Biotechnology Ecosystem

The Global Challenge And Opportunity For Canadian Biotech

The world’s population is predicted to grow to almost 10 billion people by 2050. This means drastic global changes in human health, the environment, food security and economic fortunes have already started to impact our day to day lives. Demands for consumer goods, healthcare, energy and western based diets emanating from ever increasing populations in countries such as China and India are impacting economies, human health, the environment, and food and water supply like never before.

The status quo is simply untenable. Society must find ways to both mitigate and adapt to the reality of the pressures challenging our planet and population. If done well, Canada can capitalize on the enormous global economic opportunity and in so doing will become home to globally competitive biotech companies which will attract more talent and investment.

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Ecosystem Qs & As

What is the Canadian biotechnology ecosystem?
The Canadian biotechnology ecosystem is comprised of clusters in every
province which bring together: world-class universities and research institutes;
biotech entrepreneurs; large multinational players; and, a highly educated

All told, the Canadian biotech ecosystem is an economic strength that
positions Canada well to successfully deliver innovation to a world looking for
solutions. Importantly for Canada, biotechnology is an essential part of the
reinvention of the traditional economic cornerstone and job intensive
industries such as forestry, energy, mining, agriculture, aerospace,
manufacturing and resource management.

How is the biotechnology ecosystem different from other industries?
Biotechnology is built on a transformative idea and its supporting
science. Unlike many other industries with either large infrastructure or
immovable assets, the ‘idea’ at the core of biotech is exceedingly mobile.

Biotechnology commercialization requires long extended regulatory processes
to draw products into the global marketplace. Ensuring Canada has a
modern, efficient and competitive regulatory system, combined with access to
investment partners, helps to enable new products.

By retaining the innovation, allowing SME’s to grow operations here, Canada
will benefit from the significant economic, health and social benefits
associated with the commercialization process.

What are the strengths of Canada’s biotechnology ecosystem?
Few countries are as well positioned as Canada to take advantage of
biotechnology’s potential. Canada’s history of innovation in biotechnology
stretches back a century. From the discovery of insulin to the development of
an Ebola vaccine, we have contributed to the betterment of life for Canadians
and the world. Canadian researchers discovered stem cells and the Cystic
Fibrosis gene, developed canola and created a non-browning apple. Our
entrepreneurs have built companies that produce clean jet fuel from an
agricultural crop, biotherapeutics for the treatment of cancer and a technology
that captures carbon dioxide from coal-fired plants.

The world sees Canadian biotechnology innovation delivering game-changing
solutions to the global marketplace. Recent successes can be found
throughout the spectrum of innovation with hundreds of small start-up
entrepreneurs striving to bring scientific discovery to the global marketplace.

Importantly, biotechnology is becoming more central to supporting the
economic and environmental transformation of Canada’s traditional economic
cornerstone and job intensive industries, namely: forestry; energy; mining;
agriculture; aerospace; manufacturing and resource
management. Biotechnology innovation will support these sectors as they
transform and compete in the emerging global bio-economy.

What is Canada’s status in the global competition for biotechnology
As a result of its history of scientific discovery and innovation, Canada is home
to a strong network of biotech hubs in every region of the country. At the
centre of those hubs are world class universities, hospitals and research
institutions. These combine with a national network of incubators and
accelerators, and hundreds of small start-up companies helping to draw
biotechnology research into the development of innovative products.

Canada has a diverse biotech ecosystem with clusters in every province, in
which small- and medium-sized biotech companies work with universities,
research institutes and hospitals, regulatory authorities and multinationals to
bring their innovations to market. Correspondingly the biotech ecosystem is
well-positioned to be a major contributor to solutions for the challenges in
agriculture, energy production, environmental remediation, industry and

What is needed for Canada to realize the potential of the industry?
For commercialization of research, patient, long-term investment combined
with strong management and highly skilled employee’s is key to industry
successfully establishing anchor companies in Canada.

Canada is competing with other jurisdictions to attract investors and talent to
the sector. If Canada is unable to attract investors and people then the
innovations discovered here will go to where the investment and people
are. We will ultimately get the innovation back in its finished form but will
have lost out on the economic benefits that are associated with

Where can I view additional resources on anchor companies?

The adMare Institute aims to advance life sciences public policy in Canada by providing objective, balanced, high-quality, data-based analysis to the sector and all stakeholders across the country. The objective of the Institute is to encourage objective and comprehensive discussions.

The institute’s first white paper, Canada’s Evolving Life Sciences Industry: Exploring Ecosystems, Clusters, and the Need for Anchor Companies considers the role of innovation ecosystems, advantages of industrial clusters, and impact of anchor companies on the life sciences industry. The paper highlights how innovation ecosystems differ from clusters, and explores the symbiosis that exists among the component parts. We also propose a definition of research-based anchor companies in the Canadian context and explore the critical roles they play in leading internationally prominent life science clusters – a role that is absent in Canada.