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Publication Mail Registration Number: 40052410



June 2012 – VOLUME 15 – NUMBER 6


Determining Patentable Subject Matter in the U.S. and Canada

22 Giving a voice to Ontario’s Life Science Stakeholders

A look at recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions and what they mean for personalized medicine patent claims

Profiling LSO, a member driven organization that provides a unified voice for Ontario’s life science sector




Ontario’s New Ministry

26 Accelerating Cancer Discoveries

MEDI’s first Minister Brad Duguid discusses merging two ministries and opening Ontario’s doors to new business opportunities in life sciences


Breaking the Cycle

28 Ontario’s Biosicence Industry

The Ontario Brain Institute is at the forefront of brain disease research

Reviewing the recent recommendations made in the report by the Drummond Commission




Delivering on a promise

30 Genomics: Making a Difference

With strategic partnerships that are paying off, CCRM is on the fast track to making Canada a global leader in Regenerative Medicine (RM) asset development and commercialization

With local genomics companies serving as examples, the opportunities to impact health related sciences are endless in this exciting field



20 The Ties that Bind

Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and its partners are taking innovative cancer therapies from the bench to the bedside


32 The Ontario Network of Excellence (ONE)

The Ontario Stem Cell Initiative (OSCI) demonstrates the power of a social network


A complete rundown of the 14 regional centres that make up ONE

38 The Last Word

Conquering the Life Sciences Chemistry Divide


Cover photo: Nation Wong Photography




A smart revolution:

Advancing brain research through partnership

I recently had the pleasure of attending a symposium on brain diseases where the key attraction was the Canada-Israel panel on the trailblazing research being done on the human brain and how scientists are learning more about the brain than ever before. Hosted by Baycrest, the Ontario Brain Institute (OBI) and the Canada-Israel Industrial R&D Foundation (CIIRDF), the panel featured five leading innovators from Ontario and Israel, and focused on how the two partnering sides will be involved in studies to better understand the brain. The partnership has resulted in the creation of the CIIDRF, whereby this new foundation will have $3.1M in funding to open up new markets for Ontario and Israeli firms. The CIIDRF projects will bring together six Ontario and Israeli technology-based companies to develop and commercialize innovations for life sciences and green technology, opening up new markets for Ontario and Israeli corporations. In addition to the CIIDRF announcement, Israel President Shimon Peres provided the keynote address. In this address, he discussed his vision for Israel becoming a world leader in brain research and nanotechnology development and likewise the importance of working with Canada to strengthen each country’s position in this field “Today more than ever, we need to focus on how to best utilize existing resources rather than looking for new ones,” Peres said. “The human brain is the best example. Deeper understanding of how the brain operates will enable us to better understand ourselves. I believe that in the next 10 years the world will witness a scientific revolution in the field of brain research and in that new world Canada and Israel should become scientific allies.” While Peres spoke of his vision for this new partnership, other speakers stressed the need for global researchers to work together to better understand and treat brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, stroke or Parkinson’s. The event which was co-chaired by Baycrest CEO and president William Reichman, and scienitific director and president of OBI Donald Stuss, also featured experts like David Naylor, president of the University of Toronto; Peter Carlen, Toronto Western Research Institute’s senior scientist; Rafi Gidron, the founder/chairman of Israel Brain Technologies; Randy McIntosh, VP and research director of Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute; and John Soloninka, president/CEO of the Health Technology Exchange (HTX). All agreed, we are on the cusp of a brain science revolution. Provided we continue to work together across disciplines and nations, we could see a significant advance in brain health for future generations. Moreover, this collaboration between Israel and Ontario, both world leaders in brain research, is a significant step towards converting research into clinical applications that could benefit people around the world suffering from neurological disorders.



Terri Pavelic Shawn Lawrence Christopher Rogers Daniela Fisher Janet Damianopoulos Alison Symington Frank Stonebanks Gail Garland John Kelly David Bogart Melanie Szweras Micheline Gravelle Sandra Donaldson Stacey Johnson Marcello Sukhdeo



Elena Pankova


Mary Malofy

CIRCULATION DIRECTOR James Watson Tel: 705-812-0611

EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Celine Bak, Analytica Advisors; Rob Henderson, BioTalent Canada; Najla Guthrie, KGK Synergize; Pierre Bourassa, IRAP, Montréal; Brad Guthrie, Alberta Advanced Education and Technology; Carol Reynolds, Wordmark Consulting Group Inc.; Ulli Krull, UTM; John Kelly, Erie Innovation and Commercialization; Peter Pekos, Dalton Pharma Services; Brad Thompson, Oncolytics; Darrell Ethell, CanReg; John Hylton, John H. Hylton & Associates; Robert Foldes, Cognovie Inc.; Randal R.Goodfellow, P.Ag., Senior Vice President, Corporate Relations, Ensyn; Bob H. Sotiriadis, LLB, a partner with Leger Robic Richard; Dale Patterson, Genome Canada; Darcy Pawlik, Syngenta Seeds Canada Inc; Gail Garland, OBIO; Barry Gee, CDRD; Bonnie Kuehl, Scientific Insights Consulting Group Inc. Biotechnology Focus is published 10 times per year by Promotive Communications Inc. 24-4 Vata Court, Aurora, Ontario L4G 4B6 Phone 905-727-3875 Fax 905-727-4428 E-mail: Subscription rate in Canada $35/year; USA $60/year; other countries $100/year. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Publications Mail Registration Number: 40052410 Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: circulation dept – 24-4 Vata Court, Aurora, Ontario L4G 4B6 National Library of Canada ISSN 1486-3138 \ All opinions expressed herein are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher or any person or organization associated with the magazine.

If you would like to order hard copy or electronic reprints of articles, contact Sandra Service 905-727-3875 x221 ABC Membership Applied For.


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By: Melanie Szweras and Micheline Gravelle

Intellectual Property


Subject Matter

in the United States and Canada

The United States Supreme Court recently held in its Mar. 20, 2012 decision in Prometheus v. Mayo that certain personalized medicine claims were directed to laws of nature and were thus unpatentable despite containing both an administering step and a determining step.


he Prometheus claims were based on the identification of particular ranges of metabolites that are associated with drug efficacy and toxicity. Prior to this, it was known that the levels of the metabolites were correlated with efficacy and toxicity. However, the particular ranges recited in the claims were not known to correlate. The Court was asked to consider whether the method claims contained statutory subject matter although many commentators think the issue of inventiveness appeared more relevant. The Court, in rejecting the claims, pointed to the fact that the claimed steps were conventional, well-known and routine. In its decision, the Court iterated a test for patent eligibility that could have broad applicability. For example, the Supreme Court noted that: While it takes a human action (the administration of a thiopurine drug) to trigger a manifestation of this relation in a particular person, the relation itself exists in principle apart from any human action. The relation is a consequence of the ways in which thiopurine compounds are metabolized by the body – entirely natural processes. And so a patent that simply describes that relation sets forth a natural law. 6 BIOTECHNOLOGY FOCUS June 2012

Such a strict analysis could have serious implications for the biotechnology industry as many biotechnological inventions relate to a natural process in one way or another. The Court was particularly concerned with whether the claims transformed unpatentable natural laws into patent-eligible applications of those laws. The Supreme Court did go on to concede that new drug claims and new uses of existing drugs would be acceptable. Since the Supreme Court did not provide much guidance on what is sufficient to transform a law of nature into an application of a law of nature, we must await the interpretation of this case by the lower courts. There is hope that the lower courts will particularize this decision to its set of facts: that doctors had already been administering patients with thiopurine for the treatment of the particular disease and that the levels of metabolites had already been detected after such treatment. But what would have happened if the case that went on appeal had better facts? For example, if a particular polymorphism had been identified to correlate to a specific disease,

would the determining step be inventive as it would be detecting the presence of the polymorphism in a particular population of patients, a population that was unknown before this correlation was identified, even though routine molecular biology techniques could be used for such detection? In Prometheus, the claim was found to involve steps that involve wellunderstood, routine, conventional activity previously engaged in by researchers in the field. In the example given here, the conventional activity of detecting the presence of the polymorphism would not have been previously engaged in by researchers in the field of that particular disease. The biotechnology community won’t need to wait long to find out how far the reach of the Prometheus decision may extend because on Mar. 26, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court asked the Federal Circuit to revisit its July 2011 decision in the Myriad Case. The patent at issue in Myriad contained claims to genes, diagnostic methods and screening assays. The Federal Circuit previously held that claims to isolated genes were patentable because the isolated DNA is “markedly different” from that which exists in nature. In particular, the isolated DNA is a distinct chemical entity which has been cleaved or synthesized to consist of a fraction of a naturally occurring DNA molecule.

Intellectual Property An inventive concept limited to the discovery of the significance of the acquired data, or to its understanding or interpretation, is considered to be abstract or a mental method, and thus not statutory.

If the Prometheus decision is given a broad interpretation by the Federal Circuit, some are concerned that since routine, conventional activity is typically engaged in when isolating a DNA sequence, the Prometheus decision could have adverse consequences on claims to genes per se. In particular, some fear that the Federal Circuit will find that the gene sequence is just a product of nature and the additional steps of isolating and purifying the DNA molecule do

not transform it into a patentable invention. The Myriad case also contained diagnostic method and screening assay claims. The Federal Circuit previously held the screening assay claims patentable but found against the diagnostic method claims because the claims used terms such as “analyzing” and

“comparing” for identifying the presence of the breast cancer mutations. In particular, the Court held that such steps could be conducted solely in the mind and thus were not patentable. After Myriad, it was thought that adding steps such as “determining” or “administering” would be sufficient to transform the claim. However, Prometheus has made it clear that more may be needed. There is no doubt that the biotechnology community will be on pins and needles awaiting the Federal Circuit’s review of its Myriad decision, hoping that it will view Prometheus narrowly, relating to its particular facts, where the additional steps were clearly known and used in the prior art. In Canada, patent eligible subject matter has also been a hot topic of late. In November 2011, the Federal Court of Appeal released its decision in, holding that claims should be given a purposive construction when considering patentable subject matter. On the heels of the Amazon. com decision, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) released three draft practice notices on April 2, 2012, for a 30day consultation period, including a notice related to Office Practice Respecting Claims to Diagnostic Methods and Medical Uses. Unfortunately, the CIPO notice puts an

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Intellectual Property emphasis on the “inventive concept” of the claims, a concept that arguably has no basis in Canadian law. This new approach would allow examiners to ignore portions of a claim that the examiner deems to not contribute to the inventive concept. The draft notice relating to diagnostic methods cautions: If, following a purposive construction of the claim, it is determined that the inventive concept includes at least one step of physically acquiring data from an analyte then the inventive concept is statutory. The mere fact that a physical step is identified in a diagnostic method as an essential element for the purposes of determining the scope of the monopoly does not necessarily mean that the subject matter defined by the claim is statutory subject mat-

Unfortunately, the Prometheus decision and the recent draft CIPO practice notices appear to be signalling a new era for patenting of biotechnology in both the U.S. and Canada. ter. Where a known analyte had been previously assessed using the same or obviously equivalent analytical techniques to those in the claim, the inventive concept of the claim may be limited to the significance, understanding or interpretation of the acquired data. An inventive concept limited to the discovery of the significance of the acquired data, or to its understanding or interpretation, is considered to be abstract or a mental method, and thus not statutory.


