Bio Business March/April 2017

Page 1

Company to Watch Synaptive Medical is LSO’s Company of the Year 15

Human Resources BioTalent award highlights young talent 23

Moments in Time

Dr. Judes Poirier’s discovery of a possible risk factor for Alzheimer’s 27

march/april 2017

Championing the Business of Biotechnology in Canada

innovation Life sciences take the spotlight in province’s rich history of discovery

The human brain has been called the most complex object in the known universe. It can be astonishingly resilient and pliable, yet remarkably delicate and perplexing. The health of this most vital of organs is a major issue facing modern society – an issue that requires innovative and intricate solutions.

Ontario, Canada is where digital media and game theory intersect with brain health to improve outcomes. It’s also where Artificial Intelligence like IBM Watson has joined forces with the Ontario Brain Institute and University Health Network in Toronto to take on Parkinson’s disease. There are brilliant minds here, solving complex problems using technology in imaginative ways. Hospitals, research centres, universities, technology incubators, start-ups, scientists and multinationals act as fully functioning neurons firing through synapses within an interconnected network of innovation. If you want to be at the forefront of brain health research and commercialization, join us for a meeting of the minds in Ontario. Visit Ontario at the Canada Place Pavilion, Booth #4415 Paid for by the Government of Ontario







BioTalent Canada’s new award was created to recognize talented new grads and broadcast great biotech success stories.


Ontario is selling itself as the destination for life sciences with both a rich history and a strong future. We talked to Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation and Science; Synaptive Medical, this year’s Life Sciences Ontario Company of the Year; Bonnie Crombie, Mayor of life sciences powerhouse Mississauga; and rounded up some of the province’s major innovation milestones.


Championing the Business of Biotechnology in Canada



Editor’s note 5 canadian news 6 worldwide news 7 moments in time 27

Company to WatCh Synaptive Medical is LSO’s Company of the Year 15

human ResouRCes BioTalent award highlights young talent 23

moments in time

Dr. Judes Poirier’s discovery of a possible risk factor for Alzheimer’s 27

MArCh/APriL 2017

DaviD suzuki Work-life balance


Championing the Business of Biotechnology in Canada

innovation Life sciences take the spotlight in province’s rich history of discovery

cleanrooms The DefiniTive Source for Lab ProDucTS, newS anD DeveLoPmenTS

March/April 2017

Design with flexibility


UBC lab looks for causes, preventions and treatment



Do the flip!


Learn about the importance of the “A” in Alzheimer’s.

Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation and Science....................................... 8 Synaptive Medical Brings Innovation to the Neurosurgery Space..........................................15 Bonnie Crombie, Mayor, Mississauga.............19


on twitter at @biolabmag On the Web at

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editor’s note

Publisher & CEO Christopher J. Forbes Executive Editor Theresa Rogers staff writer Hermione Wilson editorial intern Lily Huang CONTRIBUTORS BioTalent Canada art director Katrina Teimo Secretary/Treasurer Susan A. Browne marketing Stephanie Wilson manager vp of production Roberta Dick production Crystal Himes MANAGER

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Telling Your Stories I

t’s Canada’s 150th birthday! Not to be outdone, do you know it’s also Ontario’s 150th birthday? According to the province, Ontario’s economy is driven by a combination of resources, manufacturing expertise, exports, and innovation. Ontario generates 37% of the national GDP and is home to almost 50% of all employees in high tech, financial services and other knowledge-intensive industries such as biotech. This issue features a snapshot of the life sciences sector in Ontario. The stories told are of research, innovation and entrepreneurship. Of hard work, raw talent and discipline. Synaptive Medical, for instance, was recently named Life Sciences Ontario’s Company of the Year. The Toronto-based medical device company is dedicated to bringing innovation into the brain surgery space by improving surgical equipment and streamlining robotic and data systems. Like many Toronto biotechs, the company began life as a start-up in the MaRS Discovery District in 2012. Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research, Innovation and Science, says life sciences is one of the focus areas of research and innovation for the provincial government. The province is currently hiring a Chief Science Officer and making announcements such as the Ontario Research Fund, a $77-million investment into 75 different science and technology projects. “It was a great announcement and I think it keeps our research community happy,” Moridi says. “In the meantime, it’s a good investment for the future economy of the province of Ontario.” One Ontario city is well-known for its ability to attract life sciences companies. Mississauga is a well-established cluster. In March, the municipality released its Life Sciences Cluster Strategy, a five-year plan to support the growth and development of the sector. Mayor Bonnie Crombie says the strategy is the first of its kind for a Canadian municipality. “This strategy will guide the Economic Development Office’s ongoing efforts to identify new opportunities to strengthen Mississauga’s competitive advantage in the life sciences industry,” she says. “This strategy is the spark that will ignite the synergy between government, industry, academia and concerned citizens. Together, we will create a sustainable environment that supports and nurtures scientific breakthroughs and medical innovations that will benefit the world while generating important economic development here at home.” Of course, Canada is a diverse country and though we are separated by geography, a united healthy life sciences sector will benefit us all. We want to shine a light on all of your accomplishments. If you missed our feature on BC, you can find it on issuu. Stay tuned to upcoming issues for features on the Prairies (May/June), Quebec (July/August), NS/NB/ PEI (September/October), and Newfoundland/ Labrador (November/December). If you have a story to tell, please get in touch!

