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Antibody Analytics: Stemming the Biotech Brain Drain

The risk of a brain drain from Scotland is ever present. So how do CROs like Antibody Analytics retain life science talent?

‘Brain drain’ is the significant emigration of highly-educated, highly-skilled workers from one country to another. Historically, it referred to migration from the Global South to the Global North in search of a better life. Recently, however, the trend has shifted to high-income economies like Scotland. What does this mean for Scotland’s growing life science industry? 

What is brain drain? 

Brain drain is the movement of people pursuing work opportunities abroad. This phenomenon has occurred for centuries as emigrants expect higher pay, better working conditions, higher-quality education, and upward mobility in their new host country. Equally, the host country can reap economic rewards themselves (known as ‘brain gain’).

However, brain drain can devastate the economies that workers leave behind. Indeed, countries with the highest Human flight and brain drain index score (0-10) are low-income nations like Samoa (10), Jamaica (9.5), and Palestine (8.9). 

The UK’s brain drain score remains comparatively low. However, it jumped from 1.8 in 2016 to 2.4 in 2023, reflecting the post-Brexit blues. While brain drain does not have as detrimental an impact here as it does in poorer economies, it nevertheless presents a worrying trend. 

This poses a risk to Scotland’s life science industry. Indeed, the term ‘brain drain’ was first used by the Royal Society to describe UK post-war scientists emigrating abroad. 


Scotland’s life science industry

Scotland has an impressive history of scientific discovery. From the age of Enlightenment to the invention of the television, the discovery of penicillin, and the first mammalian cloning – hello Dolly. 

This is reflected in its modern life science landscape, with new biotechs springing up across the country. Scotland’s life science sector is one of the largest in Europe, employing around 41,700 people across 700 businesses — as well as impacting health globally. Indeed, the industry is growing by 8% every year with an expected turnover of £8 billion by 2025. 

Scotland faces competition from the US biotech behemoth. The US life science industry’s success is reflective of its country’s size. In 2021, it employed 2.1 million people across 127,000 businesses, contributing $2.9 trillion to the US economy. Indeed, the US holds the largest share of total global biotech value at 59%, compared to the UK’s 3%.

This is enough to bait biotech workers across the Atlantic. Swapping Cambridge, UK for Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

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(Figure 1: Value share of biotech sector worldwide by country (2021) (Source: Statista).

Antibody Analytics’ services and growth 

Companies like Antibody Analytics can counteract brain drain by offering opportunities for both UK and international talent. Antibody Analytics is a microcosm of Scotland’s growing biotech space. We successfully secured a multi-million-pound investment and a Scottish Life Science Awards 2024 finalist nomination for Business Leadership. 

Antibody Analytics is an attractive alternative for the best scientific minds to impact translational research. Our recent recruitment drive promises rewarding roles across biotech. With a workforce that is 69% female, we place particular emphasis on women in STEM

Andy Upsall, CEO, says ‘We’re committed to using this investment as a tool – to create jobs, expand our facilities, solidify our global standing and allow us to realise our vision of a healthier future for all.’ 

Read more about the investment here.

At Antibody Analytics, we stand at the forefront of pre-clinical drug discovery, supporting biopharmaceutical companies worldwide in their quest to develop ground-breaking solutions for their challenges. This investment represents a significant leap forward for us, paving the way for remarkable developments. 

Humans have been migrating for millennia in search of a better life. By nurturing home-grown talent and encouraging international applicants post-Brexit, biotechs in Scotland like Antibody Analytics can successfully stem brain drain. 

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Laura Allison
Marketing Assistant
Published: 2024-01-30