http://www.sundayherald.com/48064

Former drugs tsar to head new stem cell body

By Julia Fields

A FORMER drugs tsar has become chief executive of the Richard Branson-backed UK Stem Cell Foundation which aims to raise £100 million to develop stem cell research commercially.

David Macauley was the first director of Scotland Against Drugs, a public/private initiative set up in 1996. He went on to work as a business strategy adviser in the private sector and took up his new post last week.

Simon Best, the founder of Scottish bioscience firm Ardana which lists on the London Stock Exchange this week, has also been installed as chairman of the stem cell advisory board that will ensure best practice is followed.

The UK Stem Cell Foundation is the brain-child of Sir Chris Evans, one of Europe's leading biotechnology venture capitalists. Evans believes that Britain is in danger of losing its world leadership in this research because there is not enough funding to take projects from the laboratories into pre-clinical trials and eventually into the patient network.

Macauley's first task will be to orchestrate donations and grants from wealthy individuals, philanthropic organisations, leading corporations and government agencies such as Scottish Enterprise . Evans confirmed that the foundation was also in ongoing talks with the UK government to lend its support both financially and in other ways.

The not-for-profit foundation is already being supported by a prominent list of trustees, including billionaire Branson and ex-chairman of GlaxoSmithKline Sir Richard Sykes, who have committed "multi-millions". The foundation, which has applied for charitable status, recently sent a letter to Microsoft founder Bill Gates urging him to contribute.

Macauley, who co-founded technology transfer firm Scottish Biomedical, told the Sunday Herald that he also plans to target the budgets set aside by companies for corporate social responsibility projects.

While businessmen such as M&S chief executive Stuart Rose have personally endorsed the project, it remains to be seen whether a corporation would align itself commercially with such an ethically-charged scientific field.