“Toronto is home to a vibrant and prolific healthcare and life sciences community led by academic hospitals, world-class research institutions, top scientists, and a strong start-up ecosystem” (Jan 16, 2017; Melinda Richter, former Head of JLABS)
With a wealth of world-class researchers and continuing investment into its start-up ecosystem, Toronto has provided fertile ground for building the biotechnology sector in the province/nation. Since its start in 2014, the Centre for the Commercialization of Antibodies and Biologics (CCAB) has focused on helping academic researchers move their discoveries towards validated, marketable biotherapeutics. The company is now set to expand its role in this growing area.
In late 2017, Robert Verhagen took the helm of CCAB as CEO, bringing more than 20 years of business and leadership experience in the pharmaceutical and diagnostics fields to the organization.
When describing his vision for CCAB, Verhagen said, “I’m looking forward to building on CCAB’s accomplishments and strengths. It has had success in commercializing antibody technology from the University of Toronto and the organization will now look at assisting in the creation of companies around that technology and in new areas.”
Under Verhagen’s leadership, CCAB’s technical expertise will also expand to help these young companies and the research community as it launches C-Lab, its custom antibody and protein production service, and begins distribution of reagent antibodies from its portfolio.
Beyond CCAB, Verhagen’s vision is also intended to impact the larger Canadian biotechnology community.
“Previously, Canada has focused on bringing in large pharma companies to support the biotech ecosystem in Toronto. We’d like to help bridge the gap that start-ups face in attracting interest from large pharma while growing the business skills of the people involved. If we have talented, smart people who are successful in building a company, Toronto gains the much needed expertise and talent needed to repeat this”.
Even when companies relocate, Verhagen said the people that work there often remain.
“In this light, if CCAB can help train C-level executives, they will have the skills and drive to each build more companies and, in 20-30 years, Toronto will have the research and business talent to drive the industry. This, in turn, will attract money and the big players in industry”.
With this outlook, CCAB aims to help enrich the talent pool and shift traditional thinking away from attracting pharma from elsewhere, towards supporting Canadian-built pharma success.