Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Kate Forbes MSP, and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, today (Monday, 28 June) joined Opportunity North East Chairman, Sir Ian Wood KT GBE, and Aberdeen City Region Deal partners and main contractor Robertson Construction for a steel signing ceremony to mark significant construction progress on Aberdeen’s new-build BioHub.
BioHub, scheduled to open in October 2022, will house up to 400 scientific entrepreneurs with the goal of doubling the number of life sciences companies in the region by 2027. It will be home to spinout, start-up and scaling businesses bringing new drugs, treatments, therapies and technology to market and creating high-skill jobs to drive economic recovery in this fast-growing industry sector.
BioHub is a flagship addition to the city’s Foresterhill Health Campus, one of Europe’s largest integrated clinical, research and teaching sites for life sciences and medicine and will catalyse further collaborative innovation across the academic, commercial, and healthcare community.
Around 800 tonnes of steel frame has been installed on the BioHub site since main construction started at the end of March – equalling 1,600 pieces of steel lifted in by two cranes over 10 weeks.
Opportunity North East is the lead partner and a funder for the project, which has secured £20 million of capital funding jointly provided by the Scottish Government and UK Government via the Aberdeen City Region Deal.
Chairman of Opportunity North East, Sir Ian Wood, said: “BioHub is an iconic and truly transformational project that will deliver a huge boost to north east Scotland’s life sciences sector and contribute to the region’s economic recovery by creating jobs and providing the commercial infrastructure to support and attract businesses. Today’s steel signing marks a significant milestone for BioHub and I am delighted to be joined by senior Ministers of both the Scottish and UK Governments. Their continued backing for the project is a massive vote of confidence in our ambition to make Aberdeen one of the UK’s most dynamic locations for life sciences company creation and growth.”
Finance and Economy Secretary Kate Forbes said: "The life sciences sector is a thriving part of Scotland’s economy, growing at more than 10% a year, providing more than 41,000 jobs and on target to achieve £8 billion turnover by 2025. North east Scotland has a distinctive industry cluster focusing on biotherapeutics and digital health, which are significant areas for growth. The Scottish Government investment in BioHub through the Aberdeen City Region Deal will support business creation, bring innovative healthcare solutions to market and deliver new jobs as part of the green economic recovery. This is a crucial time for business, trade and investment in Scotland and investing in our communities will ensure every part of Scotland recovers from the pandemic, helping build an economy for everyone.”
UK Government Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove said: “The BioHub will deliver a world-class facility to support new business start-ups and expand Scotland’s powerhouse of life sciences innovation. This will bring new jobs to the region and build its global reputation as a place for companies to set up and invest. Across Scotland the UK Government is investing more than £1.5 billion into City Region and Growth Deal projects, helping communities to build back better from the pandemic.”
Professor Stephen Logan, Chair of BioAberdeen Limited and ONE Life Sciences, said: “This is a hugely exciting time for life sciences in Aberdeen. We are investing in building the sector network and pipeline of new starts and spinouts, based on the research and innovation within our universities and NHS. The sector’s profile is higher than ever before because of its role in tackling Covid-19. And our research strengths – including biologics and digital health – are industry investment priorities. Life sciences businesses in the region are excited to see BioHub progressing at pace and demand for specialist incubation, grow-on and laboratory accommodation is at an all-time high. BioHub will be a catalyst for growth.”
Councillor Andy Kille, Chair of the Aberdeen City Region Deal Joint Committee, said: “BioHub has been developed with industry to provide leaders in new, early-stage and established businesses with specialist facilities and support to grow and stay in the region. With the backing of the Aberdeen City Region Deal, BioHub will help businesses create new jobs and support a broader economic base for north east Scotland.”
Councillor Jenny Laing, Vice-Chair of the Aberdeen City Region Deal Joint Committee said: “Aberdeen has distinct research and innovation strengths in life sciences - across our companies, universities and NHS – and a track record of producing exciting new businesses. BioHub builds on these qualities to support growing life sciences businesses, create jobs and turn ideas into drugs, treatments and products. It is a landmark investment in life sciences and the sector’s role in the city region’s future economy.”
Lesley Meldrum, NHS Grampian's Head of Innovation Communications, said: "Having the BioHub on our very own Foresterhill Health Campus absolutely cements the north east's commitment to innovation across healthcare, academia and industry. This truly is an exciting time for innovation in Scotland and beyond."
