A GROUND-BREAKING partnership between the public, private, academic and third sectors in Dundee is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
BioDundee was set up in 1997 to shape the development of the fledgling life sciences and healthcare sectors in the city through internal networking and partnership building.
Since then the collaboration, which later expanded to take in the wider Tayside region, has seen a number of highpoints including:
• The creation of one of the UK’s largest life sciences research complexes comprising the University of Dundee’s Wellcome Trust Biocentre (1998), the Sir James Black Centre (2005) and the Discovery Centre (2016);
• discovering the genetic and biochemical basis of eczema and atopic asthma by Professor Irwin McLean and of Parkinson’s Disease by Professor Dario Alessi;
• pushing the city into the UK top three for bio/healthcare research excellence and research impact;
• the longest and largest academic-pharmaceutical collaboration in the world which has yielded several of the most modern cancer drugs in use today and which brings the world’s biggest pharma companies to the city for the expertise they need; and
• the establishment of a drug discovery unit which translates science for patient benefit including a single-dose cure for malaria in advanced clinical trials, two new medicines for leishmaniasis also in clinical trials, and others in the pipeline for TB, malaria and Chagas’ disease.
Mark Flynn convener of Dundee City Council’s city development committee said: “Clearly 25 years is a long time and over that period the city has changed for the better in so many ways.
“For a partnership like BioDundee to still be delivering success and positive outcomes in such a fast-moving, intense and competitive field is a huge testament to the people who have been involved with it down the years and to the current crop of talent who are guiding the sector into the future.”
In recent years BioDundee has supported the creation of a number of large -scale initiatives including the recent establishment at the University of Dundee of a Centre for Targeted Protein Degradation – a super-high-tech way of making new medicines which is bringing the internationally mobile research and development budgets of major pharmaceutical companies, and with them jobs, to Dundee.
Attracting major international investment and jobs have been central to BioDundee since 1997 and down the years it has supported many new spin-out and start-up companies including multi-award winning Exscientia, the first ever AI drug design company founded in 2012 and Amphista Therapeutics established in 2018, both emerging from the University of Dundee.
Mhairi Towler, founder and CEO of Vivomotion. an award-winning and respected scientific animation studio said: “BioDundee has helped me develop my business from the get go, and through the networking opportunities presented I have built my clientele locally and internationally.
“It also serves as an extra arm for marketing Vivomotion, with opportunities to share company news and developments through their website and social media.”
As well as Dundee City Council’s involvement, contributions from founder members the James Hutton Institute and both of the city’s universities are key to BioDundee’s on-going success.
Professor Sir Mike Ferguson, School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee added his voice to the silver anniversary tributes.
He said: "BioDundee is a powerful statement by the City of Dundee that we are more than just open for business in Life Sciences, we are committed to it.
“Our whole community, industrial and academic, benefits from being part of the BioDundee family.”
Andrea Cameron, Dean of the School of Applied Sciences at Abertay University, said: “BioDundee plays an important role in supporting learning, research, knowledge exchange, innovation and business engagement across the region.
“It does fantastic work to position Dundee, and Tayside more widely, as a leading UK and international hub for excellence in the life sciences and healthcare sectors.
“The work of BioDundee to support and promote our work is invaluable and we are delighted to be celebrating the landmark anniversary of this important partnership.”
However, the partners are in no way resting on their laurels and as well as using the 25th anniversary as a reason to look at how far BioDundee and the sector within the city has come, it is also an opportunity to pull out the crystal ball and look to the future.
While the partnership’s purpose remains consistent, plans are in hand to continue to grow the BioDundee community via a strong pipeline of spin-out companies from local academia and inward investment, ultimately attracting and retaining jobs.
The first BioDundee in-person event in more than three years is due to take place at the start of December. Entitled “BioDundee Innovation Conversation ”, all the information including speaker biographies is on the Events page of the BioDundee website (www.biodundee.co.uk), registration for the event is free and now open.