Scots life science sector raises £600m-plus in three years

More than £600 million has been raised for Scottish-headquartered life science companies in the past three years, according to data revealed today.

Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen offer pockets of growth, according to the report. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto.
Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen offer pockets of growth, according to the report. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto.

Scotland is an emerging centre of excellence in the UK, with Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen offering “pockets of growth,” the latest data from Pitchbook, analysed by global property firm Savills, has found.

The latter firm said that while Edinburgh and Glasgow account for about half the total number of capital-raising deals recorded in Scotland since 2018, Aberdeen is “one to watch” as an emerging life science cluster with the total raised in 2020 being nearly a fifth more than in the previous two years altogether.

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The property firm said that although data for the Granite City is currently based on fewer deals than Glasgow and Edinburgh, the growth shows that it can be home to larger capital-raising transactions.

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Savills highlighted key venture-capital-raising deals in the life science sector in Scotland in 2020:

- Pheno Therapeutics, a developer of therapies and drugs to repair damage to the nervous system. The company, spun out from the University of Edinburgh, raised £5m in February to investigate potential multiple sclerosis treatments.

- Aberdeen-based Nod-Thera, operator of a clinical-stage biotechnology company aiming to develop medicines to treat diseases driven by chronic inflammation. It raised £44m in June in a deal led by Novo Holdings.

- Roslin Technologies, a joint venture between the University of Edinburgh and two investment and business development partners, launched a £50m capital raise in July. The agriculture biotechnology company specialises in, say, genome sequencing, gene editing, transgenics, phenotyping and bioinformatics, providing food-producers with sustainable protein production across the livestock and aquaculture sectors.

Steve Lang, research director at Savills, said: “With the global hunt for a cure to end the Covid-19 health pandemic, there has been a significant increase in the level of interest from all corners of the market to understand the future role of the life science sector. From a real estate perspective, in the UK it is interesting to see where there is growth.

Noteworthy

“The UK is very good at discovery within a life science context. [Research and development] capabilities have grown significantly and the presence of global companies in the country is noteworthy.”

Savills also noted that London, the South-East and east of England regions continue to dominate the UK’s life science sector, catalysed by the strength of the Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire markets.

Mr Lang said that nonetheless, there were “pockets of growth elsewhere in the UK that should not be ignored, and we recognise Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen as three such cities”.

Hugh Rutherford, director in the business space agency team at Savills in Edinburgh, commented: “Edinburgh is particularly well-placed to take advantage of the essential critical mass and unique mix of bioscience, health, clinical sciences, education and increasingly the close links developing between technology and bioscience. This latter linkage will be crucial going forward and will benefit from recent City Deal funding.”

Savills also said that overall, the UK is ranked fifth for top-performing countries in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector.

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