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14 April 2003

World Famous Scottish Biotechnology sold
off to the States due to lack of funding
and management resources

Dr James Irvine

FRSE, DSc, FRCPEd, FRCPath, FInstBiol

Teviot Scientific Consultancy, Edinburgh
Teviot Agriculture, Cultybraggan Farm, Comrie, Perthshire

(Filed 14 April 2003)

Dolly the sheep may be world famous and earned a place in the Royal Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, but this has not saved the biotechnology that lead to this world class success being sold off to the States (1, 2). The reason given is on account of lack of funding and management resources, necessitating the Scottish Company based at Roslin near Edinburgh (PPL Therpeutics plc) to focus their future activities solely on protein based therapeutics.

The Scottish Executive has been trumpeting the need for the development in Scotland of high quality technology, while regretting the egress from Scotland of multinationals some of whom have decided that it is is better for them to take their high tech development initiatives elsewhere.

Scottish Enterprise through its Biotechnology Group is supposed to be the main Government Agency promoting the growth of biotechnology in Scotland. Yet the first speaker at the Scottish Countryside Alliance Conference last week (Professor Derek Reid, University of Abertay, Dundee, an experienced businessman) stated categorically that in his view Scottish Enterprise had been a failure over the last 10 years. He also stressed the dire state of the Scottish economy compared to that of England and indeed of other small countries within Europe. His views were recently reported when he was the subject of a business profile (3). Bill Jamieson's article “Why Scottish Enterpirse just isn’t working” makes alarming reading (4).

On contacting the Scottish Enterprises Biotechnolgoy Group press office, they stated that they could not comment until after the election on May 1st as Scottish Enterprise is a Government Agency and cannot make statements when the Scottish Parliament is dissolved. This absurd example of postured political correctness is difficult to understand with regard to an event that had happened, and had been flagged up over the past year as likely to happen.

Is the excuse of political correctness used in relation to a question about a past major event simply to enable the politicians to put spin on the response to an entriely predictable enquiry? Presumably the Biotechnology Group of Scottish Enterprise must have had a view about it, and that view must have been formulated while the Scottish Parliament was sitting. Scottish Enterprise have kindly offered to meet with me next week at a time to be arranged.

In finishing it is sad to reflect that to date no UK Company could compete to produce a competent postmortem test for BSE in cattle - something that is now in three varieties of EC approved commercial kits and extensively used throughout Europe (5). The UK as it dispenses with the over thirty months slaughter scheme for cattle will shortly have to follow suit involving vast numbers of cattle, but pay other countries for their expertise and commercial enterprise. What indeed is happening to UK Biotechnology?

Dr James Irvine
© www.land-care.org.uk



1. PPL spins off cloning business. The Courier, 11 April 2003.
(Filed 14 April 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).

2. Dey, Iain (2003). Scott: PPL still short of cash despite venture deal. The Scotsman, Friday 11 April 2003.
(Filed 14 April 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).

3. Beach, Andrew (2003). A Profile of Professor Derek Reid. Tourism's maverick is getting back to basics BUSINESS IN PERSON. The Scotsman, 11th April 2003.
(Filed 14 April 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).

4. Jamieson, Bill (2003). Why Scottish Enterprise just isn't working. The Scotsman, 7 March 2003.

5. Moynagh J. and Schimmel, H. (1999). Tests for BSE evaluated. Nature, 400: 105.
(Download PDF). Reproduced with permission.