A UK centre for cutting-edge drug treatments will be based in Dundee following an £8 million investment by the Scottish Government.
The Courier can reveal that money, awarded through the Scottish Funding Council, will go towards the formation of a state-of-the-art robotic drug screening laboratory at Dundee University that will enable new therapies to be developed more effectively.
Education Secretary Mike Russell made the announcement ahead of a visit to the institute today to put forward his vision of higher education research in the event of Scottish independence.
He said: “Scotland’s universities consistently deliver world-beating results.
“Whether that is our five universities in the world’s top 200, unmatched by any other country per head of population, our strong record on citations, or the proportion of research assessed as world leading it is an impressive track record.
“Today’s announcement of £8 million for new equipment, in combination with the European Lead Factory at Biocity in Newhouse, will put Scottish universities at the forefront of drug discovery worldwide.
“This is a hugely exciting development for the development of new medicines worldwide and I am very proud of Scotland’s role in research past, present and future.
“The Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance has determined that the University of Dundee will host the centre and it will work with some of Europe’s top pharmaceutical companies to form a large, public-private partnership in the field of novel therapy research and development, adding further strength to Scotland’s position in the field.”
The National Phenotypic Screening Centre (UK-NPSC) in Dundee will focus on directly screening chemical agents against human cells and tissues to identify compounds that combat a disease.
Phenotypic screening is thought to be a powerful method for drug discovery because it offers the opportunity to go beyond the focus on single drug targets, which has traditionally been the most widely adopted approach for drug discovery.
Current systems have been plagued by low success rates in early development, as well as expensive late-stage failure of many new drugs in second or third phase trials, insiders said.
A key aim of UK-NPSC will be to capitalise on recent advances in cell and organ culture systems, genetic engineering, stem cell technology and automated, high-content screening to provide a relevant, disease and patient-centred approach.