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Biotech blues

The departure for Singapore of 'Dolly scientist' Alan Colman has raised questions about the viability of British biotechnology.

Pat Hagan(phagan@btinternet.com)

LONDON — Science makes great headlines and the media like nothing more than 'breakthrough' stories heralding possible cures. But for all its power to enthral, science rarely makes the same easy transition to commercial profitability.

Advances in the laboratory hardly ever convert into financially successful ventures without considerable financial backing and the unshakeable confidence of investors. Some estimates put the cost of developing a biotech idea from conception to the market place at around £300 million. It's this combination of factors that may explain why the biotechnology sector sometimes seems to be struggling to achieve success.

The issue has been given a higher public profile following the announcement that one of the scientists involved in cloning Dolly the sheep in 1996 is to leave PPL Therapeutics — the Scottish firm that pioneered the technology — for a Singapore rival called ES Cell International.

Alan Colman, PPL's research director, revealed...

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