Theresa Rogers executive Editor

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Championing the Business of Biotechnology in Canada


canadian news

UBC Invention Uses Bacteria to Purify Water Funding for Aging Research

The Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation announced on April 3 the launch of its Knowledge Mobilization Partnership Program, KMP2. This program is designed to help clinicians, managers, researchers, and academia drive adoption of best and next practices across stakeholder groups in the aging and brain health sector, nationally or across a province. In total, up to $1 million in funding will be available through KMP2. The projects may encompass activities that will create actual products methodologies and evaluate the effectiveness of knowledge mobilization activities and outcomes for end users.

Major Drug Policy Conference to Set Agenda for Reform

In April, 120 drug policy leaders from across Canada, the Americas and Europe convened in Ottawa for Canada’s Drug Futures Forum to look at the future of Canada’s domestic and international illicit drug policies. Working collaboratively, participants from across the country including representatives from public health, law enforcement, justice, as well as drug users, developed a set of recommendations during their two days and that were shared with governments across Canada.

bio business m a r c h /a p r i l 2 0 1 7


Whale Breath Reveals Bacteria Threat

Droplets and exhaled breath caught from the blowholes of endangered southern resident killer whales along the Pacific coast are providing scientists with insights into whale health and revealing bacteria and fungi that may be a threat to the mammals. Over the course of one decade in the 1990s, their numbers dropped from about 108 animals to about 70. This latest effort gives scientists a baseline to compare how the health of whales changes over time, especially when there is evidence of disease.

UBC’s Pierre Bérubé uses bacteria to turn non-potable water into drinking water.

A University of British Columbia-developed system that uses bacteria to turn non-potable water into drinking water was tested in April prior to being installed in remote communities in Canada and beyond. The system consists of tanks of fibre membranes that catch and hold contaminants such as dirt, organic particles, bacteria and viruses – while letting water filter through. A community of beneficial bacteria, or biofilm, functions as the second line of defence, working in concert to break down pollutants. “Membrane treatment can remove over 99.99 per cent of contaminants, making them ideal for making drinking water,” says project lead Pierre Bérubé, a UBC civil engineering professor who developed the system with support from the federally funded Canada-India research organization IC-IMPACTS. Bérubé states that the system is the first to use gravity to scour and remove captured contaminants, which otherwise accumulate and clog the membrane. The biofilm also helps by essentially eating away at the captured contaminants. The opening and closing of a few valves every 24 hours in order to “lift” the water and let gravity and biology help remove contaminants. This helps with significant savings in time and money over the lifetime of the system. Access to clean drinking water is a Access to clean drinking constant challenge for millions of water is a constant challenge people around the world. for millions of people around the world. The goal is to provide a model for low-cost, effective water treatment for communities, and to help locals as they build, operate and even expand their water treatment plants. West Vancouver was chosen for pilot testing because of its proximity, but the eventual goal is to install similar systems for communities where clean drinking water is hard to come by.