AUGUST 19–23, 2012 TORONTO, CANADA Plenary Speakers: Jurg Bahler, University College London Thijn Brummelkamp, Netherlands Cancer Institute David Botstein, Princeton University Michael Boutros, DKFZ Heidelberg George Church, Harvard Medical School Anne-Claude Gavin, EMBL Heidelberg Tim Hughes, University of Toronto Ben Lehner, EMBL-CRG Systems Biology Unit, Barcelona Norbert Perrimon, Harvard Medical School Pam Silver, Harvard University Mike Snyder, Stanford University Eran Segal, Weizmann Institute

Organizers: Brenda Andrews, Gary Bader, Charlie Boone, Cynthia Colby, Roland Eils, Anne-Claude Gavin, Stefan Hohmann, Michael Hucka, Tim Hughes, Roy Kishony, Hiroaki Kitano, Edda Klipp, Stephen Michnick, Corey Nislow, Fritz Roth, Sachdev Sidhu, Michael Snyder

Melanie Szweras, B.Sc., Ph.D. (Genetics), LL.B., is a partner in Bereskin & Parr LLP’s Biotechnology & Pharmaceutical practice group. She is also a registered Canadian and U.S. patent agent. Melanie can be reached in Toronto at 416.957.1678 or Micheline Gravelle, M.Sc. (Immunology), is a partner with Bereskin & Parr LLP and head of the firm’s Biotechnology & Pharmaceutical practice group. She is also a registered Canadian and U.S. patent agent. Micheline can be reached in Toronto at 416-957-1682 or mgravelle@


register now for early bird discounts


This CIPO draft notice seems to be reminiscent of the U.S. Prometheus decision, essentially ignoring the purposive construction of the claims as a whole, and instead determining whether the additional steps provide an inventive contribution. The CIPO draft notice does not stop at diagnostic method claims. It goes on to assess the patentability of medical uses, categorically dismissing dosage regime claims despite the fact that there is conflicting case law on the status of such claims. The CIPO practice notice is a draft and we believe that there will be a huge push back from the biotechnology industry as well as from the patent bar, which hopefully will be able to convince CIPO that this notice goes far beyond the current state of law in Canada. Unfortunately, the Prometheus decision and the recent draft CIPO practice notices appear to be signalling a new era for patenting of biotechnology in both the U.S. and Canada. As such, patentees should ensure that applications include as many different types of claims as possible, such as methods, kits, compositions, and methods of medical treatment/uses. In addition, patentees should consider various fall-back dependent claims that provide particular steps with an emphasis on anything that is considered nonconventional in order to keep options open until the ramifications of the Prometheus and Amazon decisions are known. Patentees are encouraged to seek further advice.

For more INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY information visit our COMMERCIALIZATION Web Portal at

Ontario A Spotlight on Ontario’s Bioscience Sector 10

The Ministry of Economic Development


Life Sciences Ontario (LSO) and

and Innovation (MEDI)

the Ontario/Québec Life Sciences Corridor

14 17

The Ontario Brain Institute (OBI)

The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR)

The Centre for Commercialization of

26 28

Regenerative Medicine (CCRM)

Organization (OBIO)


The Ontario Stem Cell Initiative (OSCI)

30 32

The Ontario Genomics Institute (OGI)

Ontario Bioscience Innovation

The Ontario Network of Excellence (ONE)


ONTARIO By Shawn Lawrence

MEDI, ONTARIO’S NEW ONTARIO’S DOORS MINISTRY ISTOOPENING GLOBAL OPPORTUNITIES Last October, the Ontario government took a bold step by merging the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, and the Ministry of Research and Innovation into one. The decision to integrate the two into the Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation (MEDI) was made because the government saw the important link between research, innovation, the economy and job creation. The goal of this new ministry is to open doors to new investment for these industries, including those in the bioscience, the biopharma, medical technology and clean tech sectors. “This merger is definitely not a matter of ‘change for the sake of change’,” comments MEDI’s first Minister, Brad Duguid. He adds that MEDI signals a new era for innovation in Ontario, and with it, a new chapter for Ontario’s bio economy. “I think it’s a sign that this government is serious about innovation and wants to see business development activities on the rise in this sector,” he says. Duguid explains that the new ministry is responsible for programs which attract and retain business and economic development in the province. Specifically, it is charged with the task of finding new ways to open doors to both the business and investor communities. “These are certainly not the only reasons for combining the ministries, but they are definitely a factor. Canada as a whole is a trading nation and a very important part of economic growth involves expanding trade. At the same time, enabling public/private partnerships is integral to the creation of interesting projects and new businesses. The idea is to ensure that innovation continues to be a driving force for Ontario’s economy and MEDI has more clout to build on the


Biotechnology Focus / June 2012

Ontario Minister of Economic Development and Innovation Brad Duguid. Photos: Nation Wong Photography

work accomplished by its previous entity, the Ministry of Research and Innovation.” “MRI was fantastic at facilitating collaborative efforts internationally, whether through its trade missions to Asia, or partnerships like the Stem Cell Consortium. It was also very successful in building partnerships between industry and academic leaders to promote and commercialize technologies. The goal of MEDI is to be better situated to reach out internationally as well as acting as a bridge between industry and academia.” Thus far, the new ministry appears to

be making good on its mandate, continuing onward with these initiatives, yet also expanding into other key areas such as business development. At the same time, MEDI hopes to address the root causes of Ontario’s productivity gap, increasing access to capital and bringing together entrepreneurs, academia and investors to help build globally focused, investor-ready companies. One priority for this new ministry is addressing the funding gap that is facing the industry, and on that front, there has been plenty of activity.



“I think it’s a sign that this government is serious about innovation and wants to see business development activities on the rise in this sector,” — Brad Duguid “There’s increasing investment interest in Ontario’s biopharma and cleantech industries. In fact, we saw several private sector venture capital funds established in Ontario in the last year. For example, in November, Glaxo Smith Kline established a $50 million national venture fund that will significantly advance the commercialization of scientific innovation, not just in Ontario, but across Canada. The venture capital arm of OMERS (Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System) launched a fund that will deploy $180 million over the next three to five years. SAIL Capital Partners and Stifel Nicolaus Canada committed to a $100-million cleantech fund. Finally, the MaRS Cleantech Fund, MaRS JOLT fund and the Communitech HYPERDRIVE Fund, all with heavy private sector backing, will collectively deploy more than $80 million into Ontario companies.” Duguid believes that successes like this are due in large part to the merger. “It all ties into the bigger picture, ensuring Ontario is in a position to compete globally. In my view and in the view of our Premier, we’re only going to achieve our goals if we are one of the most innovative societies and innovative economies in the world. You can’t have a modern and effective economic development plan without a very sound innovation strategy. At the same time, you can’t have an effective innovation strategy in today’s economy without ensuring that you can combine that with getting the jobs and business investments to grow your economy. So the two areas are very much intertwined.” There is no denying that innovation has always been high on the Ontario government’s agenda and integral to its economy. The province has had a long-standing commitment to basic research, especially in the bioscience sector, and some of the best-in-class infrastructure with which to compete. And this commitment to research and innovation, to life sciences and biotechnology, all starts from the top.

Staying ahead by Staying at the forefront

“We have a government that from the top to bottom is absolutely passionate about research and innovation. Our Premier (Dalton McGuinty) has had his fingerprints on this Ministry from the very beginning, having been the first Minister of MRI. And his vision, participation and interest in this area remains strong.” Minister Duguid says that there isn’t a week that goes by without the Premier walking by his desk, plunking down an article he’s read on research and innovation from somewhere in the world, and suggesting new ways that Ontario can improve on its innovation performance. “He is fascinated by the opportunities that the innovation agenda presents to us and he fully recognizes that if we’re going to achieve our goal of passing on a growing, strong economy with new world job opportunities to our young people, that we’re going to have to be a leader in innovation and the province is going to have to play a very important role in getting us there.” The goal may sound ambitious, but Duguid believes Ontario has a solid base of innovation to tap into for a thriving bio economy. It’s a fact not lost on the Minister. He appreciates the work our local scientists and brightest minds are producing. And he clearly advocates and promotes the fact that Ontario is home to some very exciting activity in the bioscience field. “We’re among the top three in North America in terms of our bioscience cluster. Ontario is home to some of the best teaching and research hospitals in the world; we have world class post-secondary institutions, and we’re also home to many of the best researchers in the world. One of the things I’d recommend to anybody visiting Ontario is to take a trip to some of our innovation hubs like MaRS, visit their labs and see some of the exciting innovation taking place there in areas like genomics, cancer, and brain research. I’m convinced that we’re close

of innovation.

