By Rhona Allison
As U.S. biopharma companies await the opening of the U.S. National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), many are looking outside the United States to better understand how government and industry can work together to bridge basic and clinical research. When thinking about translational medicine as a private and public endeavor, much can be learned from Scotland, a country deeply rooted in scientific discovery that has aggressively embraced translational medicine as a tenet of its life sciences industry.
For more than 200 years, Scotland’s cutting-edge scientific discoveries have helped pave the way for many of modern medicine’s most significant advances. From the introduction of anesthesia and the discovery of penicillin, to the groundbreaking ReNeuron stem cell trial for stroke patients, Scotland consistently demonstrates its ability to foster innovation. Perhaps most notable is Scotland’s long-term investment in translational medicine and infrastructure, such as the Edinburgh BioQuarter and the Centre for Regenerative Medicine, to drive life sciences growth and innovation. Over the past year, Scotland’s life sciences sector has grown to comprise 640 organizations, employing more than 32,000 people, and contributing more than £3.1 billion (approximately $4.8 billion U.S.) to the Scottish economy.
Expanding Patient-Oriented Clinical Research Platform
The Scottish Academic Health Sciences Collaboration (SAHSC), launched in 2009, is one example of how government can facilitate translational medicine objectives within the life sciences sector. The goal of the collaboration is to expand Scotland’s patient-oriented clinical research platform and streamline the engagement process for pharmaceutical companies among NHS (National Health Service) Scotland and university partners in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. Driven by investment from the Chief Scientist’s Office and existing NHS infrastructure funding, the SAHSC creates a four-board, four-universitywide platform that supports more than 200 positions dedicated to clinical research across partner organizations. This public investment targets a broad range of specialties including imaging, pharmacy, research nursing, tissue bio-repositories, and information technology capabilities and is already proving successful.
Part of the investment has contributed to the development of the NHS Research Scotland Permissions Coordinating Centre. This provides a portal for easy access to a single, centralized point of contact for those wishing to conduct multicenter clinical research involving the NHS Health Boards in Scotland. During 2010, NHS Research Scotland Permissions Coordinating Centre reduced R&D permission time for commercial and noncommercial multicenter studies to an impressive median of 15 and 16 working days, helping companies more quickly and safely bridge basic and clinical research.
In another example of translational strategy, Scotland’s Life Sciences Advisory Board, in collaboration with the Scottish Government, the NHS, and industry, designed a MedTech Road Map to increase the uptake of local innovation into the NHS, helping companies bring products to market that meet the needs of the NHS. Scotland’s high-quality, research-friendly environment could explain why this small country offers a hub of more than 50 CROs and provides 60% of Europe’s biosafety testing.
The strength of Scotland’s translational medicine is demonstrated by both the growth of its young companies and ability to attract new investment. Scottish company NovaBiotics Ltd. announced the successful completion of a Phase 2a clinical trial for Novexatin in May 2010 and a successful £1.6 million ($2.6 million U.S.) rights issue to fund the IND (investigational new drug) filing planned for a Phase 2b study. Over the past year, GSK has continued to invest in its Scotland sites, with investment totaling more than £150 million ($243 million U.S.) in the past five years. GSK’s plants in Montrose and Irvine contribute over £80 million ($129 million U.S.) to the Scottish economy annually, with Irvine generating nearly 20% of the world’s penicillin.
Today, Scotland’s life sciences community remains resilient in these challenging economic times. As a global leader in basic, applied, and clinical research, as well as regenerative medicine, medical technology, and imaging, 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.
About The Author
Rhona Allison is Senior Director of Life Sciences at Scottish Enterprise, Scotland’s main economic, enterprise, innovation, and investment agency that aims to build a world-class economy based on Scotland’s key industries, including life sciences.