Old Roslin Institute


Roslin Foundation timeline


In 1995 Roslin Institute was incorporated as a company limited by guarantee and a Scottish Charity; a wholly owned institute of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) based at the Poultry Research facilities based in the village of Roslin in Midlothian; home to the world famous Rosslyn Chapel. Its antecedents go back to 1919 and are closely linked to animal genetics research at the University of Edinburgh.

Dolly and Bonnie

In July 1996 Dolly, the first mammal cloned from an adult cell became the world’s most famous sheep putting the Roslin Institute on the world stage. The scientists at Roslin Institute wanted to learn more about how cells change during development and a team lead by Professor Sir Ian Wilmut together with PPL Therapeutics embarked on a series of experiments. Dolly was cloned from a cell taken from the mammary gland (hence being named after Dolly Parton!) of an adult Finn Dorset sheep and an egg cell from a Scottish Blackface sheep. As the first mammal cloned from an adult cell her birth proved that specialised cells could be used to create an exact copy of the animal they came from. The knowledge gained from this experiment changed what scientists thought was possible, and opened the door to countless possibilities in biology and medicine, including the development of personalised stem cells, known as iPS cells.

Horse's head sculpture

In 1997 Roslin Institute incorporated Roslin BioCentre – purpose built on the Roslin estate to provide quality accommodation and support services to encourage the commercialisation of Roslin Institute and other academic spin-outs. The creation of the BioCentre also included the provision of a childrens nursery for the use of all staff on site. Roslin BioCentre later relocated into the new Roslin Innovation Centre in 2018.

In 2001 Roslin Institute incorporated Ark Genomics, a company to provide infrastructure and services for breeding programs, research, and the generation of phenotypic data for insect and other species. This company now belongs to the Roslin Technologies group of companies.

Initially a collaboration between Silsoe Research Institute and TTP Group plc, Well Cow Ltd, Roslin Institute became a major shareholder in the company in 2003. The aim of the company was to develop automated wireless monitoring technology with applications in the field of animal health and environmental monitoring. The company successfully developed a product to do this, selling to cattle farmers all over the globe, and only recently, in 2020 when there were rapid developments in RFID and NFC was the decision taken not to pursue this product as it would be cost prohibitive.

In 2004 Roslin Institute was a key contributor to the formation of Edinburgh Science Triangle (EST), a multi-disciplinary partnership between universities, research institutes, the National Health Service, science parks, the national economic development agency Scottish Enterprise, and central and local government in Edinburgh and neighbouring council areas. The three points of the “triangle” were Livingston in West Lothian, Musselburgh in East Lothian, and the Easter Bush campus in Midlothian.

The collaborative project aimed to attract new indigenous and inward investment, and to build a professional scientific community based on academic research and commercial enterprises.

In 2016, EST became the successful enterprise, Midlothian Science Zone (MSZ) – a One Health location and a world-leading centre of research excellence in animal health and life sciences. The critical concentration of animal science expertise provides far reaching recognition for the area and this is enhanced by the willingness for companies and organisations to work together. Collectively this brings extensive benefits to the Midlothian region and the wider economy in terms of business development, infrastructure, employment and make an impact in tackling global challenges.

Midlothian Science Zone is on the outskirts of Edinburgh, evolved from the previous Edinburgh Science Triangle initiative, and is supported by Midlothian Council and partners. Its main objective is to foster a One Health community, increasing levels of collaboration between academia and business whilst raising the profile of world-leading research and access to state-of-the-art facilities.

In 2005 Roslin Institute incorporated a further Company: Roslin Cells. This Company was created to undertake the generation of new human embryonic stem cell lines (hesc)s. The Company was supported by both the University of Edinburgh and the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service, along with funding from Scottish Enterprise.

Also this year, the staff and research facilities of the Neuropathogenesis Unit (NPU) of the Institute of Animal Health transferred to the Roslin Institute.

In 2007 – Roslin Institute created Roslin Developments, a special purpose vehicle to oversee the project build of the new Easter Bush Research Campus.

Roslin Innovation Centre build
Roslin Foundation logo

In 2008, the staff, research contracts and equipment of the Roslin Institute transferred to the University of Edinburgh. The charity retained the subsidiary companies and remaining cash reserves, and was renamed as the Roslin Foundation. The Foundation’s objectives being to support and promote scientific research in the animal bioscience field.

In 2009 Roslin Cells became the first European company to successfully establish a GMP grade hESC (human embryonic stem cell) line.

Building signage

In 2011 the University of Edinburgh relocated from the historical Roslin Institute site to the University’s Easter Bush Campus as part of the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. From 2008 to 2011 Roslin Foundation played an active role in funding and managing the build of the new Roslin Institute building.

Architects drawing

In 2013 Roslin Cells opened its custom made ATMP manufacturing facility at Edinburgh University’s Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine (SCRM). It’s Head Quarters and process development labs also located at nearby building NINE at Edinburgh’s BioQuarter.

In 2015 the activities of Roslin Cells were split into two new companies: Roslin Cell Therapies, trading as Roslin-CT, and Censo Biotechnologies, now trading as Axol Bioscience.

Roslin-CT is a leading cell therapy Contract Development and Manufacturing Organisation (CDMO) focussed on providing services for companies developing cell based therapeutic products for both European and US clinical trials. The company is based at Edinburgh BioQuarter.

Axol is a specialist CRO with skills in complex cell biology specialising in human neurodegenerative, neuroinflammatory and inflammatory disease models based at the Roslin BioCentr.

EBiSC2 logo

In 2016 Axol established a global reputation in life sciences when it led the creation of a 26 partner consortium to establish the European Bank for induced stem cells (EBiSC)

Horse sculpture

In 2018 the Roslin BioCentre was closed, and its activities including those of Censo were transferred to the Roslin Innovation Centre, located on the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush Campus.

In November of this year, Roslin Cells’ inventory of GMP and research grade hESC lines transferred to the University of Edinburgh.

In 2020 Roslin Foundation, along with BBSRC and Edinburgh Innovations provided seed funding for the Food & Agriculture Science Transformer (FAST) programme, which brings together Deep Science Ventures and the Roslin Institute.

This 2 year project successfully saw the creation of two exciting new companies: Rhizocore  and Aquanzo.

In 2021 Axol BioSciences and Censo signed a merger agreement. The new entity will become a leading provider of product and service solutions in the iPSC-based neuroscience, immune cell, and cardiac modelling for drug discovery and screening markets.

Futuristic graphic

In October of this year, Roslin-CT increased its manufacturing capacity and opened its new state of the art cell and gene therapy facility in the BioCube building at Edinburgh BioQuarter.

In December of this year the sale of Roslin-CT to GHO Capital Partners was completed. View the Press Release.

In 2022 the Foundation expanded the board and moved into new offices in Bush House, part of the Edinburgh Technopole site. We began developing a program to support and develop biosciences as it relates to agriculture and biomedicine. We committed funding to support 4 PhD students for 4 years.

Bush House
Bush House

So far in 2023 Roslin Foundation have provided funding towards 3 exciting new projects in collaboration with the Roslin Institute, provided funding for key equipment, and committed to supporting a further 4 PhD students for a further 4 years.