Life Sciences

Chairman's Foreword


In 2020, COVID-19 disrupted health, wellbeing, the economy, research and innovation. Each of us faced personal and professional challenges with family life and work turned upside down. Current events mean the start of the new year will be difficult, but the vaccination rollout is underway, and we will come through this.


We can all agree that the life sciences sector has demonstrated adaptability and resilience. It has responded at a fast pace to multiple health challenges, most notably with the development of vaccines. The situation is fast-moving. The NHS and researchers are now dealing with a worrying COVID-19 variant.


The more positive news is that the sector’s profile is very high and continues to grow with record levels of investor interest. Life sciences is a health and economic priority. The work in businesses, labs and hospital wards is essential to national recovery and the post-COVID economy. An economy, we hope, driven by innovation and providing high-value jobs and new careers for young people.


There are exciting opportunities ahead. Our regional research strengths are global investment priorities. Biologics, medtech and digital health innovations will deliver new therapeutics, transform healthcare and produce better outcomes for patients.


The focus in the region on doubling the size of the company cluster is more crucial than ever. The partnership approach to sector development includes companies, the University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University, NHS, local and national government. We will deliver resources and new facilities to help you – the life sciences community – to achieve more faster. Aberdeen will be one of the most exciting locations in the UK to innovate and commercialise and BioHub will be the place for you to create and grow new life sciences businesses and scale established companies.


I encourage you to maintain your momentum and ambition, take up the support available to you and factor BioHub into your plans to turn research and ideas into new therapies, products and services.


I wish you all well on behalf of the boards of Opportunity North East and BioAberdeen. Please recognise everything that you have achieved this year, continue to support each other, and stay safe.


Prof Stephen Logan

Chair, ONE Life Sciences and BioAberdeen Ltd

Life Sciences

BioHub will be the place for the region’s high-growth life sciences sector to innovate, commercialise and scale businesses to deliver new drugs, healthtech and medtech, and digital health solutions.

The £40 million project moves into its main construction phase in early 2021.

The landmark new-build on the Foresterhill Health Campus will provide start-up laboratory space for new spinouts and early-stage businesses and grow-on bespoke space for established and scaling companies. BioHub will be a focal point for collaboration, new partnerships and investor engagement.

Digital health innovation opportunities

Artificial intelligence is revolutionising healthcare, from applications in diagnostics and modelling through to patient monitoring apps and the fast-growing healthtech sector.
Two prototype AI solutions for fracture diagnosis are in development in Aberdeen through a landmark digital project co-funded by ONE and the Scottish Government that aims to free up radiologists to focus on more complex cases.
Machine learning applied to initial screening will identify patients with fractures faster, reduce the length and number of hospital stays, and ensure that complex fractures heal more quickly.
Two companies – SeeAI and Bering – are working alongside NHS Grampian, the University of Aberdeen, and Canon Medical Research Europe.
The region has significant strengths in health data science. A new triple helix group of the NHS, University of Aberdeen, Robert Gordon University and ONE is developing a series of digital health and healthtech projects, to accelerate innovation and bring solutions to market.

Regional ambition, national impacts

Life sciences growth in Aberdeen is critical to achieving the national sector ambition.
Life sciences in Scotland aims to achieve £8 billion turnover by 2025. It currently employs more than 41,000 people across 770 organisations with a turnover of £6.5 billion.
A new plan, published by the Life Sciences Scotland Industry Leadership Group at the end of November, sets out industry and government’s priorities in response to Covid-19. It aims to provide patients with access to new and existing treatments and services and ensure the sector continues its remarkable growth. The priorities identified to help Scotland’s people, industry and economy are pharmaceutical supply chain and innovation; health technology; and animal health, agritech and aquaculture.
There is strong alignment between the action and investment in life sciences in the region and the national priorities across innovation and commercialisation, creating the right business environment, maximising industry’s global footprint, and anchoring companies and jobs for the long term.

Life Sciences
Bespoke business support for the sector

More bespoke support from ONE has helped the sector to prepare for and pursue its commercialisation ambitions during 2020.
Knowing the pressure on leaders in the current fast-changing environment, the ONE Life Sciences Leadership Forum launched in the spring to focus on commercial issues and provide practical support to businesses at all stages of their growth. The initial series of online workshops dealt with digital marketing and engagement, value propositions, data visualisation, IP and clinical pathway strategies, and investor readiness.
The 2021 programme is under development and will take account of the sector's evolving needs.
Dr Jude Huggan and Dr Sheila Batchelor from Aberdeen-based microbiology, biological material storage and analytical services company NCIMB Ltd participated in the initial workshops. Dr Huggan said: "These workshops afforded NCIMB valuable insight into key aspects of digital marketing, which we can utilise to increase our digital presence as we look to raise awareness of our full range of products and services and deliver our growth strategy."
Rebecca Andersen, Market Access and Corporate Communications Manager at TauRX, a leader in Alzheimer's disease research, said: "The first series of ONE Life Sciences Leadership Forum sessions were the perfect balance of new information, reinforcement of important principals and well-pitched, practical guidance. For me, being new to the industry, it was also a great way to meet others in similar positions from different life sciences companies."

Working with next generation companies

ONE helped the next generation of life sciences entrepreneurs in the region to take their first commercialisation steps. ONE’s introduction to start-up programme ran in September and October, introducing people with research and ideas to lean start-up tools to assess their commercial potential and develop their value propositions. ONE funded the programme and worked with BioCity Group on its delivery.
The programme identified two exciting early-stage concepts, and their founders are benefitting from additional development support and coaching.
atLast is developing an early warning test that can alert surgeons to potentially toxic levels of local anaesthetic during surgical procedures. CFTest is researching the development of a hand-held scanner that can detect early-stage cancers.
Rebecca Parr of atLast is principal scientist with Scotia Biologics and is working towards a PhD with the University of Aberdeen. She said: “I jumped at the opportunity to take part in the programme. It has given me invaluable insight into the world of business start-up and product commercialisation. I have learnt so much from inspiring people who have been through the process themselves. With their shared knowledge and experience, I now feel more prepared to take the first steps into the development of a commercial product.”
ONE will launch a new life sciences accelerator programme in January to support and increase commercialisation within the region’s academic, clinical and research communities.

Life Sciences
Network meetings and national profile

The regional life sciences community continued to meet and share insights and to raise its profile with national audiences through opportunities created by ONE.
The ONE Life Sciences Network successfully pivoted to a virtual format. It brought the local community together and explored the changing healthcare environment, the regional response to COVID-19 and the commercialisation journey of Aberdeen medtech business Sirakoss.
ONE’s partnership with The Times and Sunday Times Scotland delivered the inaugural Scottish Life Sciences Summit in Aberdeen at the end of February, including special guests Nobel laureate Sir Greg Winter (pictured above) and Dr John McCafferty. ONE was also a partner in the virtual Scotsman Life Sciences Conference in December that saw the formal launch of the Scottish Life Sciences Covid-19 Strategic Response Plan. Both events provided valuable platforms to showcase Aberdeen companies, raise the region’s profile and generated significant media coverage.

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