The Quebec government recently launched a life sciences strategy that targets $4 billion in foreign investment with the stated goal of ranking among the top five in North America by 2027. More than $205 million has been invested for the next five years in the life sciences industry. That being said, what does this type of investment mean for companies?

There has been a great deal of funding injected into Quebec's life sciences sector over the past few years. What impact has it had on the industry?

Michael Mullette: Now is the time to collaborate and find solutions to integrate innovation into the health and social services system for patients. This injection of funds has allowed the industry to increase its focus on innovation in Quebec through investments in clinical research, educational and research grants, funding for co-op students, and partnerships with hospitals and other research institutions. At Sanofi, we've embarked on several projects that bring together government, industry, and academia in order to improve outcomes in specific disease areas. 

How important is the life sciences industry to the Canadian economy? 

The industry is critical to the Canadian economy both in terms of employment opportunities and investment from all over the world. The Canadian life sciences industry has an overall economic impact of more than $3 billion a year and it employs 34,000 people in highly skilled jobs*. These two elements combined contribute far beyond dollars and cents to the sustainability of Canada's healthcare system. 

The industry is critical to the Canadian economy both in terms of employment opportunities and investment from all over the world.

As a leading pharmaceutical company in Canada, what role does Sanofi play in the life sciences ecosystem? 

Sanofi has a 100-year heritage in Canada, beginning with Sanofi Pasteur's founding in 1914 as the "Antitoxin Laboratory" within the University of Toronto. Over the years the site led the development of antitoxins, insulin, heparin, polio vaccines, and more. In addition, Sanofi Canada's head office has been operating out of Laval, Quebec for over 50 years. 

Sanofi Canada is the largest biopharmaceutical investor in R&D in the country, at 20% of revenues (four times the industry average). We employ more than 2,000 individuals across our four sites and welcome over 100 co-op students each year. I'd say our reach is as deep as it is wide. 

What needs to change in order to ensure Canadian pharmaceutical companies can continue to innovate and improve quality of life for Canadians?

The access and reimbursement landscape is changing very rapidly, and we need to ensure that patients in Canada obtain timely access to medicines. Today, in Canada, it can take a few years after Health Canada approval of a new pharmaceutical innovation before patients can access it via the publicly reimbursed system. This is directly linked to an inefficient system that needs improvement. Without a more predictable environment, we could see a decline in the willingness of both Canadian and global companies to invest and create jobs in this country.

What exciting innovations can we look forward to from Sanofi in 2019? 

There's a great deal to be excited about this year, particularly in terms of bringing critical medicines to market. We recently completed the acquisition of Bioverativ and Ablynx, allowing us to launch new treatments for rare blood disorders. These medicines will address significant unmet needs among patients around the world. We are also looking to launch new innovative treatments in oncology, diabetes, and immunology or expand the indications for some of our recently launched medicines, across a wide range of therapeutic areas. In 2018, our clinical study unit doubled the number of studies starts over 2017 and in 2019 we will continue that momentum. 

* Source: Innovative Medicines Canada