Local expertise attracts top innovators
Some of the UK’s leading drug research and development companies are gathering at the University of Aberdeen tomorrow (September 1) for an influential biologics conference, “Biologics – the next generation therapeutics?”
This event, organised by the BioIndustry Association (BIA), the trade association for UK biotech, is taking place at the University’s Institute of Medical Sciences.
Biologics, drugs based on large complex molecules produced in a living system in contrast to chemically synthesised pharmaceutical drugs, are a major advance in modern medicine. This event will highlight the increasing impact these drugs are having on mainstream pharmaceutical drug development and examine how best to develop Scotland’s already significant expertise in this area.
Scotland’s growing importance as a centre of excellence for biologics research is exemplified by the work being carried out at the University of Aberdeen. The University’s expertise in immunology and genetic engineering has led to the successful spin-out company Haptogen Ltd, and generated additional projects in this field at the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen.
Professors Rob Barker and Andy Porter are responsible for some of the biologics research at the University of Aberdeen. Their work focuses on two main approaches:
The first identifies small fragments of biologic molecules with the ability to treat disease by controlling the immune system. The second allows large populations of biologic molecules (100 billion in a test tube) to be maintained in the laboratory and, from these potential “drug libraries”, select, quickly and reliably, new leads as possible treatments. Together, these approaches are providing potential new treatments for a growing number of diseases, some of which were previously considered incurable.
The teams are developing a wide range of biologic drugs for a number of clinical indications including allergy; autoimmune diseases in which the immune system damages the body, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, coelaic disease, diabetes, asthma and some forms of anaemia; reactions to blood groups; viral and bacterial infections.
Tomorrow’s conference will attract a range of academic and commercial delegates from throughout Scotland and England who are engaged in large molecule discovery and associated industries. Representatives from major European pharmaceutical companies will also demonstrate their requirements for collaborations with small and medium-sized businesses. A number of BIA Scotland Associate members including ITI Life Sciences, Marks and Clerk and McGrigors are sponsors of this event.
Dr Barbara Blaney, Director, BIA Scotland, commented: ”The BIA is committed to the long term support of UK biopharmaceutical drug development. Biopharmaceuticals are the fastest growing sector of the global pharmaceutical industry, accounting for over 30% of drugs currently in development. Scotland already has a wealth of expertise in this area, hence the choice of Aberdeen as a location for this inaugural event.”
Colin Donald, Director of Finance and Competitive Business at Scottish Enterprise Grampian, said: “This is BIA’s inaugural biologics event and it is significant that the decision was made to hold the event in Aberdeen.
“The region is certainly gaining a reputation as a centre where small companies with a bio technical base can receive the support necessary to develop and grow. One of the case studies featured at the conference is Haptogen spin-out from the University of Aberdeen, and a great example of how leading experts in their field can also be highly successful commercially.”
Professor Rob Barker, Professor of Immunology at Aberdeen, said: “Aberdeen is rapidly becoming an internationally recognised centre for the development of peptide therapy, based on the use of small fragments of biological molecules to treat disease by controlling the immune system.
“This approach is transforming the way we think about treating many serious diseases for which there is currently no safe or effective therapy”.
Professor Andy Porter, Chief Scientific Officer at Haptogen and Professor of Biotechnology at the University, said: “Biologic drugs are typically derived from our own bodies’ defence mechanisms, for example antibodies, and early indications would suggest that they are safe, efficacious and of significant commercial value.”
Professor Dominic Houlihan, Vice Principal for Research and Commercialisation at the University of Aberdeen, added: “The conference highlights the research expertise in life sciences and medicine that is currently ongoing at the University of Aberdeen.
“Some of our best medical scientists are speaking about their discoveries and commercial activities. It’s a fantastic opportunity to further translate our lab findings into clinical solutions.”
Following the conference at 5.30pm, Scottish Enterprise Grampian will host a networking reception attended by The Lord Provost of Aberdeen, John Reynolds and Professor Dominic Houlihan, Vice Principal of Research and Innovation at the University of Aberdeen, in the Atrium of the IMS building at Foresterhill, to enable delegates to informally share their experiences of the day.
For details on the Conference and how to register, email Dr Claire Melville on firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors:
BIA (BioIndustry Association) exists to encourage and promote a financially sound and thriving bioscience sector within the UK economy and concentrates its efforts on emerging enterprise and the related interests of companies with whom such enterprise trades.
With over 350 members, the BIA supports a wide range of sectors, majoring on the human health benefits of the technology and represents the interests of these innovative companies to a broad section of stakeholders from patient groups to politicians, advancing its members interests both within the UK and internationally to create a healthy UK bioscience sector which benefits society.
Scottish Enterprise is the main economic development agency for Scotland covering 93 per cent of the population from Grampian to the Borders. The Scottish Enterprise Network consists of Scottish Enterprise and 12 Local Enterprise Companies. Working in partnership with the private and public sectors the Network aims to build more and better businesses, to develop the skills and knowledge of Scottish people, and to encourage innovation to make Scottish business internationally competitive.
Issued by the Communications Team, Office of External Affairs, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen. Tel: (01224) 272014.
Issued on: Wednesday 31st of August 2005
Contact: Jennifer Phillips