Scotland calling: Is India pharma listening?

Scotland calling: Is India pharma listening?

Scotland with its proximity and easy access to regulated markets could be the next destination for Indian pharma companies, says Jayashree Padmini

Scotland, known for innovation in biotech and pharmaceuticals arena, is aggressively trying to attract inward investment through multiple ways including alliances, joint ventures, new R&D or manufacturing set-ups and setting up of centres through incentives and financial support schemes.

India is viewed as a potential partner and the Scottish Development International (SDI) facilitates Scottish firms to strike deals with Indian companies.

More investment

Astra Zeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmith Kline, Merck, and Pfizer are the key pharmaceutical companies that have been consistently seen investing in Scotland. Currently, the island nation is eyeing the growing Indian pharmaceutical industry to partner with. Scotland, which has sent its fact-finding and trade missions to the country during the past two years, is said to have come across fruitful offers.

Shivendra Singh, SDI, said, ‘‘There are a couple of negotiations going on at this point for co-development.’’ ‘‘In 2004, Biocon has entered into a co-development deal for an oral insulin with Hanna Research.’’

In the area of oncology, diabetes and cardio-vascular segment (CVS), Scottish companies/institutions are in talks with at least four Indian companies and there had been mutual visits as well, Shivendra pointed out. These deals being worked out fall in the area of R&D, from early stage development to relatively advanced phases. Linked to this some in/out licencing deals are also under negotiation. In this area, leading 24 companies are targeted looking at their R&D spread, Shivendra said.

Some of the negotiations in the life sciences area include the University of Dundee looking for developing clinical trial database, Scottish Biomedical for work in R&D space and ExpressOn BioSystems eyeing the biosupply market, Shivendra pointed out. Scottish companies and institutions are keen to take the negotiation further to have fruitful business deals.

Although, Scotland with a strong bio-manufacturing base is eyeing to attract investment from Indian companies, it has so far received mixed signals. India as a low cost destination for manufacturing looks at the high cost destination Scotland. However, Scotland with its proximity to regulated markets and easy access could be the next destination for Indian companies. Through SDI, companies are working with the top 12 companies for bio-manufacturing deals.

Breaths innovation

Waiting to be explored

There is innovation in the air. Be it anaesthesia, CAT scans or MRIs, each has a Scottish originator stamp on it. The first cloned animal Dolly the sheep and discovery of p53 cancer suppressor gene, work with signal transduction by Sir Philip Cohen which has made him one of the most respected cancer specialists in the world; these are all Scottish too.

According to SDI, Scotland is defying boundaries in nearly every area of biomedical research and establishing global leadership in cancer research, cardio-vascular research, neuroscience, genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics, signal transduction biology and stem cell research. The country serves as a world-class research and bio-manufacturing base and a renowned service centre, facilitating numerous clinical trials and bringing innovative drug products to market readiness, SDI boasts.

The top life science organisations engaged in research, drug development, technology development and contract research are Ardana Bioscience, Inveresk Research, Scottish Biomedical, ExpressOn Biosystems and Quintiles.

Scotland’s premium life sciences institutions engaged in cutting edge R&D are the University of Dundee, Glasgow University and University of Edinburgh. It has achieved breakthrough in malaria research from the University of Edinburgh in April 2003.

Incentives galore

Scotland has devised several incentives and financial support schemes apart from personnel training support at various levels. The country offers Regional Selective Assistance, R&D Plus financial support scheme and training grants.

The Regional Selective Assistance (RSA), a UK national grant scheme that provides financial support to overseas investors, is aimed at encouraging investment and job creation in assisted areas of Scotland. Business of all sizes will receive assistance through this scheme, be it Scottish or overseas-based, the amount of grant being depended on location, size of project and number of jobs created.

Although, most of these projects would require a substantial capital investment, if the job creation prospects are high for a lower investment project, it can get the first two years salary costs of the project jobs. In the past five years ending March 2004, business in Scotland has accepted more than 900 offers of RSA totalling in excess of 400 million pounds. These offers relate to projects with planned investment of two billion pounds with the aim of creating or safeguarding almost 60,000 jobs.

Scotland provides for relocation and familiarisation assistance for an agreed period of time by way of a re-location expert working with the new entrant for a smooth transition as well as help access the benefits of working in Scotland. The island nation will work with the newcomer to identify the required labour pool and to address ongoing skill requirements by way of working with local universities, colleges or training providers. Scotland will also help in assessing the basic training requirements and provide pre-recruitment training programme. This could be useful in ensuring a pool of potential candidates upon entry in the Scottish market.

The R&D Plus aims to build on Scotland’s reputation for technical excellence by actively supporting companies engaged in new and innovative research into products and processes which demonstrate real potential for global commercial success. The scheme is open to all large companies located in Scotland or planning to establish R&D presence in Scotland, with the aim of encouraging R&D investment and job creation. It provides discretionary grants of up to 25 per cent of eligible costs to undertake development of new products or processes to the pre-production prototype stage. The financial support is extended to costs of personnel, equipment, external consultancy services, additional overheads operating expenses, all of these directly involved in research projects.

The incentives offered by Scotland’s government have made the environment highly supportive of biotechnology innovation and research. A range of incubators and science parks are located throughout the country, including the West of Scotland Science Park (Glasgow), Pentlands Science Park (Edinburgh), Edinburgh Technopole, Grangemouth Technology Park, Stirling University Innovation Park, Dundee Medipark and Aberdeen Science and Technology Park.

The Scottish government supports commercial opportunities within the academic and health sectors and is taking a leading role in funding early-stage ideas leading to the creation of new businesses or technology licensing. Companies focused primarily on product development for the human healthcare market such as PPL Therapeutics, Cyclacel, Axis Shield, Ardana, Pantherix and Strakan are prime examples of companies that have received research and development funding from the government.


Scotland’s powerful research and technology base includes more than 500 organisations and nearly 26,000 employees. Scotland houses more than 20 per cent of the UK’s biotech companies and is one of the most successful in Europe. The industry in Scotland has grown at an average of 20 per cent over the last four years compared with a 15 per cent growth rate in the rest of Europe.

According to SDI, the international partnerships, an attractive regulatory environment, robust capital investments from the government and funding from private venture capital firms, will keep Scotland as a world leader in biotechnology. Scotland’s life sciences community also serves as a strong bio-manufacturing base, with seven of the United Kingdom’s 15 Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) accredited sites located in Scotland. Scotland is currently developing the Biocampus, a bio-manufacturing facility just outside Edinburgh where established and new companies alike can flourish.

Scotland is home to 13 universities that house 50 university departments and institutes conducting biomedical research. Some of the world’s most prominent cancer studies are being conducted at the Cancer Research UK, Beatson Laboratories in Glasgow, and at Dundee University. Dundee is demonstrating its strength in a wide-range of areas such as cancer, diabetes, infections and cardiovascular disease by collaborating with six of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies in one of the largest-ever industrial research deals worth $25 million over five years.

The city of Edinburgh has one of the largest concentrations of clinical scientists and researchers within the UK working with human stem cells and related clinical applications, with significant collaborations in medicine and biotechnology between academic groups and international companies. Edinburgh is also a major centre for genomics and bioinformatics research, with world-class R&D capabilities at the Roslin Institute, Glasgow University, and the commercially focused Centre for Genomic Technology and Informatics. Edinburgh University has significant strengths in cardiovascular research and Glasgow University has internationally recognised groups in clinical neuroscience.