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“There’s a commitment from both provinces to find ways to grow this corridor and to grow globally together. That includes increasing the size and significance of our industry and this creates potential to attract resources worldwide.” to making huge breakthroughs that will provide global benefits in a number of different areas.” Beyond Ontario’s standing in the world, it also benefits from a tradition of exceptional science. “We also have a legacy for making great discoveries, James Till and Ernest McCulloch’s work on stem cells and the discovery of insulin to name a few. And we continue to make breakthroughs in oncology, neurology, cardiology, imaging, diagnostics, stem cells, and informatics. I think the key here now is bridging this great scientific tradition and bonding it with our economic objectives and strategies. Again, they’re really one and the same and we can use this synergy to drive Ontario forward.” Duguid says this includes elevating the profile of the industry in the minds of investors, establishing new small business support programs here and offering incentives to companies that choose to relocate or establish a presence in Ontario. Essentially, it’s about expanding the focus to include business development. MEDI continues to build on this momentum. For example, at BIO 2010, MRI launched a $161-million Life Sciences Commercialization Strategy. The province has also established two venture capital programs – the $250-million Ontario Emerging Technologies Fund and the $205-million Ontario Venture Capital Fund, to which the Government of Ontario contributed $90 million. All of these programs tie in to Ontario’s Innovation Agenda. “We are making investing in Ontario more attractive for businesses, through government-to-business services that move at the speed of business. It’s about finding ways to stay ahead of the game. We need to be innovative, not just in the


Biotechnology Focus / June 2012

products we develop and produce, but in the way we conduct business. This means making government programs and services easier to access while reducing paperwork and outdated regulatory requirements.” He says it’s not as tough a sell as some might think, and already there are signs the business community is taking notice. “Recently IBM located its only global research centre here in Ontario. It’s a $210-million investment which creates 145 research jobs right off the top. It’s a partnership with seven Ontario universities that will tackle challenges that include the bio health area. IBM could have gone anywhere in the world to set this up; but they chose Ontario because Ontario is one of the best places in the world to do research and to grow a business.” Going forward, the ministry will continue to support the partnership between Ontario and Québec in developing the Life Sciences Corridor initiative announced at BIO 2011. “There’s a commitment from both provinces to find ways to grow this corridor and to grow globally together. That includes increasing the size and significance of our industry and this creates potential to attract resources worldwide. It’s not always easy because there are areas that we compete in in the life sciences sector, but the onus is still on us to find ways to go beyond those areas we compete in and find areas that together we can create synergy.” With the recent Ontario Budget MEDI is also taking steps towards making the province more business friendly to the bioscience sector. “We want to make it easier for our businesses to access Ontario business support programs. We’ve established the Jobs and Prosperity Council, which will report

directly to the Premier and will generate new ideas and approaches to improving Ontario’s long-term productivity and competitiveness. And the innovation piece will be an important part of the work we do with that council. At the same time we’re maintaining our commitment to research and innovation, and have already invested about three and a half billion dollars since 2003 – about 50 per cent more than the previous government.” The end goal is to see more of this type of activity, to make Ontario a focal point of international interest in the area of life sciences. And according to Duguid, this can be attained not just through research and development funding, but by providing business advisory services and marketing Ontario to potential international business investors using the Open for Business initiative as a key selling point. This is part of the message MEDI is taking to BIO 2012 in Boston, using this premier annual international conference as a platform to attract the world’s attention. Duguid is very excited to be going to Boston and not just because he is an avid Boston Bruins fan. He sees BIO 2012 as the perfect setting to tell the world about everything Ontario’s bioscience industry has to offer. “In this age of globalization, the world is becoming flat as they say; it’s become a very small world. And I think that we’re going to see a considerable amount of progress in solving some of the world’s challenges, but only if we’re able to break down the silos that exist between between different levels of government, between different sectors and between countries and jurisdictions. We’re going there to tell the world, come to Ontario, do your research here and bring your business here, we are here to partner.” Ontario’s doors are open.

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By David Bogart, director of Research Programs and Industry Relations


Twenty-five per cent of Canadians will suffer from a brain disorder at some point in their lifetime, and that number continues to grow. In Ontario alone, brain disease costs $39 billion to the economy every year. What can we do to break the cycle? That’s precisely the question worldleading neuroscience researchers asked themselves when they met in 2009 to explore Ontario’s role in the burgeoning field of neurosciences. Recent advances in brain research have brought us to the threshold of developing treatments – and potential cures – for the brain disorders that have plagued humankind for centuries. Given Ontario’s position at the forefront of neuroscience discovery, the Ontario Brain Institute (OBI) was established in November 2010 to catalyze translational brain research. The OBI seeks to maximize the impact of neuroscience through supporting translational research, commercialization, and health informatics with the goal of improving the lives of people with neurological disorders and mental illness. “The brain has a fundamental impact on our society,” says Dr. Donald Stuss, president and Scientific director of OBI. “Brain dysfunction of any type has an enormous influence on quality of life and productivity. To start, we’re looking at how we can minimize brain dysfunction


Biotechnology Focus / June 2012

and treat brain disease more effectively. Long-term, we want to find ways to maximize brain function and intervene early, so brain disease is prevented altogether.”

TRANSLATIONAL RESEARCH At the core of OBI’s current research agenda are its Integrated Discovery System (IDS) projects – Ontario-wide initiatives that combine institutions, researchers, clinicians, industry partners and patient advocacy groups to focus on key disorders of the brain. Meetings last year with more than 250 brain researchers in universities and hospitals across Ontario brought seven priority research areas to the forefront: addiction, neurodevelopmental disorders including autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cerebral palsy, depression, epilepsy, neurodegeneration and traumatic brain injury. The OBI has begun supporting the implementation of IDS projects relating to epilepsy, autism/ADHD, and cerebral palsy, and will continue to support the development of the four remaining priority areas.

The Epilepsy Discovery Project is focused on building an understanding of drug-resistant epilepsy. Thirty per cent of those living with epilepsy experience seizures that cannot be controlled by drugs. This project will examine innovative approaches for the diagnosis and treatment of these seizures, including new drug therapies, diet, surgery and deep brain stimulation. The Province of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Disorders (POND) project is creating the first Canadian clinical trials network for children with neurodevelopmental disorders like Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Intellectual Disability, which affect more than 120,000 children and youth in Ontario. This project will provide a platform for testing promising new interventions, including customized treatment based on an individual’s genetic profile. The Cerebral Palsy Network (CP-NET) is developing better treatments for hemi-




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plegic cerebral palsy, a disorder caused by stroke during or shortly after birth. Cerebral palsy affects one in every 300 individuals. CP-NET will create a registry of children that enables the identification of risk factors and genetic predispositions for stroke that can form the basis for early interventions, and help improve patient outcomes in rehabilitation therapy by developing virtual reality-based devices and stem cell therapies. Together, these three IDS projects support more than 80 research positions, improved diagnoses and treatments, and the commercialization of important products that will help improve the brain health of Ontarians.

COMMERCIALIZATION Commercialization is a critical step in translating research ideas into better patient care. The OBI has developed “innovation teams” composed of researchers, clinicians, industry partners and patients to ensure that OBI’s IDS research will be translated quickly into better diagnostics, treatments and care for Ontarians with brain disorders. “By bringing together researchers and front-line care providers with industry partners early on, we’re ensuring we have everyone at the table that has a stake in driving the brain research agenda forward,” says Dr. Stuss. “It’s leading to more fulsome innovation, and a quicker turnaround of research from bench to bedside.”


Biotechnology Focus / June 2012


For the OBI, partnerships are at the root of this translation. One key example is the Ontario-Israel Brain Initiative, which was started in 2011. This initiative involves collaboration between the OBI, Israel Brain Technologies and the Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation. Closely allied with this developing relationship is Ontario’s Health Technology Exchange, which recently visited Israel and met with approximately 40 companies to promote Ontario’s neurotechnology strengths, and enable company-to-company collaborations between Ontario and Israel. “Overall, there is great enthusiasm from both countries for collaboration,” says Dr. Stuss. “Areas of interest include brain cancer therapy, stem cell production, scale-up, robotic neurosurgery and deep brain stimulation. We’re confident this will be a fruitful area of international partnership that will benefit brain research on a global scale.”

BRAIN-CODE One of OBI’s game changers is a new informatics platform called the Brain Centre for Ontario Data Exploration (BrainCODE). Brain-CODE was developed in collaboration with hospitals, universities and informatics agencies across Ontario and leverages more than $200 million in existing infrastructure. It will allow researchers and clinicians to upload, store and access their research data centrally, making comparisons possible for the first

time between information from diverse institutions, patient populations and a range of neurological disorders and diseases. “This type of multi-dimensional platform is largely unprecedented in the neurosciences,” says Dr. Stuss. “Brain-CODE has the potential to transform the way we research and treat brain disorders and diseases. Data will be combined in a way that helps us understand patterns across diseases, so we can start to understand the causes of disease, the relationships between diseases, and why some individuals respond to treatment, while others do not. It will also serve as an invaluable tool for clinical trials, allowing us to rapidly recruit patients with similar characteristics and giving us a conduit to resolve our new hypotheses about brain disease with effective, patient-centred interventions. We are particularly pleased to have the oversight of the Ontario Privacy Commission to ensure maximum security and patient confidentiality.”

EDUCATION Knowledge translation and capacity building are central to OBI’s model of integrated research and commercialization. OBI’s projects are designed from the outset to enable a streamlined flow of knowledge between researchers, industry, clinicians and patients by ensuring all of these groups help shape research from the start. The OBI’s Experiential Education Initiative (EEI) is aimed at developing the entrepreneurial and management skills of neuroscientists in Ontario. As the first program launched under the banner of EEI, OBI Entrepreneurs is a collaboration with the Ontario Centres of Excellence that will encourage Ontario’s neuroscientists to take their research to market. The program includes targeted training from OBI, with the support of regional mentorship networks. “Once again, outreach and impact is maximized by partnerships,” says Dr. Stuss. “Our ultimate goal is to get the products of brain research into the hands of health-care providers and patients, so Ontarians receive better treatment and gain a better quality of life. In the process, we’re creating a new system of research that involves industry and patient advocacy early in the process, and empowers our strong neuroscience core to develop a sustainable, commercial structure for future innovation and discovery.”


ONTARIO By Stacey Johnson

CCRM STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS ARE PAYING OFF When a mainstream Toronto magazine includes you in a list of “Reasons to LOVE Toronto Now,” you know you’ve reached a level of recognition that extends beyond your own community and stakeholders. The Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM) and Toronto’s pioneering stem cell community are a respectable #18 on a 2012 list of 30, sandwiched between a hospital redefining its food and Toronto’s inflated real estate market whose bubble has yet to burst.

