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Daktari boss praises Scotland for industry

SCOTLAND's attractions for firms in the key life science sector have been underlined by a former adviser to Bill Clinton who runs a US firm that plans to create 126 jobs in the country.

Bill Rodriguez, chief executive of Daktari Diagnostics, said Scotland had beaten off competition from around the world to be chosen as the likely base for a plant where the company will manufacture diagnostic tests for use in connection with infectious diseases such as HIV.

The Herald reported last month that Daktari Diagnostics had accepted £2 million official funding towards the cost of opening a manufacturing base in Scotland.

"A lot of aspects of Scotland are impressive," said Mr Rodriguez.

He added: "We looked everywhere – North America, South America, South-east Asia, parts of Africa, Europe. We really did a global search."

Mr Rodriguez noted: "There are a number of characteristics we have been looking for and that includes the qualifications of the available labour pool, the convenience to some of our key sites, which are our markets in Africa and some of our research and development facilities in Europe and the US, and convenient shipping."

Coming from a man who spent almost five years as chief medical officer for the foundation established by the former President Clinton, Mr Rodriguez's comments will provide welcome reassurance about Scotland's prospects in what is seen as a key growth sector.

While the global economic outlook is uncertain, spending on medical technology is burgeoning.

Successive Scottish administrations have invested heavily in trying to develop local firms and attract inward investors to capitalise on the strength of the country's universities and colleges.

Mr Rodriguez said the supportive approach of the Scottish Government and officials had helped put the country in pole position to be chosen to host Daktari's first factory.

"I'd say the most impressive piece that differentiates Scotland from other countries and other regions of the world we looked at was the commitment of the Government to support industry and life sciences."

Noting that countries around the world were competing for healthcare investment, Mr Rodriguez continued: "It came across quite clearly to us that the agencies in Scotland are really committed both in word and in action."

Speaking from Daktari's Boston head office, Mr Rodriguez said it expected to make a final decision on the proposed manufacturing facility in coming months.

The company was working through technical issues and making sure everything was in place, he said.

Daktari Diagnostics' backers include healthcare giant Merck and American venture capitalists.

Mr Rodriguez said: "There are quite a few sites that could work for us (in Scotland)."

While Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee are all targeting the healthcare sector, Mr Rodriguez said the company is looking "primarily in the Inverness region and the Highlands".

Medical equipment maker Lifescan Scotland employs around 1100 people in Inverness.

A veteran of the global healthcare industry, Mr Rodriguez said Daktari is targeting the diseases and health facilities in much of the developing world with simple to use, hand-held diagnostic tests.

These were developed from advances made at US institutions including Massachusetts General Hospital and Purdue University. Daktari said its first product would be a CD4 (white blood) cell-counting system, portable and robust enough to be used in the most remote settings. White blood cells are affected by the HIV virus. The count results could indicate that someone with HIV may need to seek urgent treatment.

A Scottish Enterprise spokesman said: "Scotland has a great track record of attracting inward investment. One of the key areas of focus for such investment is life sciences.

"Some of the world's top life sciences firms are already in Scotland... and we will continue actively to pursue new opportunities to keep that success going."

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