A joint venture between BioCity Nottingham and Scotland’s Roslin BioCentre has taken some of the sting out of MSD’s decision to close down its pharmaceutical research facility at Newhouse, Scotland by taking over the site for development as a life sciences cluster.

BioCity Scotland said the “gifting” of the MSD facility in Lanarkshire opened up more than 130,000 sq ft of purpose-built laboratories on a 23-acre site that could support “pre-clinical drug discovery and development by a range of independent, ambitious companies”.

The Newhouse initiative “is much more than a property proposition – it will be a unique, vibrant community of scientific companies”, promised BioCity Scotland chairman Louis Nisbet as the deal with MSD was unveiled.

“Fantastic” outcome

MSD’s announcement in July 2010 that operations at Newhouse would be phased out along with seven other research facilities worldwide, as part of a restructuring programme following Merck & Co’s merger with Schering-Plough, fired up politicians both locally and at Scottish government level, prompting discussions between MSD, Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International.

Chris Hill, MSD vice president and the former head of the Newhouse facility, described the outcome as "fantastic” for the life sciences community in Scotland and the wider UK.  

“We are delighted to have secured such an accomplished investor and a viable and exciting future for the site in such a short period of time,” Hill commented.

“The ongoing commercial operation of the site will attract investment to the local area, generating employment opportunities for local communities, and the success of this development will play a significant role in securing the future of Life Sciences in Scotland.”

Rejuvenated site

According to BioCity Scotland, the “rejuvenated site” will complement existing provisions for the life science industry in Scotland by catering for “start-up and growing companies wanting a central base on the M8 just 15 miles from Glasgow and 33 miles from Edinburgh city centres”.

In addition to over 130,000 sq ft of pharmaceutical-quality, fully fitted laboratory and office space, BioCity Scotland is offering a “wide range of state-of-the-art equipment”, available to rent “at very competitive rates”.

The resources include high-throughput screening, nuclear magnetic resonance machines, mass spectrometers, high-performance liquid chromatography, electrophysiology and cell culture suites, centrifuges and freezers. Also part of the package are a “world leading” compound management system and a library of 100,000 compounds.  

UK’s largest

According to the 2011 UK Life Science Start-up report authored by BioCity Nottingham, almost half of all life science start-ups are located in a UK bioincubator or biopark.

Dr Glenn Crocker, chief executive officer of BioCity Nottingham, said the plan was to create “the UK’s largest bioscience business incubator at BioCity Scotland, a resource available to national and international companies”.