Drug Discovery and Clinical Research

Scotland’s life sciences sector is at the forefront of driving innovation in drug discovery and serving the pharmaceutical industry.  Over 150 young, innovative companies at the cutting edge of essential capabilities such as precision medicine, data-driven drug discovery and preclinical assays enable some of the largest pharmaceutical companies across the world to advance their programmes and optimise their processes. With capabilities covering the full supply chain from compound discovery to contract manufacturing, Scotland’s life sciences sector provides an abundance of innovation.

Drug Discovery

There are over 30 companies in Scotland developing therapeutics and collaborating with partners every day including:

  • Aberdeen-based TauRx developing a first-in-class, disease modifying therapeutic for Alzheimers
  • Glasgow-based TC Biopharm leaders in the development of CAR-T products for treatment of solid and hematological tumours 
  • Aberdeen-based Novabiotics developing first-in-class treatments for cystic fibrosis (Phase II; FDA Fast Track Designation) 
  • Dundee spinout Exscientia, a leading Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven drug discovery company.

With biologics continuing to dominate the global pharmaceutical market, and monoclonal antibodies representing some of the top sellers transforming the treatment of various indications, The Scottish Biologics Facility (SBF) has developed a world-class reputation for generating antibodies from phage display libraries together with a variety of in-house “tool kits” specifically tailored to progress them to commercially viable assets. 

The long standing culture of world-leading pre-clinical and clinical research along with the well established therapeutics companies in Scotland, has generated a dynamic cluster of expert providers of innovative discovery assays and screening services supporting early lead identification and validation.  This includes the National Centre for Phenotypic screening, a world-class facility for phenotypic screening and the Joint European Compound Library and European Screening Centre, part of the €37M ESCulab project.


Pre-Clinical Research

This dynamic cluster extends to preclinical research with global leaders in contract research such as Charles River Laboratories, BioReliance, SGS and Sartorius Stedim Biotech.  Specialist companies such as REPROCELL, Aquila Biomedical, OracleBio and Clyde Biosciences provide innovative solutions for pre-clinical efficacy and safety testing with >50% of biosafety testing in Europe conducted in Scotland.  With specific expertise in biologics, Scotland’s life sciences sector also provides services in antibody drug conjugates and biosimilars.


Clinical Research

Efficient, cost-effective and streamlined clinical research is enabled by a unified health provider (NHS) collaborating across academia, government and industry.  Clinical research in Scotland is made all the more powerful through a unique patient identifier number (CHI) used from cradle to grave, creating a world-leading data-driven research environment.

Specifically, Scotland’s connected and data-driven clinical research environment provides pharmaceutical and drug discovery companies with:

  • Single point access to clinical investigators and patients across all major therapeutic areas including diabetes, oncology, dementia, MS and stroke
  • A rapid, efficient and predictable study start-up across Scotland through a co-ordinated national approach 
  • Streamlined and reliable tissue procurement with managed access via clinical provider networks 
  • A clinical CRO company base that can support Phase I to IV clinical trials and post-market surveillance including eight of the top 10 global CROs which are based in Scotland


Data-Driven Innovation

Scotland has a world-leading informatics research base that can be applied to the development of new healthcare solutions – from inspiring new therapeutic targets to efficiently evaluating real-world value.   The sector’s key capabilities in data science, genomics and device design and manufacture are connected to industry through Innovation Centres such as Precision Medicine Scotland and companies such as BioClavis and ExScientia which are developing innovative solutions for pharma/biotech – from drug discovery to the clinic.


Specialist Services

Scotland’s life sciences sector supports over 50 specialist service and product companies including tissue procurement, data analytics, imaging analysis, clinical trial packaging, quality management systems and regulatory consulting.  Scotland’s specialised logistics network is reflected in its dominant position in European biosafety testing with delivery to most European destinations within 24 hours.