worldwide news

DNA in Water Determines Arrival of Fish Depression Tops Causes of Ill Health

For the first time, scientists have recorded a spring fish migration simply by conducting DNA tests on water samples. Environmental DNA (eDNA) strained from samples drawn weekly from New York’s East and Hudson Rivers over six months last year, revealed the presence or absence of several key fish species passing through the water on each test day. The Rockefeller University study, published April 12 in PLOS ONE, pioneers a way to monitor fish migrations that involves a fraction of the effort and cost of trawling, all without harming the fish. It is an easy way to estimate the abundance and distribution of diverse fish species and other forms of marine life in the dark waters of rivers, lakes, and seas. As they swim, fish leave traces of their DNA in the water, sloughed off their slimy, gelatinous outer coating or in excretions, for example. Dr. Mark Stoeckle who is the senior Research Associate obtained the DNA of 42 fish species, including most (81%) of the species known to be locally abundant or common, and relatively few (23%) of the uncommon ones. Jesse Ausubel, Co-founder of the Census of Marine Life, notes that the tests turned up the DNA from fish commonly eaten by New Yorkers but not known to inhabit the city’s waters such as the European sea bass and Nile tilapia. Therefore, the group conclude that the DNA of those species entered through the wastewater system and eDNA could help identify endangered species being sold as food in local stores and restaurants. The research found that the number of “reads” of eDNA – how many copies of tiny DNA segments of a particular species turn up in a sample – roughly corresponds with data from net surveys. Beyond low cost and wide applicability, advantages of eDNA surveying include the ability to collect samples without disturbing the fish. Also, nets often cannot reach bottom and are difficult to deploy in some environments. “eDNA sampling can be done using standard biology laboratory equipment and techniques,” says co-author Zachary Charlop-Powers. After water is drawn, it is filtered to concentrate the DNA for extraction. The target segment of the DNA is amplified and then sent to a lab for “next-generation” sequencing, the result of which – a record of all the DNA sequences in the sample – is fed into computer software that counts the number of copies of each sequence and searches for matches in an online public reference library.

Brazil Works to Control Yellow Fever Outbreak

Brazil is carrying out mass vaccination campaigns for yellow fever in the states of Minas Gerais, Espirito Santo, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Bahia, while strengthening surveillance and case management throughout the country since an outbreak in January. More than 18.8 million doses of vaccine have been distributed, in addition to routine immunization efforts. Yellow fever in the four states is linked to transmission through the jungle mosquito species Haemagogus and Sabethes while cases with humans and monkeys in municipalities close to large urban areas indicate a potential risk of urbanization.

Cresset Agreement to Speed Drug Design

Cresset, provider of software and contract research services for small molecule discovery and design, signs three-way strategic agreement to speed up drug design. This agreement follows the transfer of 10 drug design software patents from Research Centre Drug Discovery to iPrecision last year. Commercial Director Dr. Bardsley states, “This British-Chinese three-way agreement brings together expertise and innovation in development of technologies for computational molecule design.”

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Filtering water samples at the Rockefeller University lab. Photo credit: Rockefeller University

According to the latest estimates from the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015. Lack of support for people with mental disorders prevents many from accessing the treatment they need to live healthy lives. WHO says every US $1 invested in scaling up treatment for depression and anxiety leads to a return of US $4 in better health and ability to work. Depression increases the risk of substance use, risk of suicide and risk of diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.


regional profile ontario

Spotlight on

The story of the Ontario life sciences sector is one of research, innovation and entrepreneurship. The province’s high concentration of research institutions and life sciences businesses has created the ideal climate for major advances in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical spaces. We spoke to industry insiders with their fingers on the pulse to learn what makes the Ontario life sciences sector tick.

QA +

bio business m a r c h /a p r i l 2 0 1 7


Reza Moridi

Minister of Research, Innovation and Science

regional profile

Ontario’s life sciences sector is a community of dynamic change and growth. We spoke to Ontario’s Minister of Research, Innovation and Science to get a read on the sector’s economic progress. Tell me about the announcement you made recently at Queen′s University about the Ontario Research Fund? The one that we did at Queen’s University was part of the Ontario Research Fund announcement of a $77-million investment in 75 different projects. Some of these projects were life sciences projects, and the others were basically in other areas of science and technology. It was a great announcement and I think it keeps our research community happy. In the meantime, it’s a good investment for the future economy of the province of Ontario. Mentioned in the press release on the Ontario Research Fund announcement is the province′s commitment to promoting the use of genomics to solve health issues and supporting the development of disruptive innovation in the field of genomics. Has the provincial government identified genomics as an area of growth? As you know, we have established the Ontario Genomics Institute and we are also investing in genomics, which is a part of the life sciences, so yes, it is one of the focus areas. Life sciences in general is one of the focus areas of research and innovation for the Government of Ontario and anything related to life sciences, genomics for example, is a part of that major initiative.

