The 10th annual National Biotechnology Week (NBW) officially began last Friday and will continue until September 27. NBW encompasses a number of educational and networking opportunities across Canada and is co-ordinated by regional accord partners to raise awareness about the biotechnology sector and its implications for you.

Biotechnology is important for Canada’s economic and social prosperity. This is reflected in the growth of the biotech industry nationwide by 12% between 2007 and 2011. Canada’s bio-economy is worth $87.3 billion (>7% of the GDP) and supports more than one million jobs. Canada’s industry and research hospitals invested approximately $1 billion and $2 billion, respectively, in life sciences and healthcare research and development (R&D) in 2011 alone, of which Ontario invested half of both.

The top R&D industry spenders

Nine of the top 10 R&D industry spenders (pictured below) and 10 of the top 40 hospitals have facilities in the Greater Toronto Area. (Sources: PMPR and Research Infosource, 2011.)

The University of Toronto (U of T), together with its nine member hospitals, invested $1.2 billion into the sector in 2011-2012. Speaking of awareness, U of T is first in life sciences publications in Canada and second (after Harvard University) in all of North America. U of T yielded 53 startups between 2009 and 2011, many of which are in the life sciences and healthcare space, and created through U of T’s membership in MaRS Innovation (MI). Of those pictured below, nine are MI startup companies and also MaRS clients.

MaRS clients at MaRS that come from UofT

MaRS is a forerunner in fostering innovative biotechnology entrepreneurs and ventures at all stages of business development. One of the largest challenges currently facing MaRS clients and Canadian entrepreneurs is access to capital, specifically access to seed funding. In the last 10 years, there have been approximately 265 venture capital deals in Canada, amounting to $1.7 billion in capital (CapitalIQ).

Although funds are available, the investment pool is not sufficient for early-stage biotech companies to see the development of their products or technologies through to commercialization and adoption into the healthcare system. NBW reminds the public of the potential of the many innovative problem-solving and downright-cool technology-producing companies that make up Canada’s biotech industry in the hope of boosting job creation, the overall economy and ultimately patient outcomes.

A Canadian biotech highlight

Antibe TherapeuticsIn June 2013, Antibe Therapeutics, a MaRS client, successfully closed an initial public offering (IPO) and listing on the TSX Venture Exchange with gross proceeds of $2,127,400. In August, the company completed its third and final closing to achieve the maximum offering under the prospectus of $3,000,000. This is one of the first IPOs for a Canadian biotech company in the last few years and it may be a signal that the IPO window for life science companies has started to re-open.

Antibe is developing new pharmaceuticals that are improved versions of existing drugs and involve the chemical linking of an existing off-patent drug to an Antibe-patented, hydrogen sulfide-releasing molecule. The technology is based on Nobel Prize-winning medical research on the role of gaseous mediators produced by the body and known to regulate a number of basic cellular processes. The company’s products target medical conditions characterized by inflammation, pain or impaired vascular function.

Celebrate all Canadian biotech entrepreneurs

Celebrate Antibe and all our Canadian biotech entrepreneurs during NBW events that are happening all over Canada. Here are a couple happening in Toronto.

  • Life Sciences Ontario’s monthly Knowledge and Networking Breakfast Forum launched this year’s NBW with an address by the Hon. Reza Moridi, minister of research and innovation, followed by an apropos talk by Western University’s Aaron Fenster, director of the Imaging Research Laboratories at the school’s Robarts Research Institute, on “Medical Imaging Technology: From Concept to Commercialization.”
  • MaRS Future of Medicine kicks off for the year on September 26. Mark Senn, account executive, and Joanne De Franco, life sciences sector advisor, both of Export Development Canada (EDC), will advise the audience on how to “Leverage EDC’s Financial Solutions to Accelerate Your Export Trajectory.”

Follow MaRS on Twitter this week for news on NBW as well as fun facts and tributes to biotechnology. Even better, spread the word and get involved!

For more information, check out Life Sciences Foundation and their historical stories of biotechnology to inspire future innovators. Next time you think of insulin, bio-fuels, vaccines or canola, remember, the biotech industry made these successes possible!

Feature photo credit: Biotechnology Program by Hagerstown Community College CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Katrin Altosaar

Katrin was a Senior Associate for MaRS Health Venture Services. She worked with both life sciences clients and advisors to ensure the best experience for MaRS clients. See more…