Learning lessons from Upstate
In the mid-1990s, the MRC-PPU formed a close relationship with US-based biotechnology company Upstate, supplying reagents which Upstate sold to both academia and pharmaceutical companies all around the world. In 1998, the company's new CEO Sherry Snyder discovered that 12 per cent of its products were made in Dundee, and visited Scotland to find out more about his key supplier. Snyder sat in Sir Philip’s spectacular “fund-raising room” overlooking the Tay Estuary and within 30 minutes decided to…
The partnership continued to flourish, employing more than 100 people, and in 2004, Upstate was taken over by a company called Serologicals Corp for $205 million, later becoming a division of another pharmaceutical giant, now worth billions of dollars.
The University of Dundee and the MRC-PPU played a pivotal role in Upstate’s success but did not directly benefit when it was sold because it didn't have any shares in the business.
Early last year, a new company called Ubiquigent Ltd was founded in Dundee in partnership with US biotechnology company Stemgent, to produce biological products and services generated by SCILLS, including reagents, assays and services. Sir Philip Cohen is excited to see the new company formed so quickly after the founding of SCILLS – and also pleased that SCILLS will benefit financially if the new company gets taken over or goes public in future, thanks to owning 20 per cent of the shares.