At this year′s Life Sciences Ontario (LSO) Awards Gala, remarks were made about the lack of government support for the bio industry. How do you respond? I certainly don’t agree. Life science is a major focus sector for the government, so we try to do whatever we can to promote life sciences. Life sciences is employing about 60,000 Ontarians and contributes to our economy in billions of dollars – I believe it’s about $35 or $36 billion in terms of GDP contribution – and those 60,000 jobs are good jobs. In terms of ranking, life sciences in Ontario ranks one of the top five or six in the Americas and our aim is basically to increase our ranking from those numbers to number three or one of the top third life sciences jurisdictions in North America. Recently, we created an initiative called Ontario Business Growth Initiative with $400 million in investments. All these investments we are making – not only in life sciences, but in innovation as a whole – are all connected to each other. When we are talking about life sciences, how much, for example, does computer technology affect life sciences? It’s enormous. The life sciences have become more and more interdisciplinary, so whatever we invest in, it also helps life sciences indirectly as well. We are investing quite heavily in innovation.

Ontario is the largest life sciences jurisdiction in Canada with more than 50% of the total Canadian life sciences economic activity.

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What are some of the other new provincial government initiatives that are having an impact on the life sciences industry? On the venture capital side, we established the Ontario Venture Capital Fund a number of years ago, but in the past four years, since I became Minister [of Research, Innovation and Science], we established the Northleaf Venture Catalyst Fund, and just recently we established another venture capital fund which is called Scale Up Ventures. We are in the process of thinking of establishing a venture capital fund specifically for the life sciences. In terms of venture capital funds our province used to be ranked #12 [in North American venture capital activity in 2009] and now we are #4 [as of 2016]. So I think we are making good progress in the area of venture capital funds, which is a major component of innovation. Availability of venture capital was one of the issues I hit when I became minister. People were saying, “Our innovators go to the U.S. because we don’t have an adequate venture capital fund available,” but now we have made good progress on that.


regional profile ontario

What are some of the exciting things your office is doing this year that will affect the industry? One of the things we are doing is the hiring of Ontario’s first Chief Science Officer or Chief Scientist. I think this is a major initiative and it’s going to put Ontario on the map in the sense that we will have a dedicated office for science in Ontario and, as you know, our economy is moving more and more towards a science-based economy and a knowledge-based economy. I think the creation of this office will send the right signal to the community. A Chief Science Officer will basically help us accelerate science as a whole in the province of Ontario, will help us attract more researchers and scientists and talented people to Ontario, and will help us to develop a vision for science and technology in the province of Ontario for the future. Also, we expect that the Chief Science Officer will help the government make decisions based more on evidence and science rather than on the feelings of people.

One of the things we are doing is the hiring of Ontario’s first Chief Science Officer or Chief Scientist. I think this is a major initiative and it’s going to put Ontario on the map in the sense that we will have a dedicated office for science in Ontario. Our economy is moving more and more towards a science-based economy and a knowledgebased economy.

bio business m a r c h /a p r i l 2 0 1 7


You became Minister of Research, Innovation and Science in 2013. Looking back, what changes have you observed in the life sciences industry since you’ve been in office? I think of a number of points. One of them is the establishment of the Ontario Institute of Regenerative Medicine and the other was increasing the funding for the Ontario Brain Institute. The third one could be saving the MaRS West Tower, and its construction and completion, – Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, and now this tower is 100 per Innovation and Science cent rented out and leased out. [The West Tower] has brought in companies such as JLABS, which belongs to Johnson & Johnson, the biggest pharmaceutical company in the world with $60 billion in revenue. They brought their first incubator lab outside of the U.S. to Toronto, to MaRS, so I think that is a major achievement. Another achievement, I think, is Blue Rock Therapeutics [launched by Bayer AG and Versant Ventures]. This company will, I believe, be investing around $225 million USD in regenerative medicine for heart diseases. They are investing in Ontario in order to commercialize stem cell technology for the treatment of heart diseases. This is huge. As you know, 25 per cent of the population die of heart diseases so finding the technology to treat these diseases without any operation is a major advancement. They are investing heavily and they are based at MaRS. These are all part of the achievements of the past four years. Looking forward, is there anything you would like to change or improve about the life sciences industry or in the relationship between the industry and the provincial government? There are a number of things we should aim for. One is we have to internationalize our research community, in particular in the life sciences. We have to make sure our researchers are well connected to the international community – not only research

Ontario has around

1,900 life sciences firms

4 10 of the top

Canadian research universities are located in Ontario

Ontario life sciences companies have collaborations across

44 colleges and universities

The life sciences sector employs some

60,000 people

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Minister Moridi speaking at the 2017 LSO Awards Gala. All photos courtesy of Office of the Honourable Reza Moridi.

