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With approximately 900 innovative biotechnology companies located in Canada feeding a national network of discovery and development, the sector is a catalyst for long-term economic growth in all regions of the country and will help drive opportunities in big data, genomic applications and artificial intelligence.

BIONATION is a national dialogue platform designed to showcase the value and opportunity the biotechnology ecosystem in Canada offers, exploring key themes of talent, investment, and next-generation technologies. BIONATION is created and hosted by BIOTECanada, the national industry association for biotechnology companies and organizations reflecting the diverse nature of Canada’s health, industrial and agricultural biotechnology sectors. The goal of BIONATION is to provide policymakers with an increased awareness of the important role Canadian biotech plays in building the economic recovery in Canada and supporting the competitiveness of key industry sectors.

The BIONATION network includes world-class universities and research institutes, start-ups, small and medium enterprises, and large multinational corporations. There is a vibrant pan-Canadian biotechnology ecosystem with clusters located in every province, from the Quebec Ontario Life Sciences community to AdMare BioInnovations in British Columbia to AgWest Bio in Saskatchewan to PEI BioAlliance.

A healthy bioeconomy means increased economic growth, high-skilled jobs, more effective healthcare spending, improved productivity, and globally competitive leadership in research commercialization. Biotechnology is supporting the transformation of foundational Canadian industries like mining, forestry, oil and gas, and agriculture. It is opening new markets, promoting sustainability in resource management, advancing manufacturing technologies, and is central to Canada’s fast-growing cleantech and agri-food sectors.

Building the Biotechnology Ecosystem and Creating Impacts

Canada’s biotechnology industry created high quality jobs that helped make Canada a leading destination for foreign investment and pumped billions of dollars into our economy. It is developing solutions for better outcomes in agriculture, environmental sustainability and resource management, health, and manufacturing. Canada’s biotech sector has been at the forefront of the race to defeat COVID-19 and will be a critical building block of our economic recovery.

Between 2013 and 2019, the biotechnology sector in Canada has experienced unprecedented growth. The number of venture capital deals increased by 121%, and the venture capital dollars invested underwent a 300% increase.

To attract investments from public and private organizations, BIONATION proposed Life Sciences Capital Catalyst Initiative (LS-VCCI) - a national, dedicated life sciences fund, which will help biotech companies scale and grow into anchor companies that remain in Canada.

  • The Government of Canada’s $500 million investment will leverage $1 billion in private capital

  • Totaling $1.5 billion of accessible capital over the next three years, to build on our growing momentum

There are three features to the fund designed to meet the long-term needs of the biotechnology sector, fuel economic growth, and maximize returns for the federal government:

  1. Finance seed and early-stage funding vehicles: These vehicles will support company creation and early-stage growth of innovations/companies emerging from Canada’s leading academic institutions.

  2. Grow Canadian venture capital fund capacity: Strengthen and grow the Canadian VC investment pool by facilitating the collaboration of Canadian VC firms and attracting investment from larger investors inside and outside of Canada.

  3. Create Canadian-based anchor companies: Provide later stage companies (private or public) access to investment capital to support their ability to grow in Canada and ultimately mature into domestic anchor companies.

Canada’s Health/Bio-sciences Economic Strategy Table (HBEST) released recommendations and established targets for 2025 that will carry Canada’s biotechnology industry in the right direction of creating a sustainable, globally competitive health ecosystem with a robust innovation economy and improved health outcomes.


Biotechnology in Canada

Canada is a biotechnology pioneer with a long history as a global leader. Canadians can point to such important milestones as Banting and Best developing insulin in 1922, Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine in 1955, and the University of Toronto’s discovery of blood-forming stem cells in the 1960s. More recently, Canada has claimed a number of global firsts: a herbicide-resistant canola crop in 1995, stem cells generated from skin in 2008, bio jet fuel in 2012, the first commercial gene therapy in 2015, and the Ebola vaccine which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency in late 2019. In response to the pandemic, Canadians are very involved in the global race to develop a viable COVID-19 vaccine.

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Looking at the future with BIONATION

Building the momentum, BIONATION is proposing a milestone partnership with private capital investors and government to generate a first-in-Canada competitive fund directed at one of our most successful tech industries. Investors, incubators, and regional economic development organizations have come together to focus on the long-standing issue of capital investment and attraction.

Funding like the LS-VCCI would maximize returns on investment by supporting company creation and early-stage growth of innovations emerging from Canada’s leading academic institutions, growing the Canadian venture capital investment pool by facilitating collaboration between VC firms and in turn attracting investment from larger domestic and international investors, and creating Canadian-based anchor companies.

Canadians are competing in a global innovation race and cannot afford to be complacent. We must ensure we have the right hosting conditions to attract investment capital. Funders consider a number of factors when they make their choices, including how quickly and broadly their products will find a market. Access for patients to the latest medicines, a regulatory system that recognizes innovation, and a world-class intellectual property regime are also essential ingredients for Canada’s success.

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