So how did CCRM end up on such a list? There is no doubt that Toronto’s stem cell community is hot. It boasts world-class researchers and a long history of stem cell discovery, beginning with James Till’s and Ernest McCulloch’s original discovery of stem cells 50 years ago. Toronto is home to numerous institutions conducting excellent stem cell research, including Mount Sinai Hospital, the University of Toronto, The Hospital for Sick Children (included in #18) and the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine (University Health Network), also named in the list. But CCRM launched in June 2011, so it is still finding its footing compared to these venerable institutions. Why is it shoulder-to-shoulder with SickKids and the McEwen Centre when it is barely out of its first-year honeymoon period? “CCRM is unique in Canada because our model is unique,” explains Dr. Michael

Left to Right: Janet Rossant (OSCI), Peter Zandstra (CCRM), Lisa Drouillard (NCE) and Michael May (CCRM) at CCRM’s launch party in 2011.

May, CEO of the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine. “We are bridging the commercialization gap between academia and industry in a way that hasn’t been done before in regenerative medicine (RM).” According to a 2009 industry report from MaRS Market Intelligence, the current global market for RM is US$3.6 billion and conservative estimates suggest that it will exceed US$11billion within the decade. There is huge opportunity in this field, but commercializing R&D is an ongoing challenge in Canada. The federal government launched the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) program more than 20 years ago to “mobiliz[e] Canada’s best research and development talent to build a more advanced, healthy, competitive, and prosperous Canada. In 2007, an additional $285 million was invested to create the

Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR) program, led by the NCE secretariat. According to the NCE website, “this innovative model creates centres to advance research and facilitate commercialization of technologies, products and services within the four priority areas identified in the federal Science and Technology (S&T) Strategy.” One of those areas is Health and Life Sciences. CCRM is funded under the CECR program. Similar to the Networks that thrive under the still active NCE program, but focusing more on commercialization, CECRs bring together academia, government, industry and not-for-profit organizations to take a product or technology beyond the development stage, all the way to the market. Although CCRM is barely a year old, it has a number of significant accomplish-

Biotechnology Focus / June 2012




CCRM scientists at work in the historic Banting Institute at the University of Toronto, CCRM’s institutional host.

ments that bode well for its future. In terms of working with industry, they include: building an industry consortium of 20 plus companies that are ready to be receptors for new technologies; launching its first industry project with EMD Millipore, with 10 more projects at various stages of readiness; and, announcing the $500,000 Pfizer-CCRM Innovation Fund to stimulate RM projects. On the intellectual property side, CCRM has begun due diligence on 35 new inventions; commenced the creation of a company from CCRM licensed technology; and developed a drug screening consortium of international partners currently applying for various large grants. Other milestones include securing $3 million in new matching funds; generating revenues from the production of induced pluripotent stem cells; initiating several international collaborations; setting up a development facility with three translational platforms; and, growing from seven employees to 20 in the first year with plans for more hires in year two. Perhaps most significantly, CCRM has developed an impressive network of RM scientists and business leaders that touches every significant person in the


Biotechnology Focus / June 2012

global community. In Dr. May’s opinion, this valuable network is essential to CCRM’s success. “Our networks are as important as the technologies that we focus on. Without the right ecosystem, technology development fails,” says Dr. May. The Ontario Stem Cell Initiative (OSCI) is the foundation of CCRM’s academic network in Ontario. CCRM’s institutional partners include: McMaster University, Mount Sinai Hospital, SickKids, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, University Health Network and University of Toronto. Nationally, CCRM partners with the Stem Cell Network – one of Canada’s original NCEs. OSCI is an academic network of 70 stem cell research programs that collaborate and nurture trainees in the field. Together, they have secured 170 patents. In the last five years, OSCI researchers have received approximately $500 million in grant funding and trained over 1,000 Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP). Dr. Janet Rossant, chief of Research at the Hospital for Sick Children, is OSCI’s director and one of the most cited stem cell researchers in the world. Drawing on the scientific expertise and knowledge available at OSCI, as well as the technologies and processes avail-

able for commercializing, gives CCRM a huge advantage. “OSCI has created an environment where collaboration is encouraged and rewarded. CCRM has incorporated collaboration into every aspect of its research and business model, so it’s a perfect partnership,” says Dr. Peter Zandstra, chief scientific officer of CCRM and Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Bioengineering. “Add the fact that we are located across the street from MaRS Discovery District, Toronto’s innovation and entrepreneurship hub, and a symbiotic pattern emerges.” MaRS Discovery District (DD) is home to an impressive group of research laboratories, small, medium and established global companies, venture capital firms and professional service firms. Three of CCRM’s industry consortium members have offices in MaRS DD and an important institutional partner is also housed there. MaRS Innovation (MI), also funded under the CECR program, describes itself as a “commercialization storefront” for Toronto’s universities and research institutes. MI and CCRM work closely together. MI has established relationships with the technology transfer offices in the universities and hospitals around Toronto (with one exception being a research institute in Thunder Bay) so all regenerative medicine opportunities sent to MI get disclosed to CCRM and vice versa. MI and CCRM jointly evaluate intellectual property to determine whether it should be patented and commercialized. They bring business, entrepreneurial expertise and resources to the task, along with a desire to see the regenerative medicine community thrive. With so much support from the academic, institutional and business communities in the regenerative medicine field, CCRM appears to have found its niche. If CCRM achieves its vision to be the premier destination for risk capital, leading industry and the best people in RM, Toronto’s stem cell community may just attain that coveted #1 spot on the “Reasons to LOVE Toronto Now” list of the future. You know what they say: if you’re going to dream, dream big. Stacey Johnson is the Manager, Communications for the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine.

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ONTARIO By Sandra Donaldson

OSCI: THE TIES THAT BIND According to Wikipedia, a social network is a social structure made up of a set of actors (individuals or organizations) and the dyadic ties between them (relationships, connections or interactions). These ties are referred to as nodes and although many kinds of relationships may form the network between these nodes, interpersonal bridges are the most defining characteristic of social networks. With over 70 stem cell research programs that connect over 600 people across the province, the Ontario Stem Cell Initiative (OSCI) demonstrates the power of a social network.

OSCI started with a group of stem cell researchers at the University of Toronto – the birthplace of stem cell discovery. These scientists continually built on their interpersonal partnerships to broaden their reach within Ontario, across Canada and around the world. Janet Rossant, director of OSCI, reflects, “We’ve been working together for a long time. Our trainees now have labs of their own, choosing to set up shop in Ontario. Because we have a history, we work with each other not against one another and our projects benefit from the expertise available across the province.” The density of stem cell scientists in Ontario is based on the province’s ability to attract, train and retain world-leading stem cell researchers. The educational opportunities are second to none and OSCI continues to build on this with its International Postdoctoral Fellowship Program. Joel Ross, an OSCI Postdoctoral Fellow at the Hospital for Sick Children says these programs are key to retaining trainees, “My research uses induced pluripotency technology to generate personalized stem cells, which I use to make


Biotechnology Focus / June 2012

OSCI announces its Postdoctoral Fellowship Awardees for 2012: (L) to (R) Janet Rossant, Natasha Chang*, WeiJia Wong*, Crystal Ruff* and Derek van der Kooy.

brain cells to study how autism develops and how it may be treated. Three years of stable support allows me to broaden the scope of my project and develop my own ideas about future directions – essential for establishing an independent research program in the future.” The opportunities don’t end there; OSCI offers stem cell rounds that feature talks and intense debates to standing-roomonly crowds. An external seminar series brings in distinguished speakers such as Leroy Hood from the Institute for Systems Biology, from Seattle, WA and broadcasts the talks across the province. Every year, OSCI supports scientific poster sessions where trainees and scientists mix and mingle, sharing ideas and building future collaborations. OSCI recently held its first annual meeting in conjunction with the Till & McCulloch Meetings, the go-to stem cell meeting in Canada, to leverage and strengthen ties across the country. With a desire to see their scientific discoveries advance the health and welfare of Canadians, two Ontario scientists decided that commercialization was key to moving discoveries

from bench to bedside. Peter Zandstra, professor at the University of Toronto, and Janet Rossant, chief of research at the Hospital for Sick Children, leveraged the strength of their scientific network to create the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM) with $15 million in funding from the Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research. The incredible scientific breakthroughs in stem cell science, now poised for translation into technologies and products, are changing the way diseases are studied and treated. By linking OSCI stem cell researchers with industry partners, Ontario’s scientific excellence is translated into therapies for patients, leading to business opportunities that create new jobs and companies. Michael May, chief executive officer, CCRM, believes the integration of science and business will bring prosperity in terms of health and economic benefits in Canada and around the world. May comments, “Aligning the academic and industry networks is key to developing an ecosystem in regenerative medicine that will bring therapies to patients. OSCI



Ontario’s stem cell researchers are among the most highly cited in the world today. They have also secured over 170 patents and in the last five years alone, they have received approximately $500 million in grant funding and trained over 1,000 Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP). and CCRM are a unique partnership that attracts interest and investment from government, industry, funding agencies and international partners.” OSCI’s success with international alliances is enhanced by its personal interactions. One of OSCI’s long-time partners, Shin-Ichi Nishikawa, group director, RIKEN, Japan, says these collaborations are based on the links between people. “Japanese stem cell research is supported by its hematologists who respect the work of Till & McCulloch (Toronto scientists who discovered stem cells). I also trained in Europe at the same time that many Ontario scientists were there, Gordon Keller, Norman Iscove and Chris Paige. These are the connections that

lead to prosperous partnerships.” Ongoing exchanges between OSCI and scientists at two leading scientific groups in Japan, the Centre for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA, Kyoto University) and the JST-CREST iPS Consortium, led to an inaugural Canada-Japan Stem Cell Workshop held in Toronto in 2011. The ties between scientists were strengthened which led OSCI to play an instrumental role in supporting the creation of a $14 million CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research) – JST (Japan Science & Technology Agency) funding program in the epigenetics of stem cells. OSCI will host a second Canada-Japan Stem Cell Workshop in Yokohama during the International Society of Stem Cell Research

annual meeting in June 2012. OSCI also has several joint research training opportunities with Chinese academic centres including the University of Hong Kong, the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology and Peking University. Relationships based on shared graduate students led to the TorontoHong Kong Stem Cell Training Course and an Ontario-China Life Sciences Workshop, both held in Toronto in 2011. Teams from both countries are currently working with their respective governments to build an Ontario-China Stem Cell Research and Commercialization Partnership. The idea of interpersonal bridges that reach within Ontario, across Canada and around the world is impressive, but can a scientific social network produce more than camaraderie? Ontario’s stem cell researchers are among the most highly cited in the world today. They have also secured over 170 patents and in the last five years alone, received approximately $500 million in grant funding and trained over 1,000 Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP). Where will this momentum lead? OSCI is fostering alliances with non-profit organizations, industry, philanthropists and government with a vision to create the Ontario Institute of Regenerative Medicine.


