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Future's bright for Scottish life sciences
Venture fund for the Life Sciences is setting a precedent for the future of scientific research
Oliver Gauld
Wednesday, 06 February, 2013 | 01:00

The University of Edinburgh’s involvement in a new venture fund for the Life Sciences is setting a precedent for the future of scientific research.

The £50 million fund, fronted by US giants Rock Spring Ventures, has also secured investment agreements from the universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen, as well as other enterprising organisations from across Scotland.

Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea, Edinburgh University principal heralded the development as a key step in “benefiting society and the Scottish economy”, while Rock Spring Ventures express enthusiasm at maximising the "full potential of world-class" Scottish talent.

The aim is to recognise young enterprises with innovative ideas in the Life Sciences, and supporting them through to optimise the outcomes for society and economy.

Progress in science, pharmaceuticals and medicine lies at the mercy of financial backing – finite resources for infinite demand.

This undertaking comes at a critical point in time for science and demonstrates sensible foresight into the domains that will really make a difference in the future.

An investment of this magnitude also symbolises apt recognition of, and confidence in, the quality and standard of Scottish research on an international scale – a well-deserved ‘thank you’ to many hard-working individuals.

Much of the research conducted at top science facilities relates back to humans and the study of natural, living things.

The Life Sciences, as an umbrella term, now encompasses an ever-expanding list of research disciplines – ranging from Molecular Biology to Computational Neuroscience.

This capital venture fund will encourage and support new ideas in the Life Sciences that can be applied through the field of translational research to make a difference to everyday lives.

Particular emphasis is being placed on the generation of solutions to problems faced in modern medicine, as well as innovate design and advancement of novel technology.

The formation of Edinburgh University-based spin-out companies is just one of the many optimistic prospects officials maintain will be a product of this venture launch.

Grant Wheeler, head of company formation and incubation at Edinburgh University’s Research and Innovation, recognises this investment as a strategic manoeuvre – securing many ‘long-term benefits’ for the conduction of research and teaching at the University.

These may manifest greater facilities; allowing research groups to ‘build capacity’, as well as nurturing links with industry, enhancing ‘career paths’ for students.

Kelly Sharp, of Scottish Enterprise – another important investor in the fund - told The Journal: "What’s good for the sector, is good for the educational and research institutions feeding into it and opportunities for students to translate their ideas into real benefits for global community are now there for the taking."

The success of the Edinburgh BioQuarter initiative demonstrates the potential of a working system that combines and enterprises fundamental research with financial backing and target-goals.

A functional partnership between Edinburgh University researchers and the GlaxoSmithKline drug discovery unit, mediated by BioQuarter in 2011, exemplifies successful business-science collaboration - this team are tackling the pharmacological treatment of acute pancreatitis.

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