Five emerging technologies to watch in Scotland’s life sciences sector

FLICK through the pages of a science textbook and it’s easy to see the contribution Scotland has made to the advancement of science and medicine, from chloroform and penicillin to beta blockers and Dolly the sheep. Yet Scotland’s prowess in the life sciences isn’t confined to the past. Five emerging technologies being developed in our nation hold the solutions to tackling some of the most pressing global challenges – including the proliferation of chronic diseases and the issues presented by an ageing population – while growing our economy at the same time.

1. Precision medicine
Precision medicine (also known as stratified medicine) means giving the right drug to the right patient at the right time. It may sound simple, but it’s a complex topic, which involves studying a person’s genes to find out which treatment will work best for that individual. The Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre in Glasgow sits at the heart of Scotland’s personalised medicine ecosystem, with the potential transform how we deliver healthcare and save the health service £70 billion.

2. Artificial intelligence
Forget far-fetched films like Blade Runner or 2001: A Space Odyssey – artificial intelligence (AI) is already being used in life sciences. Applying AI to the huge amounts of data contained within the human genome or gathered by modern medical diagnostic tools like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners can give clinicians real insight into how to treat patients, linking back to personalised medicine.

3. Continuous manufacturing and crystallisation
At the moment, making drugs can be a long process, creating one batch of a medicine at a time. Switching from batch to continuous manufacturing could slash the time it takes to produce ingredients, saving money along the way too. Two Scottish projects are at the heart of exploring this exciting development – the Centre for Continuous Manufacturing & Advanced Crystallisation (CMAC) at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, and the recently- announced £56 million Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre in Renfrewshire.

4. Industrial biotechnology
Oil and gas aren’t just used to fuel our cars and heat our homes – they are also the raw materials for countless industrial processes, from manufacturing plastics to mixing paints. Coming up with biological-based alternatives isn’t just essential for fighting climate change but is also a huge economic opportunity and is the focus for the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre in Glasgow.

5. One health
Perhaps one of the most exciting fields is “One Health”, which recognises the links between human health and that of our ecosystems and animals. Integrating human and veterinary medicine with the environment provides fresh approaches to treating infectious diseases and tackling major threats, such as antibiotic resistance. It also encompasses the need to consider the environment and animal health when facing challenges such as feeding the Earth’s growing population, with the James Hutton Institute at the forefront of such developments. Whether it’s treating infectious diseases or coming up with the raw materials for biodegradable plastics, Scotland’s life sciences sector is at the forefront of tackling some of the biggest challenges facing humanity. It’s taking science out of our textbooks and into our communities.

* Dave Tudor is Chair of the Life Sciences Scotland Industry Leadership Group and will speak at the LSS/Scotsman Conferences event, Moving Forward Together: To 2025 and Beyond on November 12th at the University of Strathclyde. To book, click here