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From Start-up to Standout

Aquila BioMedical

Beginning life as a University of Edinburgh start-up, Aquila BioMedical’s expertise in immunology, immuno-oncology and specialist histology supports a range of clients to discover their best route to clinic.

Here, Business Development and Marketing Associate Dr Louise Welch, talks about this innovative Contract Research Organisation’s (CRO) growth at Edinburgh BioQuarter, its flexible and precise approach to client satisfaction and the company’s recent acquisition by Concept Life Sciences.

“Aquila was founded in 2011 by Entrepreneur in Residence, Howard Marriage and our Group Head of Translational Biology, Professor Stephen Anderton.” says Dr Welch, “Around this time Professor Anderton’s academic group was regularly approached to carry out work for industry. He realised there was a need for a business that provided expertise in an industrial rather than academic setting.”

Moving in the right direction

Since those earliest days, BioQuarter has been a constant fixture in the company’s development. Initially, research was led from labs at the Queen’s Medical Research Institute, before funding helped power a permanent move to NINE, Life Sciences Innovation Centre.

BioQuarter campus is a great fit for the ambitious CRO, as Dr Welch explains: “One of our big selling points is being located at BioQuarter. Our location, combined with the academic origins of Aquila, means we enjoy access to University expertise, research centres and Lothian NHS Research Scotland Bioresource for tissue samples.”

Tailored designs

The company’s approach to the objectives of its international client base has helped Aquila stand out in its field. “Most CROs have a suite of assays that they offer, but can’t deviate from.” says Dr Welch, “We take the opposite approach, believing that the best experimental design is one that’s tailored to the question in the first place.”

So rather than trying to make a service fit, Aquila changes the service to fit the question. “And then we create the perfect team for the job by drawing on our individual strengths.” says Dr Welch. “Immunology is a field requiring meticulous experimental design, so our approach makes it very appealing to work with us.”    

Acquired, in late 2017, by Concept Life Sciences, a major drug discovery and development group, Aquila is set to grow even stronger. “When Concept Life Sciences acquired us, our location, site and facilities were major selling points.” says Dr Welch, “Now the opportunity is there to grow not only Aquila, but also Concept at BioQuarter.”

Our approach is that the best experimental design is one that’s tailored to the question in the first place.


The co-locations at BioQuarter are important to Aquila, enabling collaboration and connection with fellow experts and research centres.


A flexible approach means Aquila tailors its solutions precisely to client objectives.


From its origins as a University of Edinburgh start-up, Aquila is growing stronger thanks to a major acquisition.