Above: Minister Moridi at Baycrest Health Sciences to support the launch of the Spark Program, an initiative designed to fund innovations in the field of aging and brain health.


regional profile ontario

scientists but our entrepreneurs as well – through the creation of capital funds and collaboration with other funds out of Canada. The other area is that we need to do as much public education as we can to let the public know that investment in research and innovation, in particular life sciences, is a part of economic growth. When it comes to life sciences, we are not only growing our economy, but by investing in innovation and research we are helping our population as well – not only our own population, not only Ontarians and Canadians, but 700 billion people on this planet as well. We need to bring the industry more into the picture. The industry’s investment in research and innovation in Ontario and Canada is not comparable with the amount done in the UK and the U.S., for example, so more collaboration is needed from the industry side. But of course we also need to do more work. There is always room for more work. BB Conversation edited for space and clarity.

Minister Moridi at Baycrest Health Sciences to support the launch of the Spark Program, an initiative designed to fund innovations in the field of aging and brain health.

bio business m a r c h /a p r i l 2 0 1 7


Minister Moridi visits Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.

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Celebrating science, innovation and solutions September 20 – 27, 2017 #GBW2017

regional profile ontario

Synaptive Medical Brings Innovation to the Neurosurgery Space By Hermione Wilson

It’s very exciting to be recognized by such great people in the community that is really, I think, exploding as far as innovation and excitement around the space. Just to be recognized by your peers and by leaders is particularly meaningful and validating to what we’re trying to accomplish. – Chief Commercial Officer Jim Cloar, Synaptive Medical

his year’s Life Sciences Ontario Awards Gala saw Synaptive Medical recognized as Company of the Year. The Toronto-based medical device company is dedicated to bringing innovation into the brain surgery space by improving on surgical equipment and streamlining robotic and data systems through new technology. “We identified a huge gap in the operating room of brain patients,” says Chief Commercial Officer Jim Cloar. “You basically have three or four companies bringing in equipment to do a surgery and they don’t really talk to each other effectively, they don’t help document what was done.” Synaptive Medical represents the collaboration of President and Cofounder Cameron Piron and an interdisciplinary team of innovators that includes engineers and healthcare professionals. Like many Toronto biotechs, the company began life as a start-up at MaRS Discovery District in 2012. “It’s great to be part of the innovation that’s going on in Toronto,” Cloar says. “It’s very exciting to be recognized by such great people in the community that is really, I think, exploding as far as innovation and excitement around the space. Just to be recognized by your peers and by leaders is particularly meaningful and validating to what we’re trying to accomplish.” In terms of the larger Canadian life sciences community, Cloar says the provincial and federal government were very supportive of the company, helping it through different processes and helping it

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regional profile ontario

Co-founder Cameron Piron giving a talk at MaRS Discovery District. Photo Credit: MaRS Discovery District.

Synaptive Medical co-founders left to right: Gal Sela, Wes Hodges, Cameron Piron, and Dave Gallop. Photo Credit: Synaptive Medical.

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find funding. Synaptive Medical benefitted from Toronto’s diverse young workforce as well, he says. “It allows us to attract brilliant people to help us grow.” In just five years, Synaptive Medical has amassed 300 employees and launched eight products, a collection of surgical tools geared toward neurosurgery that are tied together with its informatics platform to form an integrated system. A lot of surgical tools are still analogue and have not changed greatly in several years, Cloar says. Synaptive Medical’s goal has been to bring innovation into a space that hasn’t been innovated in a long time. “BrightMatter Plan really allows you to visualize the fiber tracks in the brain that aren’t visible to the naked eye, so it kind of gives the surgeon a map to stay away from key areas,” Cloar says. “Then we have the robot that has both navigation, which is called BrightMatter Guide, or the optical product itself which resides on the robot, which is called Vision, and the robot itself BrightMatter Drive. It’s all looped together with something called BrightMatter Informatics, which is the data pool.” Synaptive Medical will be launching a next generation BrightMatter robotics platform, advanced planning software and two other products that are still under wraps later this year. The company has also gone global. It has installed a unit with a surgical group in Karachi, Pakistan, to take advantage of “an exceptional opportunity to collect data on outcomes, costs and all those kinds of things,” Cloar says. The company is also in the process of establishing an international office in Lausanne, Switzerland. BB

Ontario has the lowest overall business costs in the G7


Canada is the



pharmaceutical market in the world

regional profile ontario

QA +

Bonnie Crombie

Mayor, Mississauga, ON

By Theresa Rogers


Biotech is a hugely important and growing sector for your city. It’s growing significantly. From 2003 to last year we’ve seen 26 per cent growth in the number of life sciences companies and 11 per cent by employment. Many of these are more than 100 employees. R&D spending by these companies has doubled in the past 10 years so they are a significant contributor to the economic and well-being of our city. With 430 companies you′ve got critical mass, but obviously there′s something else you′re doing right. What is it? We go out to companies. We have an economic development office and we have a sector specialist in life sciences and they manage our partnerships and seek out other partnerships with industry, associations and post secondary. We’re very good with partnering with stakeholders. We have a dedicated life sciences specialist to help nurture the sector and really help them network and grow their own supply chains and create more opportunity for innovation and collaboration.

