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Scotland's universities and biotechnology companies are renowned in the field of drug discovery. What may not be so well known is the strength and depth Scotland has in its supply chain and pharma services. 

Our 150 plus pharma services and supply companies have impressive track records in providing innovative support for drug development. These companies, of all sizes, provide the entire range of support from GMP analytics to clinical trial supplies.

One such company is Tepnel Pharma Services, which has become a key player in pharmaceutical testing, offering regulatory compliant analytics in support of small and large molecule APIs, IMPs and finished products. Tepnel's wide range of services for its customers on both sides of the Atlantic, and their flexible service, ensures a quick turnaround that shortens the period from manufacture to patient.

While Tepnel offers a broad range of services, there are naturally some it does not. However, it will generally know a Scottish company that can. David Scott, senior director at Tepnel says Scotland's life sciences sector enjoys a joined-up way of working and the collaborative approach between academia and industry "is something a lot of nations are jealous of."

David points out, "There's a lot of collaboration taking place. By working together, Scottish companies can offer big pharma an end-to-end service. Scotland is a one-stop shop for our customers’ needs."

Global players and specialist services

Another world leader in bioanalytical testing is Eurofins Scientific, which opened a new pharmaceutical chemistry and microbiology facility in September 2017 as part of a £4 million investment. The expansion means that the company can provide a more streamlined and efficient service as well as a range of pharmaceutical testing.

As well as the larger multi-service company’s like Tepnel and Eurofins, Scotland is also home to SMEs carving out more niche and specialised services. Symbiosis Pharmaceutical Services specialise in sterile manufacturing, producing injectibles for use in Phase I and II studies and small scale commercial needs. Symbiosis says that from the day operations commenced, it has offered "rapid access to manufacturing slots and quick release of drug products to ensure tight timelines are successfully met."

BDD Pharma are another SME making huge advances. A specialist formulation company, it offers a full service package from troubleshooting, formulation development, in vitro and in vivo testing and full technology transfer. BDD recently opened a new R&D facility at BioCity Scotland to develop products using its patented technology OralogiK, which provides control of drug release at the right place and time.

EPP has also built an excellent reputation over the last 20 years, establishing itself as a leader in custom synthesis of complex analytical reference standards of impurities, metabolites and degradants. With a philosophy of 'complexity made simple', EPP's experts work independently or with a clients' in-house team to provide insight, guidance and recommendations to help them achieve smoother, faster product registrations across the world.

High quality, low cost workforce

Another global player, Indian conglomerate Piramal, has been steadily growing its operations in Scotland since 2005, producing antibody drug conjugates (ADCs), a closely-watched class of anticancer agents that combines monoclonal antibodies with the cytotoxic potency of chemotherapy drugs.

Mark Wright, site lead at Piramal Pharma Solutions, says that there were companies who specialised in small molecules and those working in large molecules but no firms in the middle, doing both. Piramal is now the world leader in manufacturing clinical and commercial ADCs. 

Being based in Scotland has been a key element in Piramal’s growth , according to Mark who cites the strong research credentials of the country's universities and the close connections the firm has with academia. Mark says, "Testing is strong here and a lot of the other support services are strong too. If we need sterile fill, we have that, if we need any support with testing raw materials we have that too."

Scotland provides high quality services but within a reasonably low-cost environment, Mark adds, and if Piramal chooses to expand, "it would make sense to stay here in Scotland, we've got the right people to grow this skills-driven business."

From relatively new, fast growing companies like Symbiosis to established manufacturers such as Piramal and Encap Drug Delivery (the world's leading manufacturer of liquid-fill hard capsules), Scotland’s educated workforce is essential in improving manufacturing efficiency and providing flexibility to customers.

Close-knit community of contract development

Stephen Brown, managing director of Encap believes that having a close-knit community of contract development in Scotland is a huge positive both for Encap and its customers. He says "clients will need the services of multiple companies and we have worked with local firms to provide an end-service to our customers – we either put them directly in touch with other service providers or we will even manage an outsourced piece of work with a local company."

He adds that "we have a lot of customer visits from the USA, Europe and Japan and if they've got two or three service partners providing different pieces of their puzzle in Scotland, that makes it more attractive for them."

Stephen also notes that in addition to the technical excellence on offer in Scotland, "customers like coming here, they like the culture and it's a lovely place to visit."

Geographically, Scotland is the perfect location with excellent links to mainland Europe "and we can reach our customers from the USA to Japan in the scope of the working day." 

This is a view echoed by Tepnel's David Scott. He says that Scotland is "a highly innovative country, with great science undertaken" and the connectivity and collaborative spirit across the life sciences sector "makes it a no-brainer to be here in Scotland. We're pushing the boundaries of science and translating them into better healthcare outcomes and there's a willingness to continue to exceed and deliver innovation over and above what we are doing."

Find out more about Scotland's life sciences supply chain