square feet.

In addition, the combined facilities of the two universities will be made available to incoming companies. It is expected that the University of Strathclyde will be tapped for its resources in applied microbiology and the University of Glasgow for its expertise in medical research. “This project offers promising opportunities for bridging the gulf between university and industry,” commented Dr. George Mathewson, CEO of the SDA. “It will help to encourage commercial exploitation of the many excellent research projects conducted in Scottish universities.”

The SDA, a government-financed agency, will provide the main funding for the Park and offer special financial support to participating companies. The Park has been designated a Special Development Area, entitling companies setting up business to the most favorable British tax incentives. In a Special Development Area, the United Kingdom government will meet 22% of the costs for acquiring and equipping a new facility in the form of a tax-free grant.

The SDA has received many inquiries, but so far no U.S. or indigenous companies have signed up for the Park, an Agency spokesman told GEN.

Healthcare Report

The establishment of the Park is due, in part, to a recommendation by Arthur D. Little consultants in a newly released study of the Scottish healthcare industry. The report, which was commissioned by the SDA, predicts that Scotland will become a major center for the healthcare industry in the 1980s, echoing its success in the electronics industry over the past decade. Dr. Charles Fairley, speaking for the SDA Healthcare Unit, said, “We expect that the largest growth in Scotland will come from the biotechnology and medical electronics fields.”

Although no bigger than South Carolina, Scotland is already home to 43 major healthcare companies whose activities range from heavy process manufacturing to contract medical research. Nine Scottish-based pharmaceutical companies, including Beecham Pharmaceuticals, a British concern, and Roche Products, a division of Hoffmann-La Roche Swiss, account for nearly half the industry’s 7,000-employment and half its yearly $300 million turnover.

Seven companies are engaged in the manufacture of clinical products. Flow Laboratories and Gibco Europe, the two major European suppliers of tissue culture products, account for the bulk of the businesses in this sector. Both companies were started by Scottish scientists and are now part of U.S.-multinational corporations.

Medical Tradition

Unlike the electronics industry which had to create its own research and development facilities, medical research is a Scottish tradition. Among the discoveries credited to Scots are anesthesia (Sir James Young Simpson), antiseptics (Joseph Lister), penicillin (Sir Alexander Fleming), interferon (Alick Isaacs), and most recently, human monoclonal antibodies, by investigators at Strathclyde and Glasgow Universities.

The University of Strathclyde has had a long involvement with biotechnology that grew out of the traditional industries of brewing and baking. The University is noted for its Department of Applied Microbiology whose expertise lies in yeast and fermentation technologies. On-going research in the department concerns microbial growth and physiology, oxygen transfer in microbial cultures, and fermenter design. The University offers a degree in Technology and Business Studies that includes biotechnology.

The University of Glasgow, one of the ten oldest universities in the world, has maintained a reputation for excellence in the medical sciences. Its facilities include the Institute of Virology and the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research. Researchers in both institutes, as well as in the Departments of Microbiology and Genetics, are actively engaged in recombinant DNA and hybridoma studies. The research programs are supported by the Medical Research Council (MRC), a government agency, and private industry.

Among the renowned biologists working in Scottish universities today are J. H. Subak, University of Glasgow, engaged in research on the molecular biology of herpes simplex virus; Ken Murray, University of Edinburgh, who is collaborating with Biogen to develop a hepatitis vaccine; and E. M. Southern, University of Edinburgh, whose “Southern” blotting technique revolutionized DNA research.

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