OSCI supports networking poster sessions at all of its centres: (L) to (R) University of Western Ontario’s poster session: Cheryle Séguin, Gilles Lajoie, Lynne-Marie Postovit, David Hess, and Dean Betts.

< International partners visiting from Japan celebrate OSCI’s launch in Toronto in June 2011: (L) to (R) Hideyuki Okano (Keio University), Wado Akamatsu (Keio University), and Shin-Ichi Nishikawa (RIKEN).

Biotechnology Focus / June 2012



ONTARIO By Daniela Fisher & LSO

When it comes to the life sciences industry, Ontario is a powerhouse. Its innovations in stem cell development, insulin-creation and key gene discoveries for cystic fibrosis and epilepsy are just a few examples of how the sector has put Ontario on the map as a global leader in the industry.


ONTARIO’S LIFE SCIENCES Ontario’s life sciences cluster also has great diversity, ranging from pharma and biotechnology to agriculture, food processing, forestry and the environment. This diversity of disciplines allows Ontario to excel in multiple fields, including emerging areas of convergent technologies, but at the same time it creates a challenge for all the various stakeholders – from small pre-commercial technology companies to multinational enterprises to provide consistent messages to policy makers and other senior decision makers. Enter Life Sciences Ontario (LSO), the member-driven organization that provides a unified voice for Ontario’s life sciences sector. With its fundamental principle of “diversity of members, unity of voice,” the organization has become the cohesive voice of life sciences in Ontario, focusing on addressing key issues within public policy development, commercialization and talent development; while encouraging a collaborative approach to innovation and promoting the industry nationally and internationally.

A UNITING PRESENCE LSO’s mission is to represent and promote the benefits of life science technologies and encourage their commercial success. This makes the organization a useful conduit


Biotechnology Focus / June 2012

between research, development, commercialization, support, manufacturing and services sectors. They work with government, academia and industry stakeholders to develop recommendations on key policies for improving Ontario’s life sciences ecosystem and business environment. Along with hosting many networking and educational events, LSO helps the life sciences sector grow through advocacy, facilitation of economic development and industry promotion locally, nationally and internationally, as is seen in the upcoming Boston BIO 2012. LSO also runs a vibrant mentorship and professional development program to help develop talent within the life sciences sector.

SETTING A NEW DIRECTION FOR ONTARIO LIFE SCIENCES In October 2011, LSO hired Dr. Jason Field as the new executive director for the organization. In December that year, Dr. Field presented a strategic plan for the organization to accelerate its evolution as the voice of Ontario’s life sciences industry. The strategic plan focused on building on the past successes of LSO’s well-known networking events and mentorship program; while renewing and elevating the priorities of stakeholder engagement and advocacy through a unified voice.

Just recently, the organization’s board of directors elected a new president and chair, Paul Lucas, former CEO of GlaxoSmithKline Canada and continuing advocate for the entire life sciences sector. Lucas has also worked on numerous boards and committees, including co-chairing the Coalition for Action on Innovation with John Manley, president and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE). The pair took the lead in developing the Action Plan for Prosperity, a report with policy recommendations designed to help support Canada as a global leader in innovation. Lucas will work in partnership with LSO’s board of directors, which is made up of leaders from all areas of life sciences, including pharma, biotechnology, animal health, agriculture and food, investment firms, research and commercialization institutions and many more. LSO is also working with the government of Ontario on several strategic initiatives, including being selected to represent the life sciences sector as part of the Ontario Government’s Business Sector Strategy under the Open For Business (OFB) initiative. Working through the OFB initiative, LSO will have the opportunity to provide the government with its top five priorities that affect business in the life sciences industry

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“The objectives of our delegates at BIO range from marketing and promotion to business development and partnering. We need to work with all partners involved in BIO to coordinate support around these activities.” — Jason Field and provide recommendations on how government can address these priorities. “This is a great initiative set out by the Government of Ontario and a tremendous opportunity for the life sciences sector in Ontario to influence policy development” said Paul Lucas, president and chair of LSO. “LSO will be leading a series of consultations and surveys to ensure we capture input from our diverse group of stakeholders leading up to the kick-off event this fall. Our goal to be the unified voice for our sector in this important initiative and to ensure we put forward the very best recommendations for our industry in Ontario.”

TEAMING UP FOR BIO 2012 As biotechnology’s largest annual event, the international convention is an opportunity for LSO and Ontario’s life sciences companies to present and network at a global level. This year, the province looked to LSO to gather input from a range of industry professionals with the goal of creating better coordination at BIO 2012 and better outcomes for Ontario delegates attending the conference. LSO conducted a pre-BIO industry survey, an interactive BIO industry kick-off event, and a webinar to share the results of these engagements and to present a coordinated strategic approach to BIO. “The overwhelming message from our consultations was that we need to bring the focus back to companies” said Jason Field. “The objectives of our delegates at BIO range from marketing and promotion to business development and partnering. We need to work with all partners involved in BIO to coordinate support around these activities. At the same time, we need to continuously focus on our competitiveness as a global life sciences cluster and ensure that we are effectively telling the very compelling Ontario story on this international stage.” In preparation for the upcoming convention, LSO recently ran a BIO Bootcamp


Biotechnology Focus / June 2012

in Toronto, where it prepared Ontario delegates for getting the most out of BIO 2012. The session included a variety of topics: from navigating the exhibit floor and using the partnering portal, to how to develop an elevator pitch for potential partners and best practices from past delegates that have had successful business development experiences at BIO.

ONTARIO/QUÉBEC CORRIDOR Aside from gearing up for the convention, LSO is focusing its attention on another strategic initiative, the Ontario-Québec Life Sciences Corridor. Two years ago, the Québec and Ontario governments signed an agreement to create an economic corridor formally linking the two provinces. During last year’s BIO 2011 conference in Washington, they announced the official creation of a life sciences corridor between Québec and Ontario. At the same time, LSO and BiopolisQuébec signed a memorandum of understanding, with the goal to work together as the leading industry organizations within their respective provinces to help develop and promote collaboration within the corridor. This is a good move, says Frank Beraud, project director at Montréal InVivo, as it helps raise awareness internationally and draws business to Québec and Ontario. “For many foreign people in the industry, they barely know where Canada is sometimes,” says Beraud. “For sure they don’t know where Sherbrooke or Québec City or Mississauga is.” To remedy that, the Québec-Ontario Corridor helps draw the attentions of foreign companies and investors to Canada by presenting the collaborative strengths of the combined provinces as a single cluster. Québec and Ontario represent approximately 62 per cent of Canada’s total population and contribute approximately 57 per cent to Canada’s total GDP, according to a 2011 PwC report on the life sciences

corridor. For Beraud, this means strength in numbers. “We want to believe that the message goes further if it comes from not only Québec, and not only Ontario, but jointly to grab the attention of the decision makers.” While the two organizations have worked together before informally, more formal partnerships, like the memorandum signed between LSO and BiopolisQuébec, allow for more structured collaboration. “This is a memorandum of understanding,” says Beraud. “There are three main components: sharing the best practices between the two organizations; working on some specific joint projects which already we started; and also possibly working on a joint network of mentorship.” LSO and BiopolisQuébec are working together on various networking events to promote collaboration within the corridor, including the June 6 Québec/Ontario Strategic Workshop: Delivering Partnerships within the Corridor held in Montréal. They are also jointly hosting a workshop on June 18 at BIO 2012, called Internationl Interconnexions @ BIO 2012, where companies have the chance to meet and network with other Canadian businesses as well as companies from around the world. The workshops offer an opportunity to share best practices and different options or action plans in the biotechnology industry. Their theme for this year’s event is how to adapt to the changing model of life sciences R&D, which will be discussed in breakout sessions where people from different regions and backgrounds can share their views and discuss solutions. Back at home, LSO and BiopolisQuébec have also teamed up to speak with a unified voice to federal policy makers on two key policy issues: support for innovation and the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). This further demonstrates the strength of the partnership, the alignment of the organizations with respect to goals for the corridor and the potential benefits for all partners within the corridor.

THE VOICE OF LIFE SCIENCES IN ONTARIO Through the development of LSO, Ontario now has a strong unified voice for life sciences, which represents the diversity of membership and components of the sector, and focuses on the unity of one voice to elevate the entire life sciences industry.

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ONTARIO By Frank Stonebanks

ACCELERATING CANCER DISCOVERIES from bench to bedside through partnerships Dr. John Dick, a world-renowned stem cell and cancer stem cell researcher, continues to move the field forward by working towards therapies that enhance the usefulness of stem cell transplantation and therapies that target cancer stem cells. As leader of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) Cancer Stem Cells Program, Dr. Dick is building on Ontario’s tradition of excellence in stem cell research established by Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch’s discovery of stem cells in 1960.

