BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Another day, another strategy for developing a bioscience sector.

Last week it was Scotland's turn, as Jim Wallace, minister for enterprise, launched "Achieving Critical Mass for Sustainable Growth - a 20:20 Vision," at the Scottish BioIndustry Association's annual dinner.

Scotland already has many elements of a successful sector - from academic institutions to start-ups and established companies, a collection of service providers and a supportive local investment community - but Wallace said the country must "avoid complacency." The strategy has been drawn up by an advisory group made up of members of the bioscience industry in Scotland.

"It provides a vision for where we want to be in 15 years time, and a frame work for getting there," Wallace said.

The strategy has many of the usual ingredients: measures to improve the supply of bioscience graduates, establishing career paths that enable scientists to move freely between academia and industry, and providing incubators with appropriate business support. It promises to look at the formation of a new investment vehicle to provide follow-on funding for start-ups and to plug other gaps in the financial services sector.

Apart from having many foundations in place, Scotland is applying economic firepower, as demonstrated by the formation of ITI Life Sciences, an independent company with £150 million (US$279.9 million) of public money to invest in near-market programs over the next 10 years.

Last week ITI Life Sciences announced its first investment of £3.7 million over three years for the development of 3-dimensional, cell-based pharmaceutical screening systems, initially for breast cancer. The program brings together three Scottish companies that will have commercial exploitation rights, but all intellectual property will be owned by ITI.

John Chiplin, CEO of ITI, told BioWorld International, "Obviously the three [companies] spend money on R&D, but the point is that we invented the program based on a careful assessment of the market opportunity and what elements Scotland could provide, and we went to them."

ITI also is putting together programs in biomarkers, stem cells and bioinformatics. Chiplin, who returned to the UK from California to take up the post of CEO, said, "ITI is a regional solution to a global problem. We hope to develop strategic chips that will attract international companies into the Scottish arena."