From 2003 to last year we’ve seen 26 per cent growth in the number of life sciences companies and 11 per cent by employment. – Bonnie Crombie, Mayor, Mississauga, ON

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hese are exciting times for Bonnie Crombie, Mayor of Mississauga, ON. She is at the helm of one of Canada’s largest cities, a city that has a rich history involving the life sciences. She is also leading the charge to, in her words, “create a sustainable environment that supports and nurtures scientific breakthroughs and medical innovations that will benefit the world.” These aren’t just words. After surveys, meetings, roundtables, and interviews with dozens of stakeholders, the city has launched its brand new Life Sciences Cluster Strategy, a five-year plan to address all of the gaps and opportunities that will allow it to further support the growth and development of the local life sciences cluster, the second-largest in Canada by employment. We visited the mayor to learn about the plans first-hand.


regional profile ontario

What does the life sciences specialist do? They’re the one focused on the sector and growing the sector – business retention, expansion. Often these companies want expand or bring in their suppliers or distributors and we work with the Economic Development Office and even real estate to look for locations for them. Of course we want them to stay here so we provide great service. We call on them to learn more about their business and also to offer ourselves to see how we can assist them in their growth and learn about their issues. Sometimes we can help them with their issues. For instance, sometimes their employees take public transit so they ask can we put up a bus shelter in front of their office or reroute a bus or change a schedule; sometimes they need to connect with their federal member on SR&ED credits and we connect them so there are lots of things we can do. We have roundtables, bringing people from the sector together to discuss issues and network. We do it for other sectors as well but we do it regularly for the life sciences sector. What about education? We’re very fortunate because we have a strong education sector supporting the cluster at University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM). There is the Academy of Medicine at UTM, a teaching hospital; there is the Institute for Management and Innovation (IMI). There’s a Master of Biotechnology. Our city is very committed to the IMI. We’ve provided $1 million a year to get that off the ground for 10 years. There’s a special levy on the tax bill to support it. UTM is a big economic generator for us and it’s supporting many of our clusters, particularly life sciences. UTM will be the future home of the new Centre for Medicinal Chemistry led by world-renowned Dr. Patrick Gunning. We were able to attract him to Mississauga, and it’s an international coup. The university has put up quite a bit of infrastructure money to build this facility for him and there’s a team that is developing protein inhibitors to fight rare and lethal kinds of cancer. We might just solve cancer here in Mississauga because of the network we have here in life sciences, the research that is done by Dr. Gunning, and of course the support in the cluster that exists. We’re excited about the potential. How do you respond when people say it′s time for government to stop talking and start doing? I think our level of government does “do” and I think we’ve demonstrated our commitment and we have collaborated and supported the industry. I think we’ve gone far beyond what a typical municipal government does do quite frankly because when you look at it, we’re here to build your roads, bridges and sewers and clear your snow and open community centres so for us to have a life sciences strategy that promotes the industry and nurtures the industry, we’ve gone above and beyond what other levels of government have done. I think we’ve far exceeded probably all municipalities in what we do to provide support to the sector. bio business m a r c h /a p r i l 2 0 1 7


What is your goal when you head to BIO? This will be my third BIO. Continued networking with the companies to provide them support. Looking for more connections whether they’re B2B or government to business opportunities. To represent Mississauga on a global scale. It was at BIO that I met Biolab, a Brazilian pharma. The Ontario government had been speaking to them and our economic development office had been speaking to them but when I sat down with them at BIO, they were still planning on going to New Jersey. Then we opened their eyes to the possibility of Canada as a softer landing than the highly competitive U.S. market and to the Greater Toronto Area as having a lower cost structure than they anticipated. They had been promised a lot of incentives buy the New Jersey government. We had to prove to them that we could compete and that we were a lower cost environment notwithstanding the extra tax incentives they were going to receive. They showed interest. Then we went to Brazil on a mission and we pitched our city and all attributes we bring. That was all started at BIO so if we could have another homerun like that and identify those companies abroad that are looking for a North American footprint, that’s the ideal situation.

