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Scottish Enterprise Eyes Two Clinical Facilities, Incubator at BioQuarter

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Scottish Enterprise continues to move ahead with development of its £1 billion ($1.6 billion) Edinburgh BioQuarter life sciences complex, in keeping with a 15-year timeframe for developing the 1.4 million square feet planned for the 100-acre life sciences campus, two officials of Scotland's economic development ministry said this week.

Scottish Enterprise is a partner in the BioQuarter, along with the University of Edinburgh, the National Health Service Lothian, and lab developer Alexandria Real Estate Equities.

Construction is in progress on two facilities within the BioQuarter: the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine, a £60 million facility intended to advance research into the uses of adult and embryonic stem cells in treating disease; and the Clinical Research Imaging Centre at Little France, a £10 million facility designed to serve the needs of the Queen's Medical Research Institute at Little France.

"The new center will provide a synergistic and powerful resource to enhance clinical research and experimental medicine. This will allow investigators to capitalize upon the translational opportunities resulting from parallel research in the immediately adjacent animal-imaging center," Scottish Enterprise said in a 2007 publication promoting the BioQuarter and its numerous projects.

The Centre for Regenerative Medicine is projected to open in Spring/Summer 2011, Scottish Enterprise said this week.

For Scotland, the life sciences comprise a more than £3 billion-a-year industry that has grown by more than 50 percent over the past six years, Rhona Allison, director of life sciences for Scottish Enterprise, told BioRegion News in an interview at BIO 2009 in Atlanta. Scotland is home to 625 life-sci organizations that employ 31,500 people, up from the roughly 590 organizations employing 30,000 people recorded by the Young Company Finance Special Report: Life Sciences in Scotland, released two years ago [BRN, June 4, 2007].

Future plans for the BioQuarter call for a new Hospital for Sick Children, as well as "at least two further significant clinical facilities at BioQuarter, which will add value to our existing impressive translational medicine infrastructure," Jonathan Wilson, project manager for commercialization and innovation with Scottish Enterprise, told BRN on Thursday.

Scottish Enterprise will not disclose details of the two clinical facilities, saying details of those and the new children's hospital will emerge in the next two to three years.

However, Wilson told BRN that BioQuarter will include a venue for startups.

"We are developing an opportunity to accelerate the provision of commercial incubation space on site, in spite of the prevailing economic conditions," he said.

But as a result of the ongoing economic upheaval, he added, "what remains on hold is the creation of speculative multi-occupancy buildings."

Scottish Enterprise in 2007 announced it had selected Alexandria Real Estate Equities to develop the 1.4 million square feet of new space — 900,000 square feet of commercial space, the rest academic — within BioQuarter [BRN, May 14, 2007].

But the economic slump that has frozen the credit and financial markets has prompted Alexandria to hold off on construction in Scotland and several other places.

"Our focus in the current economic conditions is on identifying larger organizations and pursuing anchor tenant targets, whose individual accommodation needs would create sufficient space requirements to trigger construction. These are difficult times for speculative construction and capital markets remain pretty locked down, but we are continuing to deliver against our 15-year plan," Wilson said. "To that end we are working closely with Alexandria and other project partners to make strategic investments which acknowledge current constraints but which can exploit the softer costs of construction inputs and anticipate market recovery."

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