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Life sciences in Ontario and Québec: a corridor of collaboration

person using a microscope
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Invest in Canada

Remarkable innovation and collaboration have occurred throughout the life sciences industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. This collaboration was also seen in one of Canada’s strongest sectors—life sciences. Through the provinces of Québec and Ontario, the Québec City - Windsor Corridor represents a hotspot of innovation, talent, collaboration and industry clusters– all a signature of what Canada has to offer global investors in life sciences.

Every stop along the Corridor has unique characteristics and a speciality to round out Canadian expertise in life sciences. All of them come together to create a collaborative ecosystem that is varied and dynamic, where global companies choose to invest, innovate and create advancements in the field.

map of the Quebec City - Windsor Corridor

Québec City’s expertise ranges from vaccines to fiber optics

The province of Québec’s life sciences sector is well known for its collaborative environment. The Québec Government supports pioneering projects by improving public and private partnerships through its Health Collaboration Acceleration Fund. This program forms part of Québec’s ambitious goal of becoming one of the top 5 life sciences hubs in North America by 2027. 

The capital of the province of Québec, Québec City, has expertise in infectiology and world-renowned research centres. Its ecosystem is extremely varied; there are global giants like GSK, home grown successes like Medicago, and smaller innovative start-ups that focus on vital research.

The dynamism of the Quebec City ecosystem is reflected in the partnerships created between companies of different sizes to advance research, generate innovation and develop technology, in fields such as fiber optics for healthcare. The Institut National d’Optique (INO) has created a bio-medtech unit in the hopes of putting optics and photonics at the forefront of life sciences technologies. OpSens, a Québec City-based company, has been recognized in Deloitte's 2020 Technology Fast 500™ for its second-generation fiber optic pressure guidewire to diagnose and treat coronary disease.     

AI in Montréal leads to healthcare innovation

In recent years, Montréal has become a powerhouse of artificial intelligence technology.

Institutes like Mila, the Montréal Institute for Learning Algorithms, and IVADO, the Institute for Data Valorization, apply knowledge and research expertise to use AI to sift through the enormous amounts of healthcare data. Montréal’s unique combination of academic research institutions, its expertise in AI and healthcare, and its unparalleled talent have given the city momentum to forge its place as an attractive global centre for life sciences. Recent investments and collaborations from companies such as Novartis, Amgen, Roche and AstraZeneca, therefore, come as no surprise.       

The collaborative mentality of Montréal’s life sciences is also felt across provincial borders. The American biopharmaceutical company Amgen, whose main Canadian operations is located in Ontario’s biomedical cluster, has partnered with Mila in Montréal to advance the use of AI in the life sciences sector. While Amgen already uses AI in its R&D and manufacturing activities, this partnership will enable Amgen to leverage Mila’s expertise to expand its knowledge of AI and deep learning to accelerate drug discovery and development.

These cutting-edge partnerships and expertise have enabled Montréal to become a leader in life sciences and will surely continue its ascent as a center for AI innovation in healthcare.     

Ottawa’s collaborative network creates life sciences advancement

Canada’s capital, Ottawa, is known for its smart health innovation and as a global hub for healthcare discoveries. Many start-ups and global companies call the city home, including Siemens Healthineers, which recently announced a re-investment of $20M to increase domestic manufacturing capacity for its blood-testing technology. Of the $20M investment, Siemens received $2.5M from the Ontario Together Fund.

The Ontario Together Fund supports manufacturing and innovation for products related to the public health response to COVID-19, and prepares Canada for future public health emergencies. Companies throughout Ontario can utilize the fund to increase their capacity and innovation for new products.

Specific assets that draw companies to the Ottawa area include: the University of Ottawa Heart Institute (OHRI), Canada’s largest cardiovascular research centre; Genome Canada; Stem Cell NetworkBioCanRx, and Frayme, an international network that connects mental health and social services.