Ontario′s sector ranks among the

top clusters in North America

(top 10 by employment and top three by establishments)

39,500 STEM graduates every year

Ontario′s life sciences sector generated approximately

$39 billion in revenues, which translates to approximately

$38.5 billion

in total contributions to

Ontario′s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

regional profile

What do the next few years look like? We’re hoping Biolab will come in and settle and start staffing up and we continue to meet with companies and learn what their long-term goals are. Many of them are competing internationally for R&D dollars or the right to develop, produce, manufacture or distribute their key products. Have you heard anything related to the new U.S. administration? That maybe Canada is a more favourable destination right now? Yes, we’ve been hearing that from other sectors as well, especially when competing for global talent, etc. I think we will benefit from the circumstances. I am a little concerned they will want to reopen NAFTA but I’m hopeful. We’ve had other companies locate here because of access to other free trade agreements that exist that the U.S. does not enjoy. You get the final word. The bottom line is, we are a proven destination for the life sciences industry where these diverse companies locate. They succeed, they grow, they prosper. That track record exists and that’s why you see companies continue to come to Mississauga locating around the cluster. The sector will continue to be very important to Mississauga as we grow and we maintain our global competiveness by positioning ourselves as a leader in life sciences. BB

Mississauga Facts Canada′s second-largest life sciences cluster by employment More than 430 life sciences companies More than 22,000 employees More than 66 life sciences head office locations

Conversation edited for space and clarity.

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BioTalent Canada’s New Employee Recognition Award Highlights Critical Pairing of Young Talent and Wage Subsidies By BioTalent Canada

or many biotechnology companies, the decision to hire a new graduate is often a tough one. Adding a talented, willing-tolearn member to the team builds capacity and can accelerate the achievement of business goals. But the cost of a new salary–and of integrating an inexperienced worker into the company–is often an obstacle. Wage subsidies offer solutions for both biotechnology companies and new graduates by motivating employers to consider a talent pool they might have overlooked and helping young workers acquire the experience they need. “Wage subsidy programs remain the most important programs BioTalent Canada provides to the bio-economy,” says Rob Henderson, President and CEO of BioTalent Canada. “They are certainly the most successful, because they alleviate the two largest pain points plaguing small- and medium-sized biotech companies: finding capital and finding talent.” Since 2013, BioTalent Canada, a national non-profit HR association for the Canadian biotechnology industry, with the funding of Canada’s federal government, has injected more Winner of BioTalent Canada’s 2017 MAGNUS Catalyst Award for Top than $6.8 million into Canada’s bio-economy while helping 168 New Hire, Venkata (Teja) Nandamuri. Photo credit: BioTalent Canada biotechnology companies hire more than 550 new graduates. Employer feedback on the contribution of these young workers has been overwhelmingly positive. BioTalent Canada’s “MAGNUS Catalyst Award Top New Hire” award was created to recognize these talented young people. “With the success of the wage subsidy programs, we feel it’s our duty to broadcast some of these great biotech success stories,” says Henderson. MAGNUS Personnel joined BioTalent Canada as a title sponsor for the award. “We are thrilled to join BioTalent Canada in this initiative to honour these young professionals and highlight their achievements,” says Erik Simins, President and CEO of MAGNUS Personnel. “As a headhunting firm specialized in the medical, clinical research and life sciences sectors, we’re seeing first-hand the tremendous value that wage subsidy programs offer to the bio sector.” A review panel of volunteers consisting of professionals from both the biotechnology industry as well as the public sector selected the winner and finalists based on their contribution to their employer. This year’s MAGNUS Catalyst Award winner is Venkata (Teja) Nandamuri from RightBlue Labs in Toronto, ON. He will be awarded a cash prize of $1,000. Nandamuri is a Senior iOS Software Engineer at RightBlue Labs, a company developing monitoring systems that reduce illness, injury, and burnout among athletes. Challenges and delays with the iOS version of RightBlue Labs’ app were jeopardizing its product launch and expansion into the US market. Nandamuri, with his contagious optimism, inquisitive mind and pride-of-work, dramatically increased RightBlue Labs’ production velocity, taking the development status of the iOS app from delayed to ahead of schedule. Through Nandamuri’s knowledge and dedication, he single-handedly created enhancements initially thought impossible to achieve within the available timeframe, positioning the company for a strong product launch in the US. Wage subsidies have decidedly enabled small- and medium-sized biotechnology businesses like RightBlue Labs to hire new talent. Ronen Benin, Chief Executive Officer of RightBlue Labs, agrees. “As a startup, capital efficiency is always top of mind, he says. “We knew that we needed an iOS developer, but budget was on the mid-end so we knew that a genuine rock star would be hard to attract. With BioTalent Canada’s wage subsidy, we were able to increase the base salary and as a result were able to find Teja. He turned out to be even more skilled and driven than we could have hoped for, so we're absolutely thrilled. Applying for this subsidy is one of the best decisions we've made all year.” The winner was selected from award finalists announced last month which also included Michael Domenichiello from PriMed Instruments in Mississauga, ON, and Alysha Law from eSight Eyewear in Toronto, ON.

