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Searching for new drugs If there is one thing we can be sure of, it is that the human population will continue to suffer from disease and that we will need new, smarter, more tailored drugs to treat them.  …


This issue of Science Scotland focuses on searching for new drugs to improve treatment of existing diseases, as well as to explore opportunities of addressing treatment of diseases which have suffered from lack of attention up until now. A great example of this is captured in the philosophy of the Dundee Drug Discovery Unit (DDU). This is real innovation in the drug discovery landscape, where research scientists with academic and company backgrounds are brought together around world-class facilities to address the needs of big pharma and translate basic research into potential drug candidates. The DDU expertise is open for others to use and the satisfying twist in the tail is that as well as addressing the needs of big pharma, the DDU is also turning its attention to new drugs for neglected diseases which affect a large proportion of the world’s poorest people and wouldn’t normally be the target of big pharma. The activity in translational biology around Dundee is formidable, and demonstrates what you can achieve with great leadership, energy and the courage to focus and invest in your strengths.

It is hard for a country the size of Scotland to compete on the world stage in drug discovery and yet we do this, especially at the early research stage, by thinking differently. All around the globe, people know of “Dolly the sheep”, the world’s first cloned mammal, and much of our understanding of stem cells, which give rise to all the other cell types in the body, came from this pioneering research. This has delivered opportunities such as laboratory generation of blood cells so that erratic supplies of blood from donors can be addressed. This is a collaboration between the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and Glasgow University, along with Dundee, Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh Universities, bringing together a powerful combination of biological knowledge with engineering and bio-processing to scale up production. There is something of real importance to note here and that is that there is an appetite for collaboration, between universities, research institutes, big and small business and across disciplines, which opens up new possibilities for research and development. I believe the more we collaborate, the more we capitalise on our outstanding research in life sciences and take advantage of our small size and research-intensive nature in Scotland, the greater the economic and health impacts could be for Scotland.

There is a lot in this issue that will inspire you, such as reading the story of the University of Aberdeen spin-out company Haptogen and how that led its co-founder Andy Porter to help set up an angel investment firm to invest in other great ideas, as well as to develop a new teaching course at the university in biobusiness to stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit in the next generation of life scientists.  This is the same sort of vision that Graham Coombs demonstrates in his leadership of the University
of Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Science.  

The future looks good for translating Scottish life science research into the drugs of the future. We need to keep working hard and embracing innovative approaches to make sure it happens.

Professor Anne Glover CBE FRSE FRSA
Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland

"Foreword". Science Scotland (Issue Eleven)
Printed from on 05/04/20 07:56:50 AM

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