Dr. John Dick (photo courtesy of OICR)


Biotechnology Focus / June 2012

Bone marrow transplants to treat leukemia represent one of the first uses of the stem cell’s ability to differentiate into different cell types. Recently Dr. Dick’s team isolated single hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) in their purest form for the first time. Isolating HSCs is a major advancement since they are capable of regenerating the entire blood system. If this were harnessed in the clinic, HSCs could be used to improve the treatment of cancer and other diseases. Dr. Dick’s efforts to identify the next generation of potential therapies that target the cancer stem cells in leukemia have been bolstered by one of OICR’s many partnerships. Together, in 2009, the Cancer Stem Cell Consortium (CSCC), of which OICR is a member, and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) established a partnership to support a Disease Team proposal developed by Dr. Dick’s group and researchers at the University of California, San Diego, led by Dr. Dennis Carson, that is focused on identifying novel drugs to treat leukemia. The CSCC supported the Disease Team using funds from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and Genome Canada. Dr. Dick’s recently published research showing that leukemia stem cells are relevant in a clinical setting and influence response to therapy and reoccurrence of acute myeloid leukemia provides a strong underpin-

ning for their approach. He believes that targeting and killing these leukemic stem cells would potentially have an impact on patient survival. Another project funded by the CSCCCIRM partnership is seeking solutions for solid tumour cancers. Dr. Tak Mak,


an acclaimed immunologist and member of OICR’s Scientific Advisory Board, and Dr. Dennis Slamon of the University of California, L.A., are using a pipeline approach to identify and develop drugs that will target cancer-initiating cells in these cancers. The CSCC-CIRM partnership has served as a catalyst in identifying new therapies for leukemia and solid tumours. Collaborations such as this are at the heart of OICR’s work to successfully translate research findings into solutions for patients. OICR has used its strong commercialization infrastructure to establish partnerships with industry leaders such as GE Healthcare and Pfizer as well as other biotechnology firms and academic research organizations. Partnering with OICR opens the door to its world-class researchers that study areas with the highest potential impact on patients: small molecules, biologics, stem cells, imaging, genomics, informatics and bio-computing, pathology, high impact clinical trials and health outcomes. A formula for success is established when these research strengths are coupled with the OICR commercialization team’s strong business acumen, collective experience


and specialized knowledge in entrepreneurship, intellectual property, fostering technologies and spinning out companies. OICR is headquartered in downtown Toronto’s Discovery District and holds an Ontario-wide mandate. Support from the Government of Ontario and from OICR’s partners totals more than $160 million

MISSISSAUGA. OUR COMMUNITY ADVANCES OUR TALENT. OUR TALENT ADVANCES YOUR BUSINESS. Our business and community partners create the synergy to attract and develop exceptional talent to Mississauga. Our talent is the driving 70%force blackpropelling our knowledge sectors to excellence. With over 400 life sciences companies in Mississauga employing 25,000 people, our companies are innovators, business leaders and community builders. Our city’s location offers companies a cost-competitive base with solid infrastructure in the heart of a 80% black major air, road and rail network.

annually. This funding is used to support more than 1,500 researchers, clinician scientists, research staff and trainees across Ontario. Frank Stonebanks is Chief Commercial Officer, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research

We’re home to Canada’s largest international airport and within a day’s drive from North America’s richest markets with access to 164 million consumers. From advanced academic programs to extraordinary healthcare facilities to business leaders and local business networks, we collaborate for success.



Biotechnology Focus / June 2012



ONTARIO By Gail Garland

OBIO RECONCILES ONTARIO BIOSCIENCE ECONOMIC STRATEGY (OBEST) WITH THE COMMISSION ON THE REFORM OF ONTARIO’S PUBLIC SERVICES CHAIRED BY DON DRUMMOND 2012 Over the last several years numerous publications have emerged from government, academia and independent think tanks examining the state of Canada’s innovation sector and its relationship to prosperity. Overall the general consensus has been that research and invention are strengths while commercialization, domestic economic benefit and productivity gains have lagged. This article reviews the recent recommendations in the report by the Drummond Commission, in light of the Ontario economy and the opportunity to address spending and extract greater value from the health sciences innovation sector. The context within which the recommendations of the Drummond Report were presented was threefold: 1. The economic challenges faced by Ontario currently and moving forward; 2. The goal of achieving a balanced sustainable fiscal position and 3. The need for greater efficiencies within government. In 2010-2011, Ontario had the largest deficit among the provinces, $14 billion or 2.3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). The 2011 Ontario budget targeted 2017-18 for a balanced budget, a timeframe that lags behind other provinces. At the same time as there is a need to restrain debt and balance the books, according to Drummond, Ontario’s economic growth is lagging the rest of Canada and reportedly has been for about a decade. Healthcare has grown by 6.3 per cent per year and now represents $44.8 billion or 40.3 per cent of government spending. Unchecked, Ontario’s health care budget


Biotechnology Focus / June 2012

will rise to $62.5 billion by 2017–18, an average annual increase of 4.9 per cent. The Drummond Report recommends holding the rate of growth to 2.5 per cent by reforming programs as opposed to blanket cost cutting. The commission argues that Ontarians cannot rely on economic growth and productivity to pay for the increasing costs of health care. Instead, the health care system needs to be reformed. In fact, this creates an opportunity to develop the output, commercialize and put Ontario’s academic health research to work. The data and forecasted trends for the economy overall and health spending in particular, support the need for a new economic vision for Ontario. In 2011,the Mowat Centre consulted with business leaders and made five recommendations covering: the need for innovation and risk taking; building a 21st century workforce; restoring fiscal balance by improving government function; pursuing global trade; identifying, championing, and strategically investing in our competitive advantages in the global economy. They identified the need for better results for the billions of invested dollars in the broader public sector, including hospitals and universities and suggested that public policy and public investment be re-oriented to promote strategic sectors which included healthcare, health service exports and biotechnology. Ontario’s human health sector (HHS) has taken action to develop a strong biotechnology cluster in Ontario. In 2011, OBIO organized the Ontario Biosciences Strategy Team (OBEST) of volunteers in the development of a strategic plan, implementation teams and action plans. Given the context behind the Drummond Report, it is fully aligned with the objectives and strategic initiatives of OBEST. Using the industry to address health care priorities coupled with access to the right kind of capital and an innovation procurement policy that ensures adoption, has the

potential to create jobs in the knowledge economy, address health care costs, generate exports and wealth and improve outcomes and health of the population. The Drummond Report lists a number of do’s and don’ts. The report suggests the do’s apply across the entire public sector but they also provide a framework to examine and build the health science sector in Ontario using private sector leadership and resources. The key recommendations made by the Commission and contextualized for Ontario’s health sciences sector include: Drummond: The government should issue a road map setting out its vision. Such a document would both inform the public about the changes that lie ahead and also serve as a script for all bureaucrats; The 2011 OBIO survey revealed that industry leaders find the Government’s vision for the sector to be unclear (rated 2.4/7 on a scale measuring strength of clarity) and repeated the message that there is a need for policy change to create the right environment for companies to start up and grow in Ontario. OBEST convened stakeholders from across the health science ecosystem and geographical regions; and prepared a vision and plan for the province to drive toward a sustainable, successful provincial health-biosciences sector. Nine strategies were selected and are a roadmap for building the industry. Drummond: Higher priority should be given to programs and activities that invest in the future rather than serve the status quo; A survey released by the Globe and Mail in January 2012 found that although the economic downturn worldwide has had a negative impact on the private sector’s expectations for innovation, Canadian

ONTARIO BIOSCIENCE INNOVATION ORGANIZATION executives and the public overall are more optimistic about innovation and support for it within Canada. Energy and healthcare were the two sectors where Canadian executives believed more innovation would positively impact job creation and the economic outlook for companies; however these senior managers said they need more creative people, more employees with technical expertise, and more support from public authorities to increase innovation within their own organizations. Moving New Products to Market: The OBEST team is working on innovation procurement to address the need for new product adoption including a pathway to get Ontario’s healthcare innovations to market and into regular use. Using adoption to backstop development has been proven to attract investment and enable value creation. Procurement thus becomes an integral part of building a successful sustainable industry and competitive cluster. Flushing out more risk capital: Access to capital has been the number one issue for health science companies and indeed for Canadian venture capital firms that have health science funds for a long time. OBIO has had an access to capital Committee for three years and under the auspices of OBEST, is currently implementing strategies to attract novel and patient capital streams to health innovation companies in the province. There is a global trend for new venture funds supported or controlled by multinational pharmaceutical companies who have strategic reasons for investing, the expertise, and a strong basis for being in the market. The 2011 OBIO survey revealed that none of the responding companies had received funds from this new and potentially powerful source. The province needs policies and a plan to attract these funds. Simplifying support programs: The annual Ontario health sciences leader consultation survey has pinpointed the need to improve and simplify support programs. An analysis by PWC of changes to the Federal SR&ED program indicates that although nationally the recent changes to SR&ED are expected to have a benign impact on small and medium CCPCs, Ontario’s low level of provincial tax credits will lead to the greatest negative impact among the provinces from the SR&ED changes.

rules to ensure that taxpayers’ money is not abused. The pendulum has now swung too far towards excessive rules, with too many layers of watchers at the expense of people who actually get things done. The Ontario government must find a new middle ground; As of 2011-2012 there are approximately 30 organizations, ministries, centres of excellence, regional innovation centers,

ONTARIO institutes and funding agencies devoted to components of the health sciences sector. At the same time there are approximately 120 Ontario headquartered health technology and bioscience companies and 17 Ontario headquartered foreign owned multinationals. It seems that there are more people working on the domestic health science


Drummond: Governments must minimize the cost of operations, but they also need BER BioFocus_Mar2011_OUT.indd 1

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Biotechnology Focus / June 2012




GENOMICS: MAKING A DIFFERENCE Much has been written lately about the lack of translation of Canadian research discoveries into the marketplace, especially in the area of genomics. The rhetoric of the “valley of death” that straddles the passage of discovery to marketplace is dominated by a discussion about the lack of venture capital or lack of a thriving entrepreneurial spirit in many of the research laboratories in Canada.


