Scottish multi-million pound health link-up with South Korea

Scottish multi-million pound health link-up with South Korea


The University of Aberdeen and one of its spin-out companies Haptogen have secured two multi-million pound research partnerships with South Korea, thanks, in part, to an intensive effort over five years by Scottish Development International to build relationships between Scotland and South Korea’s life sciences communities.

The deals focus on research into drugs to combat Alzheimer’s disease and infectious diseases such as the “superbug” MRSA.

The partnerships are the first projects awarded funding under the International Collaborative Research Programme for Drug Development in which Scottish organisations partner with Korean organisations to compete for up to £1m per year from the South Korean Government through the Korea Health Industry Development Institute.

A one-day symposium, attended by some of Korea’s leading scientists, is being held in Edinburgh on Wednesday (May 18) to provide Scottish science organisations with more information on how to access this year’s round of funding and learn about opportunities for collaboration.

Enterprise Minister Jim Wallace said: “This is an excellent example of how countries can succeed through working in partnership and I am delighted that we are able to combine both countries’ mutual expertise in the pursuit of life enhancing medicines. I thank KHIDI for the research programme funding which has resulted in these two projects being supported.

Both projects have the potential to bring real benefits to patients and I look forward to hearing of their progress over the coming months and years.”

Martin Togneri, Chief Executive of Scottish Development International, said: “The links forged between Scotland and South Korea over the last 7 years have been one of the most innovative and ambitious projects ever undertaken by SDI and Scottish Enterprise and I am delighted to see it bearing fruit. A key priority now is to ensure that the groundbreaking science at the heart of these projects is used to spawn other opportunities within the life sciences sector in Scotland.”

He added: “This is not the end of the story however as we are continuing to build on these links with a number of ongoing activities including next month’s Korea-Scotland life sciences seminar in Edinburgh which will be attended by a high level delegation from Korea.”

The combined total of the deals won by Dr Bettina Platt from the University’s School of Medical Sciences and biotechnology spin-out Haptogen is worth £2 million in the first year with the South Korean government and the South Korean companies providing matched funding. The initial commitment to the projects is for 6 years with the potential to extend for another 3 years in to the clinic. This puts the total potential investment in these projects in Scotland at £18 million. Both partnerships involve major collaboration with key Korean companies.

One award is to aid Dr Platt’s team to work closely with researchers at Korean company LG Life Sciences to develop new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and affects more than 400,000 patients, their families and carers, in the UK alone.

Dr Platt, a neuroscientist, said: "This project is an exciting opportunity to explore new avenues in the search for treatments for one of the most devastating of human diseases. It comes at a time where the effectiveness of the existing limited treatments has been seriously questioned by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, and we hope to bring in some new ideas and approaches. This partnership will also allow us to expand on our existing research into neurodegenerative disorders and related drug development."

Seven researchers will be recruited to the Aberdeen based University team, which will also be joined by a scientist from LG Life Sciences. Between 10 and 12 people will work on the project in Korea.

The second partnership is with University spin-out Haptogen who are collaborating with leading Korean pharmaceutical company DaeWoong in a deal worth £1.5M over three years to the Aberdeen company.

The deal involves the partners working to develop new drugs to fight infectious diseases, such as MRSA and Pseudomanas aeruginosa, which are both “superbugs” and serious bacterial infections associated with cystic fibrosis, patients in intensive care and patients who have suffered severe burns.

The partnership combines Haptogen’s innovative approach to drug discovery with the development, manufacturing and marketing expertise of DaeWoong. The collaboration will bring new therapies, targeted at important bacterial infections, to the market.

Jim Reid, Chief Executive Officer at Haptogen, added: “We’re very pleased to have concluded this agreement with such a substantial company. Our complementary skills will enable the fast-tracking of new, more powerful therapies for diseases that kill around 15 million people each year around the world.”

Dr Liz Rattray, the University's Company Development Manager, said: "These are tremendous achievements for both sets of teams. We are delighted to be forming these new collaborative programmes where our internationally recognised research excellence will develop new therapeutic approaches to serious diseases."

Professor Dominic Houlihan, the University’s Vice Principal of Research and Commercialisation, added: “The University already has a number of strong international links and we are delighted with these new collaborations with Korea which are part of our plans of bringing in more investment from abroad.

“We know that Aberdeen is leading the way in many areas of medical research and these partnerships underline that other countries are recognising that too.”

The Korea Scotland Life Sciences Seminar at on May 18 will bring together some of the world’s top experts in life sciences including Dr Woo-Suk Hwang of Seoul National University and Scottish stem-cell expert Dr Ian Wilmut, joint head of the department of Gene Expression and Development, Roslin Institute.

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