The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

Monday, 18 February 2008

Ayrshire biotech consortium to create new generation of drug tests

A CONSORTIUM of three Ayrshire companies has secured investment to commence work on a project that will build the next generation of tools for use in the discovery of new drugs.

Avanticell Science, an established biotech company located in Auchincruive and a specialist in cell biology and cell culture, will lead the consortium. Avanticell will work with Ayr-based Giltech Limited, specialists in biomaterials, biodegradables and controlled delivery and Culzean Medical Devices Ltd, which designs and manufactures implantable medical products at its Prestwick cleanroom facility.

The two year, £1 million project is co-funded by the Technology Strategy Board, the public body set up by the UK Government to promote technological innovation.

Avanticell and its partners will combine their unique expertise to create a new generation of three-dimensional cell-based tests, known as assays, to open the door to a new era in drug discovery.

Successful cell-based assays can identify new pharmaceuticals and evaluate their safety before testing in clinical trials. They play a significant role in reducing the need for animal testing in drug discovery.

Current cell-based drug tests use conventional flat layers of cell cultures, which can have limitations. Success in this area relies on the behaviour of the living cells resembling their behaviour in the human body and three-dimensional cell cultures are much more likely to achieve this.

Avanticell will combine its cell culture technology excellence with Giltech’s and Culzean’s bio-engineering expertise to put living cells into a three dimensional scaffold. The development of 3D cell-based assays will be a first for the UK's biotechnology sector.

Avanticell chief executive Jo Oliver said: “The project will result in the next generation of cell-based assays, accelerating and reducing the cost of new drug development to treat life-threatening diseases such as cancer. Avanticell is delighted to lead a consortium focused on these new tools as part of the company’s commitment to becoming a leader in the field of ethical testing of both conventional pharmaceuticals and traditional medicines from natural products.”

Scottish Enterprise played a key role in supporting the ambitious plans of the consortium. The organisation will continue to work with the companies to encourage their growth and success.

Scottish Enterprise Ayrshire growing business manager Jim Glover said: “This is an excellent example of collaboration in one of Scotland’s growing industries. It clearly demonstrates the wealth of experience, knowledge and innovation in Ayrshire’s business base. Scotland is one of the UK’s leading locations for life sciences, underpinned by a world-class academic base and home to fifteen per cent of all life sciences companies in the UK.”

Giltech Ltd director of research and development David Healy added: “The considerable challenges in this project require the integration of specialised and diverse expertise from each of the partners. What we learn from this development will further expand our understanding of the limits of our materials’ capabilities and will lead us to new and emerging markets for our products.”

Culzean Medical managing director David M Richmond said: “The project gives us a great opportunity to provide an innovative and proprietary solution to treat life threatening diseases and promote the unique skills of the Ayrshire-based consortium partners.”

Avanticell Science Ltd was established in 2006. Its founding principle is that advances in cell culture technology enable the development of physiologically relevant alternatives to animal testing in research and drug discovery. The company’s business is focused on cell-based assays for use in drug discovery, materials testing and biomedical research. Avanticell has recently been recognised in the Ayrshire Business Awards, where it picked up the award for “Potential Business Growth for most Entrepreneurial Young Company”.

Giltech was founded in 1984 to develop novel biomaterials for medical devices. Since then it has continued develop unique and creative core biodegradable and controlled release technologies and apply them to products for healthcare, agricultural, industrial and other applications.

Culzean Medical Devices Ltd is an innovative and experienced medical fabric specialist dedicated to providing contract design, development and manufacturing of customised solutions to the biotech and medical devices industries. Culzean Medical Devices Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Lombard Medical Technologies PLC.

Scottish Enterprise is the main economic development agency for Scotland covering 93% of the population from Grampian to the Borders. The Scottish Enterprise Network consists of Scottish Enterprise and 12 Local Enterprise Companies. Working in partnership with the private and public sectors the Network aims to build more and better businesses, to develop the skills and knowledge of Scottish people, and to encourage innovation to make Scottish business internationally competitive. Further information on Scottish Enterprise is available at

The Technology Strategy Board is a business-led executive non-departmental public body, established by the government. Its mission is to promote and support research into, and development and exploitation of, technology and innovation for the benefit of UK business, in order to increase economic growth and improve the quality of life. It is sponsored by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS).


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