Biotechnology Focus / June 2012

While many support this point of view, there are examples that show that genomics has started to come of age and is ready and poised to provide specific solutions to meet the demands of a market-driven economy. A report released by Battelle Technology Partnership Practice in May 2011 clearly indicates such a trend, that indeed, genomics can have an impact on economic growth and job creation. In its study on the economic impact of genomics technologies and the Human Genome Project in the U.S., BTPP reported that between 1998 and 2010, the Human Genome Project along with associated research and industry generated over US$790 billion and created over 310,000 jobs with only an initial investment of US$3.8 billion. In 2010 alone, there was over US$3.7 billion dollars in taxes generated by this exciting field. Canada with its clear global

leadership in research in the genomic sciences can take note of this as it seeks to translate its genomic discoveries into the marketplace. In Ontario, two companies: DVS Sciences and FIO Corporation, provide excellent examples of the impact that genomic science can have both locally and globally. DVS Sciences is an Ontario success story having developed and now marketing a high throughput mass cytometer, the CyTOF®, which provides researchers with data about multiple markers on the surface of individual cells at any one time. This data is essential in providing researchers the ability to look at individual cells and make predictions about disease and drug interactions. In 2011, the CyTOF® was described as a “game changer in biological science” by the journal, Science and in Jan. 2012, was recognized as one of the top 10 innovations in science

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And with these successes it becomes evident that genomics has a role to play in overcoming one of the biggest challenges facing the Canadian economy, the rising cost of health care. by The Scientist magazine. DVS Sciences is a company spun out from research performed at the University of Toronto, which was funded through multiple federal and provincial grants including grants from Genome Canada and the Ontario government. In 2011, DVS secured a US$14 million series A financing and established production facilities in both Markham, ON and Sunnyvale, CA which has enabled the company to commercialize its instruments and reagents to the global market. Likewise, one of the most exciting applications derived from genomics research is the development of point-of-care diagnostic tools. Dr. Michael Greenberg of FIO Corporation and Dr. Kevin Kain, director of the McLaughlin-Rotman Center for Global Health and senior scientist in the division of genomic medicine at the Toronto General Research Institute have developed a portable point of care device that is capable of performing diagnosis of multiple infectious diseases simultaneously. Designed to work at the bedside, a small drop of the patient’s blood is inserted into the SmartreaderTM for rapid diagnosis and the information is sent to smartphones or computers for data retrieval. The development of this device was originally funded through Genome Canada and the Ontario Genomics Institute as a research project that brought together academic and industrial partners. Development of the device and its ongoing field trials have led to private financing and the development of a large facility in downtown Toronto. This device has already been involved in successful field trials involving over 3,000

separate cases and 18 different clinics including evaluation by the U.S. Department of Defence in Africa. And with these successes it becomes evident that genomics has a role to play in overcoming one of the biggest challenges facing the Canadian economy: the rising cost of health care. Specifically, one of the greatest influences of genomics on pharmaceutical development is the move away from the ‘one-size-fits-all’ philosophy to a genetically-tailored approach. Known as personalized medicine, this is really the opportunity to ensure that the right drug reaches the right person, at the right time and at the right dose. Not only will personalized medicine have a significant impact on the design and preparation of clinical trials, which in time should reduce drug development costs, but it will also C allow for the tailoring of treatments and M drugs to specific genetic profiles. This will Y lead to a significant reduction in adverse events while efficacy will rise. In addition, CM costs to the health care system will drop MY as these hospitalizations will be reduced. CY As little as 10 years ago, this would have been considered a “fringe” technology but CMY there are several areas where genetic testK ing has already made a difference to drug treatment choice, such is the case with Herceptin and Gleevac. Ongoing investigations in areas such as rheumatoid arthritis and treatments for schizophrenia look to make significant impact in the treatment of chronic diseases, a major driver in health care costs. In each of these programs, drug efficacy is being matched to genetic profiles so that clinicians will be able to more accurately assess which patients will respond to the treatment they prescribe. The development of the technologies above will bring them more quickly to the hospital and specifically to the bedside. As genomics moves from a discipline unto itself to a suite of tools that will be used across many sectors including health, environment and food, its impact on the economy and innovation will undoubtedly grow. It will be important for the community to build on successes and look for best practices so that the innovation that genomics technologies can bring will be more quickly translated to the marketplace.

Biotechnology Focus / June 2012




The Ontario Network of Excellence (ONE) is a network of regional, sector-focused and provincial not-for-profit organizations. They are experts in growing knowledgebased companies and deliver ONE services and programs in Ontario. 9

Thunder Bay


Sault Ste. Marie

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Markham Cobourg



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Waterloo London



Sudbury North Bay






Toronto Mississauga Oakville Oshawa Whitby St. Catharines Hamilton


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Communitech is a not-for-profit organization with close to 15 years of experience helping technology entrepreneurs in Waterloo Region grow their businesses. Recently, the organization expanded its focus to share its best practices, facilitate innovation and strengthen technology companies at a provincial and national level (driving the creation of the Canadian Digital Media Network). In addition to seeding and growing young technology companies throughout the region, it is focused on connecting and bringing value to its 600+ members. It does this by way of numerous events, peer learning & development programs. From funded, mature companies to one-person start-ups, the organization works with hundreds of clients.



Biotechnology Focus / June 2012

2 HalTech Innovation Centre – Oakville/Halton HalTech is Halton’s Regional Innovation Centre. HalTech assists Halton’s entrepreneurs and technology companies develop their ideas, commercialize their products, establish and expand their businesses. HalTech provides its clients with comprehensive business advisory services, access to capital, entrepreneurship training and networking opportunities. Halton has a strong and innovative business community with demonstrated strengths in information technology, life sciences, cleantech and advanced manufacturing, digital imaging and animation.

Website: 3 Innovation Factory – Hamilton The Innovation Factory helps advance Hamilton’s innovation


community. We serve as an inspiring, expert resource for entrepreneurs, fostering connections across the community that accelerate growth for all. We believe it’s not the business you’re in that’s innovative; it’s the way you do business. As the spirit and skills of innovation permeate our traditional and advanced industries, Hamilton will become unstoppable. Our mission is to strengthen Greater Hamilton’s next generation of job and wealth creation by helping Entrepreneurs bring new ideas to life and to market, SMEs get to the next level, and Hamilton build a dynamic culture and a community of innovation. To realize our vision and pursue our mission, we concentrate on two things: helping individuals and organizations bring innovation to market and move their organization to the next level through our Client Development Program, and Helping our community blossom with innovation and growth through our Community Cultivation Program.

Website: 4 Innovation Guelph – Guelph Innovation Guelph helps innovative enterprises start, grow and thrive by addressing the needs of entrepreneurs, community organizations, researchers and business leaders. We help clients to understand and access funding available through Provincial, Federal, or other sources; provide strategic, expert business advice; and organize and host events focused on business training, networking, and community initiatives. Our client focus is shaped by the character of our local industry sectors: Clean Tech; Health and Wellness; Social Entrepreneurship; Creative and Digital Media; and Advance Manufacturing. Since opening its doors, IG has mentored over 200 companies. In FY 2011/12, IG assisted client companies in accessing $3.2M of funding from provincial, federal, and private sources; assisted with the creation of at least 41 new jobs for our client companies and held 29 educational and networking events that engaged over 1000 individuals.

Website: 5 Regional Innovation Centre – Ottawa & Eastern

Ontario at OCRI

Regional Innovation Centre at OCRI provides a “one-stop-shop” for clients to access all available commercialization programs and services in the region. The RIC focuses on accelerating emerging knowledge based companies, assisting with innovation processes, nurturing the partnerships that support commercialization and connecting its clients with information, advice and funding opportunities to help them grow. The RIC also helps drive investment into start up and growing companies across knowledge based industries by working to strategically expand the investment network. It strives to enhance the network of angel and other investors to foster coinvestment and larger syndication into high potential companies in the region.

ONTARIO where companies have access to best practices from around the world, programs linking them to researchers and successful entrepreneurs, and assistance in accessing the funding and advice they need to take their ideas to market.

Website: 6 Elorin – Kingston (now Launch Lab) Launch Lab promotes the continued growth and prosperity of eastern Ontario. We work with multiple partners to foster a supportive innovative and entrepreneurial environment for start-ups, SMEs and large businesses. Several of our current clients are life science, biotechnology and medical device companies. With a primary focus to create a sustainable ecosystem developed through entrepreneurship and innovation Launch Lab leverages: the expertise of its Board of Directors; a strong regional nucleus of Universities and Colleges; research hospitals; publicly traded member companies; and small & medium enterprises. We are a catalyst that engages the region’s business “Captain” to work together. The Launch Lab region in Eastern Ontario boasts a diverse ecosystem that offers exciting opportunities in both rural communities and urban areas. Launch Lab also fulfills a visible advocacy role through the provincial Ministry of Research and Innovation’s Regional Innovation Centre mandate; and through the new Ontario Network of Excellence.


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The RIC is an access point into the Ontario Network of Excellence Biotechnology Focus / June 2012



7 MaRS Discovery District – Toronto MaRS Discovery District is a large-scale, mission-driven innovation centre located in Toronto, focused on building Canada’s next generation of growth companies. MaRS works with Ontario entrepreneurs to help them launch, grow and scale their ventures into market leaders, focusing on life sciences and health care; information technology; communications and entertainment; clean tech; advanced materials and engineering; and innovative social purpose businesses. MaRS opened in 2005, and will double in size in 2013 with the completion of its Phase 2 development, making it one of the largest urban innovation hubs in the world. MaRS anchors a vibrant innovation community, supporting thousands of entrepreneurs through education, advisory services, skills development, market research, and access to customer, talent and capital networks. In the past two years, MaRS has advised over 2,000 startups—the leading cohort of which has raised over $300 million in capital—and directly created over 1,500 new Canadian jobs.

Website: 8 Niagara Interactive Media Generator (nGen) –

Niagara Region

Niagara Interactive Media Generator (nGen) is a Regional Innovation Centre (RIC) and a hub for interactive digital media project and business development in the Niagara Region. As a member of ONE, nGen provides support to the emerging industry clusters as identified in Niagara’s economic growth strategy. These industry clusters include digital media, health and wellness, green energy, and bio-products. Niagara has many unique competitive advantages perfectly suited to the emerging bio-economy. These include a long-established agricultural and agri-food business infrastructure, institutional bioscience research, industry expertise drawn from a number of leading-edge companies, and abundant supplies of talent, water, energy and biomass. Collectively, these assets have helped attract businesses in a variety of growing sub-industries within the bio-products field such as waste-to-energy conversion, pharmaceutical product development and manufacturing, and industrial fermentation. As part of the ONE network, nGen can align bio-products companies and entrepreneurs with valuable resources and services available in Niagara and Ontario. nGen facilitates networking, collaboration, prototyping, production and business development for the emerging industry clusters in Niagara. Its main activities revolve around mentorship, access to technology, projects, seminars, networking, and tenancy for digital media companies. It works to create an innovative business incubation and generation model to help jump-start and grow new enterprise.

Website: 9 Northern Technology Alliance – North Bay,

Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie

The Northern Technology Alliance which is a collaborative network


Biotechnology Focus / June 2012

ONTARIO of organizations from across the major centres in Northern Ontario is designed to help clients commercialize their ideas. The Northern Technology Alliance is made up of members NORCAT (Sudbury), the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre (Sault Ste. Marie), the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre (Thunder Bay) and Innovation Initiatives Ontario North (North Bay).

