Over the past decade Canada has become a global leader in life sciences and biotechnology innovation and commercialization. The sector’s steady growth is largely due to its solid base of expertise and continued investment in world-leading research. And while biotechnology innovation can be found across the country, Atlantic Canada has become a hotbed of activity and is leading the country in key bio and life-sciences areas.
“The region has seen over $1 billion dollars in exits and follow-on investment over the past few years in this sector,” said Scott Moffitt, managing director of BioNova, Nova Scotia’s Life Science Association. “Being responsive, nimble and knowledgeable has helped us to get to this point.”
Today, Atlantic Canada is home to over 150 bioscience companies and 25 research organizations that are at the forefront of global research in human health, medical technologies and diagnostics, marine biology, vaccine diagnostics, pharmaceutical and therapeutics, animal and fish health products, and agricultural technology, including a strong potato research cluster.
Despite all the innovative work coming out of the region, one of the most frequently asked questions to biotech and life-sciences organizations is “Why are you located in Atlantic Canada?”
And while there’s not just one answer, the reasoning does stem from a regional uniqueness and an inherent entrepreneurial spirit that drives collaboration, partnership and a belief that our tiny little region on the East Coast of Canada can compete and win on the global stage.
Supported by federal and provincial organizations including Springboard Atlantic, BioNova, BioNB, the PEI BioAlliance and NATI, the region’s continued growth in bio and life sciences doesn’t show signs of slowing down.
“The demand for these technologies and new solutions is accelerating, says Rory Francis, CEO of the PEI BioAlliance. “And we are well positioned to be part of that.”
Atlantic Canada is home to many innovative companies driving innovative research and development in key areas of bio and life sciences. Despite representing just 5% of the Canadian population, the region has continued to punch above its weight in attracting new opportunities, including Natural Products Canada – one of just two bio Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR) in Canada.
This is in no small part due the world-class research talent and expertise from the region’s 20+ universities and colleges, the two dozen research institutes dedicated to supporting the region’s bio-based industries and a regional understanding that moving ideas to commercializable opportunities is key to growing the sector and region.
“It’s not enough just to do the research,” says Francis. “There’s a lot of discipline and a lot of understanding required to make this economically impactful.” And, he adds, that starts with our ability to work together as a sector.
This evolution of the Atlantic bio and life science sector leverages a history of scientific ingenuity and an entrepreneurial and self-reliant spirit – it has created a dynamic environment for innovation.
“We are not creating a sector from scratch here; we are building on 150 years of research and innovation in traditional industries that we know very well. That’s a base that not many regions have or understand,” says Meaghan Seagrave, executive director of BioNB.
“The sky’s the limit,” says Doris Grant, director for Industry Liaison and Innovation at Dalhousie University. “Collaboration is at the core of everything we do and having the whole ecosystem working together and recognizing this sector for the opportunity that it is only motivates us further.”