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Ontario’s New Life Sciences Council: An Opportunity for Growth

Yesterday morning, the Government of Ontario announced a new Life Sciences Council, made up of life sciences leaders across the public and private sectors.

As long-time champions of growth in the life sciences sector, we are so pleased to see so many key players brought together to make change and build a more sustainable and competitive life sciences ecosystem in Ontario.

This begs the question, what opportunities do we have for change in the current life sciences ecosystem?

Life Sciences in Ontario

As it stands, Ontario’s life sciences industry is emerging as a leader. The Toronto Region alone has a fast-growing labour force of over 47,000 workers and over 16,000 STEM graduates each year.

The life sciences industry in the Toronto Region spreads far and wide. From Mississauga’s cluster of 30 multinational pharmaceutical companies and six hospitals to the “Discovery District” in Downtown Toronto, with nine hospitals, 37 world renowned research facilities and six postsecondary schools.

The life sciences sector in our region is witnessing an era of unprecedented growth from companies and government alike. In 2022, Ontario life science strategy stating the goal to maintain and grow Ontario’s biomanufacturing and life sciences sector by targeting 85,000 high-value jobs in the life sciences sector by 2030.

The life sciences council has been put in place to do just that, but first we must address Ontario’s strengths and weaknesses – or as we like to call it, opportunities.

Strengths: Talent and Collaboration

Life sciences organizations in the Toronto Region can collaborate with 40 percent of Canada’s pharmaceutical companies and some of the world’s top-rated research facilities.

Toronto General Hospital consistently ranks in the top 10 hospitals globally. Mount Sinai Hospital ranks fourth in the in terms of stem cell publications and York Region’s Humber River Hospital is North America’s first ever digital hospital.

Currently, 160 organizations in the Toronto Region are making discoveries in the field of regenerative medicine, including many members of the newly appointed council. With 18 colleges and universities graduating over 5,000 life sciences students per year, it is no wonder innovation happens here.

Due to our region’s fast emerging life sciences hub, companies are looking to expand here more than ever before. With this influx of new life sciences companies, and the growth of those already here, we will need more wet lab space in the Toronto Region to accommodate this growth.

Opportunities: Wet Lab Space

After reaching out to various life sciences organizations throughout Ontario, we realized they shared the same concern.

“We are a computational biology company working with three of the top 25 pharma companies. Lack of wet lab space has 1) forced us to consider growing elsewhere, 2) slowed our pace of development for novel IP, 3) impacted our ability to recruit senior talent,” said Co-Founder and CEO of ProteinQure, Lucas Siow.

The proof was in the testimonials. The Toronto Region has all the pieces to keep life sciences thriving, we just need the glue that holds them together: lab space. Last summer, we released “At the Tipping Point,” in partnership with Shift Health, which details the need for more wet lab space in the Toronto Region. The key takeaways are:

  1. Lack of wet lab space is creating significant challenges for companies that want to remain in or move to the Toronto Region and constraining the growth of the Canadian life sciences sector.
  2. More private sector wet lab investment is necessary to ensure that Ontario’s surplus of biomedical research companies have a place to grow – here.
  3. The cost and specialized resources of developing new lab space from the ground up or of converting an existing office building into lab space far exceeds those of standard commercial projects.

The growing concern for lab space in the Toronto Region actioned the creation of a Wet Labs Coalition, which we are happy to say is making progress in carrying forward our call to action. With many members of this coalition overlapping with those of the Government of Ontario’s Life Sciences Council, we are confident that the dire need for wet lab space will be top of mind when looking into next steps.

We are looking forward to the council’s recommendations on building a globally competitive life science ecosystem that attracts and retains companies, talent and capital right here in Ontario. Ensuring that we have enough lab space is a critical part of the solution.

Interested in learning more about wet labs? Click here.

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