Professor George Boyne, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, said: “As a delivery partner for the Aberdeen BioHub we are delighted to mark this new milestone in its development. The pandemic has brought into sharp focus the need for the University to play an enhanced role in the recovery and development of the north east of Scotland. Our partnership with BioHub will play an important role in this effort, and will add to our existing work on entrepreneurship, start-ups, consultancy and commercialisation. We look forward to working closely with BioHub partners to ensure that our research and innovation can make a significant contribution to the post-pandemic recovery.”
CEO of Robertson Group, Elliot Robertson, said: “This effective partnership between Opportunity North East, NHS Grampian, University of Aberdeen and Government is playing an instrumental role in the recovery, diversification and transformation of Aberdeen by growing the health economy, and we are proud to be the selected construction partner. The project is set to double the number of life science companies in north east Scotland and help the sector to collaborate, innovate and commercialise the next generation of therapies and healthcare solutions. The high-quality iconic building consisting of new innovative offices and lab spaces, will create a working environment that will influence and inspire the scientific entrepreneurs who will take up residence in late 2022.”
Innovative biotech companies based in Aberdeen and the Life Sciences Scotland Industry Leadership Group welcomed the progress on the creation of BioHub.
The profile of life sciences and its economic significance is higher than ever before because of Covid-19. Companies in the region, our health data scientists, the University of Aberdeen and NHS Grampian have been at the forefront of the pandemic response.
More than £1 million of Covid-related Scottish Government funding has gone into new research here. Two Aberdeen businesses, Elasmogen and Vertebrate Antibodies, have worked with the University of Aberdeen to bring forward new diagnostic tests for Covid. Meanwhile, NovaBiotics, another local biotech firm, has repurposed one of its drug candidates for Covid-related infections and secured £1 million of Innovate UK funding for clinical trials.
Throughout the past year, the region’s companies have also maintained their focus on bringing forward new therapies and treatments for some of the world’s most pressing health challenges, from Alzheimer’s disease and antimicrobial resistance to cancer and diabetes.
Deborah O’Neil, CEO of clinical-stage drug discovery company NovaBiotics Ltd, said: “As a new core for our vibrant life science cluster, BioHub will be an asset to be proud of. A state-of-the-art new home for our existing companies, those within our exciting pipeline of local spin-outs and a destination for companies looking for a very warm welcome into the north east of Scotland's fantastic biotech ecosystem.”
Caroline Barelle, CEO of drug discovery pioneer Elasmogen Ltd, said: “Elasmogen is at an incredibly exciting point in the company’s evolution having demonstrated the power of our soloMER technology not only to deliver potent anti-cancer drug candidates but also breakthrough orally delivered biologic therapeutics for inflammatory disease. This hard work and commitment from our team has built the foundation for our current Series A investment round which will enable the company to grow, to recruit more talent and to bolster our drugs pipeline.
“There simply could not be a better time for regional investment into the life sciences sector. Historically Aberdeen and shire has been home to exceptionally innovative biotechs which has created a fertile environment for entrepreneurship and new company creation. The construction of the BioHub will provide a central focal point, a heart, to concentrate our excellence in life sciences, to build critical mass within a vibrant innovative environment, to foster sharing of expertise and ideas, to support existing companies and to create new enterprises,” said Dr Barelle.
Dr Glenn Corr, COO at TauRx Pharmaceuticals Ltd, said: “Progress on the BioHub project and reaching this milestone is exciting news. The project will become a valuable catalyst for collaboration, which will create opportunities for growth and investment in the north east life sciences sector. TauRx’s mission is to discover, develop and commercialise innovative products for the diagnosis, treatment and cure of neurodegenerative diseases caused through protein aggregation. Our current focus is to deliver a successful pivotal phase 3 clinical trial for an accessible and safe Alzheimer’s disease treatment. The science fuelling our work relies on collaboration with the University of Aberdeen, its scientists and partners.”
BioHub is also a strategically significant project for life sciences nationally as the sector continues to grow towards its £8 billion per annum turnover goal in Scotland.
Dave Tudor, Co-chair of the Life Sciences Scotland Industry Leadership Group and Managing Director of the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre, said: “As industry chair of Life Sciences Scotland Industry Leadership Group, I’m delighted to see the Aberdeen BioHub project progressing. This development will add significantly to the Scottish infrastructure, expanding the opportunities for business growth and commercialisation support in the region and is a great example of the university, NHS, industry and government support partnership working well in Scotland. I look forward to the next phase in the growth of the life sciences sector in the north east.”
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