The Toronto Region rivals major North American healthcare cities

The Toronto Region’s life sciences industry is one of the largest in North America, offering comparable employment as major American healthcare cities such as Boston and San Francisco.

Toronto is home to Canada’s largest concentration of hospitals, research institutes, business incubators and venture capital organizations. Many of these facilities are found in the Discovery District—7 million square feet of space dedicated to research and innovation. The Toronto Region also excels at manufacturing and clinical trials, making it a great place to develop new technologies and bring them to market.

Also located in Toronto is the Vector Institute, one of Canada’s three AI research institutes. Vector’s research spans across multiple sectors, but it has made specific life sciences advancements in sub sectors such as precision medicine and analytics application.

One of Toronto’s recent investments in life sciences manufacturing is Sanofi, a French pharmaceutical company. In March 2021, Sanofi announced an investment of $925M to increase vaccine capacity at its facility in North York. Both the federal and provincial governments are investing in the project, with more than $460M in support from Canada. The investment will also create 1,225 skilled jobs in the Toronto Region.

Another well-known life sciences asset in Toronto and throughout Ontario, is the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre—a leader in stem cell research and one of the largest treatment centers in Canada. This facility, along with the University of Toronto, Mount Sinai Hospital, the Centre for Cell and Vector Production and others, have earned the Toronto Region recognition as a leader in regenerative medicine.

Medical Research takes off in Hamilton

Hamilton is increasingly strengthening its reputation in life sciences and the sector recently became the biggest employer in the city. Hamilton’s strengths lie in bioengineering and cellular research, and it has one of the largest hospital networks in the country.

Hamilton is home to the McMaster Innovation Park (MIP)—over 700k sq. ft. of laboratories and offices that are mixed-use spaces for life sciences, advanced materials and ICT. An asset in the life sciences ecosystem is the Centre for the Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM). CCRM has a partnership with McMaster University and demonstrates the innovation aspect of Southern Ontario, further complemented by collaboration all along the Windsor Corridor.

Other assets available for companies looking to innovate and interested in R&D in Hamilton include the Synapse Life Science Consortium and the Global Nexus for Pandemics and Biological Threats.

Canada’s incentives support collaboration in life sciences

Canada’s life sciences industry is bolstered by incentives and programs that are available to investors.  

The MITACS program serves to connect private and public partners together and to increase collaboration in various industries across Canada. One such project example involves Johnson & Johnson Inc. Canada, which is searching for a therapeutic treatment to early-onset scoliosis.

The Innovation Superclusters Initiative is one of the best examples of Canada’s collaborative ecosystem and innovative nature. Working in partnership, companies can apply for funding for innovative projects that help solve the country’s greatest challenges. For example, the Next Generation Manufacturing Supercluster has funded projects including the first Made-in-Canada ventilators and a Made-in-Canada disinfection robot. 

Scale.AI, the AI-Powered Supply Chains Supercluster, has funded projects to advance innovation and technology development in life sciences.  For instance, companies across interprovincial borders including MCI OneHealth, PolyClinic, Altima Dental and Khure Health have joined forces with Montréal’s IVADO Labs to create and optimize an AI solution to facilitate virtual, in-person or specialized patient care. Another project supported by Scale.AI with the goal to support home care healthcare involves AlayaCare, CBI Health Centre, Bien chez soi and IntegraCare. The companies are collaborating with the Engineering University Polytechnique Montréal to increase efficiencies through an AI platform.    

COVID-19 has shaken the world to its core and refocused the lens on life sciences, but also on global collaboration. Canada has strengthened its already competitive life sciences cluster and has encouraged further collaborative work to generate innovation and solve future obstacles. With world-class universities and renowned researchers, high quality talent, low operational costs and a great quality of life, Canada is the place to invest and advance life sciences.

Through its regional offices in Québec and Ontario, Invest in Canada works with partners to connect global investors with opportunities in life sciences. Ready to get started? Contact us to connect with an Investor Services Advisor.