Scotland may make us think of bagpipes, kilts and the Loch Ness Monster. But we wondered how the Biorevolution is coming along in Scotland…

top biotechs in scotlandIn fact, this UK country has a strong presence in heavy industries, such as mining and shipping, as well as the largest oil reserves in Europe.

However, this hasn’t stopped Scotland from developing its Biotech scene. Our Labiotech map counts 19 Biotechs, most of them centered around Edinburgh.

As a part of the UK Biotech ecosystem (you can view documentary of the Labiotech Tour here), Scottish Biotechs also have the support of important British initiatives like Innovate UK. Sadly, it also means they will have to deal with the Brexit

scotland labiotech map edinburgh glasgow aberdeen

Besides Innovate UK, an important piece is Scottish Enterprise – the Government’s development agency. In Biotech, its role goes from supporting the startup scene to investing.

Scottish Biotech is also supported by a strong academic environment – even if it’s not as famous as the Golden Triangle. In particular, the Universities of Edinburgh, Strathclyde and Aberdeen have quite a few spin-outs in the life sciences.

Here we take a look at 14 cool Biotechs operating in Scotland…

As usual, the list is in no particular order.


biotech top scotland censo biotechnologies stem cells

Censo Biotechnologies is only a few months old, but its history is not. Censo is the result of the merger between Roslin Cell Sciences and Roslin Cellab. Both were spin-offs out of the Roslin Institute – the institution that created Dolly, the cloned sheep.

Based in Edinburgh, Censo specializes in stem cell technology. With its capabilities to produce any kind of human cell, it provides research services for drug discovery, toxicity testing and cell banking. One of its major focus is to study how responses to drugs vary from person to person.


biotech top scotland novabiotics antibiotic resistance

Based in Aberdeen, Novabiotics develops novel anti-infectives and therapies for cystic fibrosis. So far, it has raised €22M in private funding and has 6 candidates in clinical development.

To tackle the emerging problem of antibiotic resistance, NovaBiotics develops novel antifungal and antibacterial molecules (peptides and aminothiols) that kill bacteria – instead of just inhibiting its growth. This mechanism of action is less likely to let bacteria develop drug resistance to its products.


biotech top scotland ingenza synbio biochemical pathways

Founded in 2002, Ingenza is a private SynBio Biotech focusing on enhanced biofuels, sustainable manufacturing of chemicals and the production of protein therapeutics. It’s also based in Roslin, in the outskirts of Edinburgh.

Ingenza also relies on inABLE, its proprietary toolkit for high-throughput combinatorial genetics. It shortens the time it takes to develop a new biochemical pathway.


biotech top scotland celtic renewables biofuels whisky draff

Founded in 2012, Celtic Renewables is aiming to make next-generation biofuels from the waste of one of the most iconic Scottish industries – whisky. In September it received a £11M grant, and is partners with Bio Base Europe (Belgium) and Novozymes (Denmark).

Celtic Renewables develops a process to use draff (a by-product from destillation of whisky) as a raw material. It is then fermented with Clostridium bacteria to different useful chemicals, such as butanol.


biotech top scotland nucana cancer

Nucana is an Edinburgh-based Biotech developing therapies for cancer. It was founded in 2008. Since then, it raised over €48M in 2 rounds led by Sofinnova (one of the top European Biotech VCs).

It develops ProTides, a protective phosphoramidate compound that can be combined with other anti-cancer medicines to bypass resistance mechanisms of the tumor. Its pipeline has 6 candidates for several types of solid tumors.


biotech top scotland sympromics synthetic promoters DNA

Synpromics was one of the companies featured in the Labiotech Tour in the UK (see the video here). It is also active in industrial and agricultural biotechnology, as well as cell and gene therapy, even striking a deal with uniQure.

Synpromics also raised £2.1M back in 2015, as it develops synthetic promoters, a part of DNA that controls how much a given gene is transcribed. With custom-made promoters genetic engineering can be more precisely controlled and better suited for industrial applications.


biotech top scotland r biomedical regenerative medicine

Based in Edinburgh’s BioQuarter, R Biomedical is focused on regenerative medicine research. It has won a SMART Award from Scottish Enterprise, as well as a GHP award for ‘Best Regenerative Medicine Product Development’.

