Most Canadians know about the important role Canada played in the discovery of insulin, a life-saving discovery that has improved the lives of countless diabetics around the world. But many are not aware that Canadian scientists have also been instrumental in discoveries related to the polio and Ebola vaccines, or that it was in a Canadian lab that a compound was developed to stunt HIV’s vicious rate of replication. These innovations have literally saved millions of lives globally and are examples of the life-saving work being done right here at home.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, our government knew the answer to solve this global challenge was through science. That’s why we acted quickly to make major investments to build up the sector and to help Canadians cope with the pandemic. Our government’s response was focused not only on the short-term strategic solutions but also on developing a long-term vision for Canada’s recovery.
Thanks to these early investments to fight the pandemic, we are helping homegrown firms like AbCellera, BIOVECTRA and Medicago, and many others, across the country grow. Our goal it to reinforce the overall strength of our domestic sector. To date, we have supported 29 Canadian COVID‑19 biomanufacturing, vaccines and therapeutics projects through the Strategic Innovation Fund, Next Generation Manufacturing Canada, the National Research Council of Canada, and many other government agencies and partners.
As the minister responsible for innovation, science, and industry, and as the former minister for foreign affairs, I am proud to see that by supporting the long-term resilience of our domestic biomanufacturing capacity, we have also attracted the attention of the world. We have seen global firms like Moderna, Sanofi and Merck initiate new operations here. They have made these decisions because they understand the many advantages of partnering with Canada. Whether its our numerous trade deals, our preferential access to markets and global supply chains, or our highly educated and competitively skilled population, we have what’s needed to attract both talent and investments to Canada. We are a country that values stability, predictability and the rule of law. And in these unprecedented times, it is clear that these values will guide not only the immediate investments and innovations we’re seeing but also the long-term growth and resilience of our country’s future.
As we look to a post-pandemic future for Canada, there is no doubt that we must supercharge the amazing potential we’ve seen in this key economic sector. To guide us in this endeavour, we look to our leading scientists, researchers, industry experts, and key stakeholders, in order to develop Canada’s Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy. This cross-government effort will help ensure that businesses, scientists, researchers and post-secondary institutions have the tools and resources they need to advance future discoveries of vaccines and therapeutics, and that we can grow the domestic talent needed to support our ambitious objectives.
In support of the strategy, the 2021 federal budget devoted more than $2 billion to growing our biomanufacturing and life sciences sector. This funding included $500 million for the Canada Foundation for Innovation to support the bioscience capital and research infrastructure needs of post-secondary institutions and research hospitals across the country. These major investments will also create a new tri-council biomedical research fund; support company creation, scale-up and training activities in the life sciences sector; increase clinical research capacity through a new Canadian Institutes of Health Research clinical trials fund; support stem cell and regenerative medicine research; and further invest in the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization to support the development of its vaccine candidates and expand its facility in Saskatoon.
This is all critical groundwork for Canada. These investments will not only help see us through the COVID-19 pandemic and address possible future health crises, but they’ll also help to consolidate our long-term approach to Canadian healthcare in areas such as cancer research and various other chronic diseases. That’s why we will continue to support the growth of our domestic life sciences firms. Because it means more life-saving breakthroughs. It means thousands of new well-paying and highly-skilled jobs. And it means a future where Canada is a world leader in preventing, treating and curing all kinds of illness and disease.
As Canada continues to battle COVID-19, we should allow ourselves to be inspired by a few truths that have come to light during the course of this pandemic: first, Canadians are capable of great things when we work together; second, our world-class science and research enterprises deliver innovations that help the world weather tough times; and third, the biomanufacturing and life sciences sector can count on our government’s support in whatever comes next.