The Canadian biotechnology sector is a great example of how research, innovation, and entrepreneurship within a healthy ecosystem can produce truly remarkable innovations and companies that have the enormous potential to fundamentally change how we live our lives and run our economies. The sector is an ecosystem comprised of over 900 companies moving brilliant ideas from the lab bench into the real world.

Encouragingly, after many long and challenging years of early-stage development, several Canadian biotech stars are poised to take the next step to become commercial Canadian companies.  Moreover, there are a number of exciting new companies that are not far behind the industry incubators and accelerator organizations that are establishing the next wave of companies.

Diversity of players leads to success

A key determinant of success for all of these companies continues to be access to investment capital. The risk profile and extended length of time to reach full market potential require patient and specialized investors who understand both the science and commercialization path.  Canada has a strong life sciences venture capital and investment bank industry but the investment pool can always benefit from more players.

Importantly, another vital source of capital and support comes from the multinational pharmaceutical and biotech companies that are commercially-active in Canada. The new business model for innovation and pipeline replenishment is one wherein large multinationals invest in or partner with early-stage companies. This is a global business trend for the industry which aligns itself nicely with the nature of the Canadian biotech sector and its history of developing early-stage companies.  As a result, the pharma investments have led to the maturation of several significant Canadian companies, with a number of them now poised to become commercially-active. Indeed, while the recent growth of the Canadian companies is very encouraging, it is important to note that almost all early-stage companies have one or more multinational pharma as an investor and/or partner.

Recognizing the important catalyst role the multinational companies currently play and must continue to play in driving Canadian innovation forward, it is vital that government policy in all areas recognize the interconnectivity of all parts of the ecosystem. Holistic public policy which recognizes the interconnectivity of the ecosystem can act to establish positive hosting conditions which, in turn, greatly enhance Canada’s competitiveness and ability to attract investment and commercialize innovation.

Governments in Canada and elsewhere are all being challenged by the rising costs of the health care industry. There is no panacea which will address all of the fiscal challenges and deliver improved health care for citizens. The truly effective solution will be found in a constructive dialogue involving all stakeholders including industry, achieving sustainable solutions which will support greater access and affordability, thereby turning investments and programs into Canadian companies.