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CAREER FOCUS WAGE SUBSIDY PLACEMENTS Domenichiello is a Quality Assurance Technician at PriMed Instruments, a developer and manufacturer of medical devices related to flexible endoscopy. His dedication, professional attitude and willingness to take on new challenges have helped PriMed bring its medical devices to market sooner and expand into new foreign markets previously not available to PriMed. Law is a Vision Advocate at eSight, the company that has developed a technology that allows the legally blind to actually see. She recognized that while there is high demand for eSight’s electronic glasses, accessibility and affordability is a prevalent barrier. With her willingness to tackle major challenges, Law contributed to what has now become eSight’s Affordability Initiative. Employers emphasize the significance of wage subsidies. “Through wage subsidies, we were able to recruit and retain much needed talent to help a small company like ours to become a key player in the global market,” says Dong Ly, Manager of Regulatory Affairs and Project Development at PriMed Instruments. Abbas Damji, Chief Financial Officer of eSight also sees the benefits from the new graduates’ perspective. “The Career Focus wage subsidy program allows new hires to accelerate their transition into the workforce." On average, new graduates typically stay about six months on wage subsidies, after which almost 85% keep full-time employment, according to BioTalent Canada’s research. Having placed more than 800 new graduates into jobs since 2005, BioTalent Canada has a long track record of working with the government of Canada to help the bioeconomy access talent. As a liaison between stakeholders like biotechnology companies, academia and the public sector, BioTalent Canada continues to advocate for funds to facilitate hiring, and accelerate new graduates’ transition from academia to the workplace. BB BioTalent Canada has published a labour market report on youth employment based on data collected from the Career Focus wage subsidy program. To view or download a copy of the full report, visit



2015-16 2016-17 2014-15 2015-16 2013-14 2014-15 2012-13 2013-14 2011-12 2012-13 2009-11 2011-12 2008-09 2009-11 2005-08 2008-09 2005-08

164 143 118 164 131 118 131

56 15 15



33 72

33 0





95 100






Source: BioTalent Canada’s labour market report, Opening the Door II, 2017. Source: BioTalent Canada’s labour market report, Opening the Door II, 2017.



No Status




Employed POSTPARTICIPATION Participants*


* Data for post-participation employment status is from 2013–2016; 2016–2017 program is still ongoing. Source: BioTalent Canada’s labour market report, Opening the Door II, 2017.


bio business m a r c h /a p r i l 2 0 1 7


Government of Ontario Page 2.............................................


Eppendorf Page 4


BioTalent Page 13 ..................................................................................


BIOTECanada Page 14 ...........................................................................


No Status Unemployed

Ag-West Page 17................................................................................


City of Mississauga Page 18 ...................................................................


PEI BioAlliance Page 21 .......................................................

34.7% 34.7%

Canadian Food Business Page 25 .........................................................


Canadian Pharmaceutical Distribution Network Page 26


VWR Page 28........................................................................................





11.3% 11.3%

Source: BioTalent Canada’s labour market report, Opening the Door II, 2017. Source: BioTalent Canada’s labour market report, Opening the Door II, 2017.

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moments in time

The Genetic Signpost n 1989, Montreal-born researcher Dr. Judes Poirier discovered a possible risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease while working at the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Consortium of Southern California. Apolipoprotein E (apoE) is a transporter of brain cholesterol that played an important role in brain reinnervation. In subsequent follow-up studies, Poirier and his colleagues identified the normally rare apoE gene, known as apoE4, as a possible risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Poirier is now a professor of Medicine and Psychiatry at McGill University and Director of its Research Program on Aging, Cognition and Alzheimer’s Disease. His most recent work has led to the discovery of a biological connection between apoE and the formation of amyloid plaque in the brain. ApoE4 is associated with an increased number of protein clumps, also known as amyloid plaques, in the brain tissue of people with Alzheimer’s and are thought to lead to the death of neurons and other progressive signs and symptoms of the disease. BB

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