BioQuarter’s Year in Review – 2021
At Edinburgh BioQuarter, we are proud of our community of more than 8,000 health experts who work or study here. This is one of the UK’s largest locations for healthcare delivery and health innovation and it has been another ground-breaking year.
Our R&D has brought together colleagues who have worked together to tackle global health challenges. Our cluster of SME’s and larger life sciences companies – such as Concept Life Sciences and LifeArc – have continued to catalyse research and deliver new technologies. Top prospect spinout companies from the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine have added to our ecosystem. And funding from investors – such as Epidarex Capital – has hit record levels.
All of this activity together in one place at Edinburgh BioQuarter has delivered significant impact for patients across the globe and we share a selection of our highlights in 2021.
Throughout the year, COVID-19 research and collaboration was at the forefront including the SPIKE-1 trial being led by Professor Kev Dhaliwal from the Centre for Inflammation Research and a new study to accelerate the use of data for vital COVID-19 vaccine research, led by the the Usher Institute’s BREATHE Director, Professor Aziz Sheikh.
The innovation ecosystem on BioQuarter provides access to facilities, encourages collaboration and drives forward innovation. State of the art facilities aid research. This year saw the opening of a new cell and gene therapy manufacturing facility for RoslinCT, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of human cell and gene therapies, works with clients to develop and manufacture life-changing therapies and cures for patients suffering from some of the most debilitating medical conditions.
The installation of a new 9.4T magnet for the preclinical MRI scanner for Edinburgh Preclinical Imaging which will bring new opportunities to support the vast breadth of imaging research.
Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service, launched its Bench to Bedside campaign to further boost industry engagement and inspire more research staff and students to commercialise their work. BioQuarter co-hosted two events this summer to showcase the cutting edge facilities, how they support innovation of translational research, and the challenges and opportunities involved in growing a world-class health innovation ecosystem.
We saw some grand openings with the new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People – a momentous occasion for Children’s Services in Lothian – and patients that will benefit from the stunning and world-class new facilities that are on offer including a new helipad that will give direct access to child and adult emergency departments as well as all other clinical departments.
Community is at the heart of BioQuarter. The award winning science engagement team collaborated with the Thistle Foundation – a health and wellbeing charity based in the heart of Craigmillar – to answer questions from local residents on the coronavirus. Volunteers from across BioQuarter have been delivering hands-on science activities to primary school children based in the local community. The activities were delivered through a series of online STEM Clubs, run in partnership with four local schools – Castleview Primary School, St Francis Primary School, Prestonfield Primary School and Niddrie Mill Primary School. In total, three series of STEM Clubs took place between October 2020 and June 2021, providing 24 activities to 173 pupils.
Biodiversity projects are good for our wellbeing and wildlife. 2021 saw the relocation of a swarm of bees to the hives on the roof of CRM and a hedgehog rescue demonstrating our success as a Hedgehog Friendly Campus.
We also support green projects to improve health and reduce our carbon footprint. The publication of the City Mobility Plan will reap huge benefits across the length and breadth of Edinburgh and will play a significant role in the success of BioQuarter as the destination evolves and grows over the coming decades.
BioQuarter boasts significant strengths in advanced therapies and stratified medicines. The Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult (CGT Catapult) announced that it will establish offices and laboratories on BioQuarter. With this expansion CGT Catapult aims to provide additional regionally focussed support to the cell and gene therapy sector to accelerate product development, trial and adoption. And RoslinCT was selected as the second National Training Centre in the Advanced Therapies Skills Training Network.
Usher Institute is at the heart of health and social care data-driven innovation and one of the many fantastic research activities included a new study showing risks of heart inflammation following Covid-19 infection and vaccination.
Our tenant companies based in NINE, Life Sciences Innovation Centre continue to experience growth and success. As dentists worldwide begin to tackle the backlog of patients whose tooth decay may have worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic, BioQuarter-based dental technology company, Calcivis, prepared for its US launch with a restructuring of its board and the successful completion of its latest funding round. FIOS Genomics continues to grow its footprint at BioQuarter and its CEO, Sarah Lyngh joined BioQuarter for a chat on our podcast. LifeArc unveiled a new strategy and a £1.3 billion spend to drive life-changing science.
BioQuarter will continue to grow. Work on the Institute for Regeneration and Repair is nearing completion, development has started on the Usher Institute and there are plans for NHS Lothian’s Eye Pavilion to relocate here in the future.
Finally, a very special mention to all of the clinical teams based across BioQuarter – at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and Royal Hospital for Children and Young People – continuing to deliver high-quality services for the people of Lothian and beyond in the face of such adversity.