R Biomedical provides primary culture samples from human volunteers. It works on research of several diseases, including Alzheimer’s (in the CRACK IT UnTangle project).


biotech top scotland tc biopharm gamma delta T-cells

Based near Glasgow,  TC BioPharm is developing cell therapies for cancer and severe viral infection. It was founded in 2013 and has raised  over £3.3M in seed equity and grants.

Its therapies consist of isolating γδ T-cells from patients, activating them in vitro and expanding them to large numbers. When administered back to the patient, they boost the patient’s immune system. This therapy is currently in Phase II/III trial for late-stage cancers.


biotech top scotland glycomar glycobiology marine drug discovery

GlycoMar is based at the European Centre for Marine Biotechnology, near Oban. The Biotech has struck collaborations with MicroA (Norway) for a new active ingredient for skin care and has recently received an Innovate UK grant along with Mars Chocolate for new compounds that can replace sugar.

Its strategy is to mine for interesting compounds from marine sources, such as microalgae or invertebrates. In particular, GlycoMar works with carbohydrates with anti-inflammatory properties. After drug discovery, it develops them for the pharmaceutical, cosmetics or nutritional industries.


biotech top scotland cellucomp biobased cellulose fibres

Based in Burntisland (near Edinburgh), CelluComp is developing biobased materials. In March it completed a £3.7M funding round, from investors like FPCI CapAgro Innovation (France) and Soffinova (one of best Biotech VCs in Europe), as well as Scottish Enterprise.

CelluComp develops Curran, a material extracted from roots of vegetables (carrots and sugar beets, for example). The process can use waste from the food industry, and the resulting nano-cellulose fibres have been used in applications as diverse as paints, concrete, high-end skateboards and even an award-winning fishing rod.


biotech top scotland bbi detection biodefence biothreats

BBI Detection is located in Dundee and is part of the BBI Group (wich also has healthcare and lab supply businesses). It’s a biodefense company, with facilities in the UK and in the US.

BBI Detection developed IMASS, a handheld device that can identify explosives or biothreats, such as anthrax or ricin. Besides these portable assays, it also develops antibodies to detect a wide range of bacteria, viruses and toxins.


biotech top scotland cytosystems mcm biomarker urine biopsy

Cytosystems was founded in 2006 in Aberdeen. Its cancer diagnostics are based on research from the Universities of Cambridge and Aberdeen. Among its backers, it lists Innovate UK and Scottish Enterprise, as well as Horizon 2020 – from which Cytosystems recently got a €3.2M grant.

Cytosystem’s diagnostics track mini-chromosome maintenance (MCM), a biomarker linked to a variety of cancers. This is the basis for its first commercial product (LightBladder), a non-invasive bladder cancer diagnostic that relies on urine samples – reducing the need for regular cytoscopies.


biotech top scotland taurx tau protein alzheimer's

TauRx is a spin-off out of the University of Aberdeen. Focused on neurodegenerative diseases, it was incorporated in 2002 in Singapore but its research center is located in Aberdeen. Its latest fundraising got a massive €120M from private investors.

The Biotech is currently in 2 Phase III trials for Alzheimer’s with LMTX, its second-generation tau aggregation inhibitor. This therapeutic strategy is based on the research of Claude Wischik, who identified tau-protein as a major cause for the formation neurofibrillatory ‘tangles’.


biotech top scotland mgb biopharma antibiotic resistance

Based in Glasgow, MGB Biopharma has been developing a new class of anti-infectives since 2010. So far, it has raised $9.4M from several investors, including the Scottish Co-investment Fund (SCF) – part of Scottish Enterprise.

The new class of anti-infectives are called minor groove binders. These compounds bind to the minor groove of the DNA’s helix structure, allowing to target specific strains and stop DNA replication. Its leading candidate is MGB-BP-3, which targets Clostridium difficile infections and has recently completed a Phase I trial.


Scottish Enterprise seems to play an important role, having matched investments in several of the Biotechs listed – a scheme similar to Bpifrance, which also has significant influence over Paris’ Biotechs.

All in all, there’s a lot of variety in Scottish Biotech. This includes a high number of industrial biotechnology companies, in comparison with Biotech hubs like London or Copenhagen.


Feature Image Credit: Pixabay

Editorial Update 01/08/16: NovaBiotics now has 6 candidates in its pipeline, not 4. 

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