Website:;;; 10 Research Innovation Commercialization Centre

(RIC) – Mississauga

The RIC Centre links to the largest network of life sciences industry stakeholders in Ontario. While RICC’s network extends across Ontario, we cater to businesses and entrepreneurs in the Peel region, which includes the Cities of Brampton, Mississauga and the Town of Caledon. Mississauga is home to the third largest life sciences cluster in Canada with more than 375 companies employing approximately 24,800 people. Baylis Medical is a local success. Baylis Medical is a leading developer, manufacturer and supplier of high-technology medical devices for interventional pain management, interventional cardiology and radiology products. RICC has supported the growth of Baylis Medical through their Entrepreneur-in-Residence program, assigning a coach and mentor to provide them with high-level special guidance on commercialization of technologies.

Website: 11 Innovation Durham Northumberland (now called

Spark Centre) – Whitby, Oshawa, Coburg

Spark Centre helps start and grow innovative technology-based companies in Durham Region and Northumberland County. They help start-up companies find the best path to market, and surround them with the tools, people and connections they need to get there faster. They also help existing companies develop relationships and create strategies that can drive faster growth. Spark Centre’s vision is to create an innovation eco-system of entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, researchers and students who come together to exchange ideas and help each other succeed, ultimately creating jobs and wealth. Spark Centre offers business coaching and mentorship, learning tools, connections to business and research networks, and help with access to investment. Their services are provided thanks to the generous financial support of the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation, Durham Region, the Durham Strategic Energy Alliance (DSEA) and the Northumberland Manufacturer’s Association (NMA).

Website: 12 Tech Alliance of Southwestern – London TechAlliance empowers London and Southwestern Ontario’s technology sector. We prepare today’s entrepreneurs to launch new ventures, provide education and networking opportunities


to accelerate business growth for small-to-medium enterprises, and serve this community as advocates for thriving technology, life sciences and advanced manufacturing companies. Whether you have a company or just an idea, our in-house team of experienced analysts, advisors, and entrepreneurs-in-residence will work with you to understand your tech business and the challenges you face, and to help you access all the resources available to high-potential tech businesses in the area. TechAlliance also plays a major role in the Southwestern Ontario Regional Alliance, a gathering of organizations striving to enhance our entrepreneurial community; members include TechAlliance, WORLDiscoveries, The Research Park (London, Sarnia-Lambton), Ontario Centres of Excellence, National Research Council of Canada, WEtech Alliance (Windsor-Essex).

Website: 13 We-Tech Alliance – Windsor WEtech Alliance is Windsor-Essex’s Technology Accelerator; an industry-led non-profit organization focused on driving the growth and success of Windsor-Essex’s technology and innovation centric companies and entrepreneurs through leadership, connections and promotion. WEtech strives to identify, find solutions and foster the development of the technology industry in Windsor-Essex by engaging companies in the technology and innovation sectors, as well as companies who utilize technology. WEtech also acts as a liaison between academia and industry in bringing research to commercialization as well developing a regional talent pool. WEtech’s mission is to nurture innovation and technology by providing the tools, programs, resources and support that entrepreneurs and technology-centric companies require for sustaining growth, development and success. WEtech assists entrepreneurs in launching new ventures, providing education and networking opportunities to accelerate business growth for small-to-medium enterprises, and serves its members as advocates for the region’s thriving technology and innovation companies.

Website: 14 The Venture Lab – Markham VentureLab is the York Region partner in Ontario’s Network of Excellence and is located in Markham, Canada’s high tech capital. The Regional Municipality of York has a long history of innovation in knowledge based industries and has significant regional assets. It has a deep talent pool with close to 70 per cent of its adult population with post secondary degrees or higher and a strong entrepreneurial culture. VentureLab realizes the significant value of education and learning in this knowledge-based economy. We strive to provide educational programs and encourage collaboration from this generation’s young entrepreneurs right through the entire entrepreneurial life-cycle. VentureLab offers services to ICT and Life Science entrepreneurs in helping bring their technology to market. We have many strategic advantages including VentureLab’s ability to connect with industry partners and to bridge relationships among the business, academia, science and government sectors.


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Biotechnology Focus / June 2012


ONTARIO BIOSCIENCE INNOVATION ORGANIZATION CONTINUED FROM PAGE 29 industry than in it. This balance needs to be readdressed and the government should place the emphasis on supporting the development of a healthy private sector capable of responding to market forces rather than on program rules. Drummond: Seek common themes across the reforms to achieve economies of scale and to simplify communications; The common themes which a healthy bioscience sector can address are: innovation, the commercialization gap, value creation through intellectual property, the need to improve health outcomes, and deliver the high quality healthcare and the opportunity to generate wealth for the province by exporting innovative health solutions. The common reforms that would positively impact the sector include: policies that attract and retain capital and enable Ontario to compete with its peers; merge multiple, costly small programs into fewer efficient large ones; and private sector leadership in designing reforms.

Drummond: Reform must be pervasive and speedy. Broader action favours a public perception that the reforms are fair, as opposed to a view that a few programs were unfairly targeted. Change is disruptive, but the medicine does not go down more easily if it is dragged out over a long period. This comment by Drummond is particularly relevant. The domestic health science industry was struggling in the province before the economic downturn and has not recovered or started to grow. Reform, especially consultative, transparent reform, is urgently needed. At the same time the private sector has created a plan in less than a year and has begun to implement that plan. Goals and objectives have been set and if results are not guaranteed, at least there will be a mechanism to make better choices. Canadian sentiments toward R&D funding are changing. While the Alberta tax payer can see the benefit of funding R&D in the oil patch, the same cannot be said for the Ontario taxpayer funding medical research. A new vision is long overdue.

ONTARIO REFERENCES 1. Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services; Public Services for Ontarians: A Path to sustainability & Excellence (Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2012) under the chairmanship of Don Drummond 2. Emerging Stronger, A Transformative Agenda for Ontario (November, 2011), Mowat Centre, Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Leger Marketing 3. Ontario Bioscience Economic Strategy Team (OBEST) (2011), 4. OBIO Industry Generated Recommendations for Sustainability and Growth (2011), OBIO AGM December 6, 2011, 5. OBIO Industry Generated Recommendations for Sustainability and Growth (2009, 2010, 2011), This paper can be read in conjunction with: “Ontario’s Human health Technology and Biosciences Industry: An Economic Vision Document” (May, 2012), Garland et al., @

Inspiration to innovation Every scientist in the world dreams of a “Eureka!” moment. McMaster’s Mick Bhatia had just that, when he and his team of researchers made a critical and life changing breakthrough: discovering how to make blood from human skin. Bhatia is the Canada Research Chair in Human Stem Cell Biology and director of McMaster’s Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute in the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. His discovery means that, in the foreseeable future, people needing blood for surgery, cancer treatment or treatment of other blood conditions like anemia will be able to have a patch of their own skin create blood for transfusions. It’s an amazing discovery with incredible possibilities. To learn more visit


Biotechnology Focus / June 2012

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By John Kelly


John Kelly Vice President, Erie Innovation and Commercialization

Over the past several years there has been a concerted effort to try to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. The most visible impact has been the growth of the bioethanol market in North America, with more than 220 plants operating in the U.S. (most found in the corn belt) and Canada. These plants, and associated government policies, have made a direct impact on the consumer. One of the objectives of these plants is to increase our domestic supply of fuel, and in this case, renewable fuels. What is less visible is the impact that the life sciences are having on the production of commonly used chemicals. Many organic chemicals are derived from petroleum-based sources, either from North American sources like oil from the tar sands of Alberta and natural gas deposits such as those found in Pennsylvania, or imported from less politically stable global jurisdictions. These chemicals are being produced from finite, geochemical sources that are based upon “old” carbon, i.e. carbon which has been in the ground for millions of years. The chemical industry in Canada is big business. Among the leaders in this sector are multinational companies like Dow and E.I. Du Pont, who have a long history of creating synthetic chemistry from hydrocarbon sources. These companies, and others, have recognized that the basis of their product is carbon, and that this carbon can come from a variety of sources. Since the days of inexpensive petrochemicals appear behind us, companies are looking for novel sources of renewable carbon to fuel their industry. This is where agriculture and forestry have a strong role to play. There are also new players in the market who are taking advantage of the bio-chemistry wave. Lanxess, a German manufacturer of plastics, rubber and specialty chemicals based in Sarnia, ON, is increasing its reliance on bio-based polymers. They are a major producer of butyl rubber, which is the material of choice for such products as closures in injection vials and blood collection tubes. Lanxess has created a partnership with Gevo, a US-based renewable chemicals company, in an effort to produce premium synthetic rubber from bio-based raw materials. Gevo is currently developing a fermentation process to produce isobutanol from the fermentable sugars in biomass.


This isobutanol is then dehydrated to isobutene, required for the production of butyl rubber. Increasingly, the development of eco-friendly chemicals has been a driver. BioAmber, a Montréal-based company, in partnership with Mitsui, is building a global scale bio-succinic acid plant, also in Sarnia. They have positioned themselves by using agricultural feedstocks to have a negative carbon footprint and true petrochemical substitute. They will produce many 100 per cent bio-based products including butanediol, tetrahydrofuran and gamma-butyrolactone. These are not your everyday, traditional life sciences products! Burlington, ON based EcoSynthetix has created a novel biolatex, which is positioned as a complete replacement for petroleum based emulsion polymers with equal or superior performance. Their Ecosphere® renewable biolatex binders are made from starches derived from Ontario based crops like potatoes and corn. The large multinationals have not ignored this space. Indeed, E.I. Du Pont launched Sorona® in 2002 and has joined forces with another global giant Tate & Lyle to create bio-products from corn sugars. DuPont works on joint partnerships with BioAmber, as does Cargill. These products from agricultural and forestry based life sciences go into every day use, whether they are plastics from polylactic acid (PLA) from corn, co-polymers for the auto sector based on wheat straw, inks and paints from starch sources, or long fibres used in carpeting. And these companies see a significant financial and environmental upside to these bio-based compounds. Indeed, the divide between life sciences and industrial chemicals is rapidly decreasing. John Kelly is currently a director for Life Sciences Ontario and the VP for Erie Innovation and Commercialization


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Biotechnology Focus June 2012  

The Ontario Issue

Biotechnology Focus June 2012  

The Ontario Issue