North east Scotland’s life sciences sector is applying its expertise to COVID-19 with companies, researchers, academics and clinicians collaborating and innovating to tackle the pandemic.
The high-value sector is demonstrating its ability to make a significant contribution to the future health economy and the nation’s wellbeing. The sector’s development is a regional economic priority and Opportunity North East (ONE) is leading action and investment with partners to grow the number of life sciences companies in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
In recent weeks, projects drawing on internationally-recognised strengths in areas including biologics and digital health and the region’s strong culture of collaborative innovation have secured more than £1 million of new research funding.
The projects involve teams at the University of Aberdeen and north east life sciences companies, including Elasmogen and Vertebrate Antibodies. They include the development of new methods of testing and screening for COVID-19, creating new surveillance models to map the needs of the most vulnerable individuals, examining the impact of the pandemic on healthcare workers.
NovaBiotics, the Aberdeen-based clinical stage antimicrobials drug discovery company, has also announced the rapid repurposing of its experimental drug Nylexa for secondary bacterial lung infections underlying COVID-19.
Professor Stephen Logan, chair of the ONE Life Sciences sector board, said: “The life sciences sector is at the forefront of the UK's response to coronavirus and will make a significant contribution to the growth of our health economy. Our regional strengths – including biologics and digital health – are growth areas that can transform future healthcare delivery and patient outcomes across a range of modern health challenges, including coronavirus.
“Life sciences businesses not working on COVID-19 currently face challenges, including delays to their research projects and clinical trials in hospitals, and a general decline in investor confidence. Ensuring that this high-value sector bounces back as quickly as possible will require ongoing investment and is a national priority.
“New opportunities are also emerging. Digital ways of working have been introduced with patients and clinicians engaging remotely to a far greater extent than before the pandemic. North east Scotland has well-developed digital health expertise. Building on this is part of our regional strategy to grow the sector. Drug development, the field that many of the region’s companies work in, is an expensive and lengthy process. The current accelerated approach to vaccine development may result in acceptance of new methods that could be adopted in the future to reduce the time and cost involved in clinical testing of novel therapies and bring treatments to market quicker.
“The action and investment by ONE and partners in the region to grow the life sciences sector is more important than ever. Providing specialist support to companies at all stages of their growth and creating the infrastructure and environment that drives innovation and commercialisation will anchor businesses in the region and grow our company cluster. The collective effort in the sector – across our companies, academics and clinicians – will ensure that life sciences is a driver of long-term economic diversity and resilience,” said Professor Logan.
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