Update on Scottish Life Sciences policies

The Scottish Government has published new guidance for the life sciences sector relating to coronavirus. It sets out the work of the sector in terms of test supply chain, vaccine development and the repurposing of drugs. The report is a part of the Scottish Government’s ‘Test and Protect’ priorities outlined in documents published in April and August 2020. Strategic ambitions are to expand the sector’s turnover to £8 billion in 2025. NHS National Services Scotland, economic development organisations such as the Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise and trade bodies were among those who were liaised with in the composition of the text.

The report details the current situation for the Scottish life sciences industry and strategic goals set out in the ‘Life Sciences Strategy for Scotland: 2025 Vision’ strategy. The Scottish Government and its agencies have helped the sector play a valuable role in the economy, by contributing £2.4 billion GVA and the sector has achieved, on average, year-on-year turnover growth of 10% since 2010.  Previous Government-industry support has boosted company investment in R&D, which represents just under a fifth of the total Business Enterprise Research and Development (BERD) spend in Scotland in 2018.

Regarding the COVID-19 testing strategy, in March 2020, the Scottish Government’s requirement was to secure enough supply of test capacity and test sampling kits to undertake 30,000 diagnostic tests per week in Scotland. This has increased further in light of NHS Test and Trace efforts and the most recent testing strategy will increase that figure up to 65,000 tests completed per day for Scotland, with many more tests being processed in Scotland to support the response across the rest of the UK. Companies who are highlighted as having stepped up capacity effectively include Dundee-based Hutchison Technologies which played a vital role in sourcing viral test swab kits to address urgent shortages in NHS Scotland and delivered a total order of 3.4 million swab sample kits. E&O Laboratories also produced a special type of Viral Transport Medium that makes the analysis of test samples safer.

Thermo Fisher Scientific is flagged as a key industrial partner of the Scottish Government during COVID-19. It supplies testing kits and machines to Lighthouse Labs, additionally providing 4.5 million sample collection and transport kits provided weekly as a result of a $25 million investment by Thermo Fisher Scientific in Perth. LumiraDx’s newly FDA-approved antigen tests will also be manufactured in Scotland, creating jobs and economic boost to the local area.

The Scottish Government intends, working with the UKG programme, to continue to build sampling pathways, and to build laboratory processing capacity to approximately 65,000 tests per day between NHS Scotland laboratories and the Lighthouse Lab in Glasgow. The latter is a crucial component of Scottish testing capacity, it will operate on a Scotland-first approach, and build up to a level of 40,000 tests per day. The report concludes by thanking the efforts of the 770 organisations and 41,000 staff in the sector who are working at the forefront of scientific and technological advancements in treatments, vaccines, testing and therapeutics. 



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