The unprecedented growth in the life sciences sector is spurring a boom in the global demand for all types of lab space, and the Edmonton region is no exception. Governments around the world have been supporting historic investments in life sciences; for example, the Canadian Federal government recently committed $80.5 million in federal funding for the Critical Care Drug Initiative (CCDI), an Edmonton-based initiative led by Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation (API), that will enable more early-stage companies to bring new pharmaceutical products to market. This investment will add much-needed capacity to produce and manufacture small molecule drugs, help new drugs be developed, and boost the life sciences sector in the Edmonton region.
Beyond government funding, private industry is also responding to the lack of wet lab space. Hermay Labs has invested $3.8 million in the purchase of an existing, 40,000-square-foot multi-tenant industrial facility, Research Centre One (RC1), in the Edmonton Research Park (ERP). It currently operates out of a 10,000 square-foot laboratory in the ERP and will undergo major renovations to radically improve the existing lab space, including building additional wet lab space.
Hermay Labs was founded in 2019 by Dr. John Yao, a scientist with over 30 years of experience in drug development, chemical synthesis, and operational management. The company specializes in developing innovative solutions for the biotech industry, with a focus on the discovery and production of new therapeutic drugs and biological products.
The RC1 building has three times the industry average in heavy electric power capabilities and its current wet lab facilities are set up for immediate operations. Currently, there are six available bays with two or three lab spaces in each open for leasing opportunities. Dr. Yao says each lab space will be customized to tenant company needs.
The Edmonton Research Park (ERP) is a world-class research and development hub, home to over 50 companies, including start-ups, established businesses, and research organizations. ERP provides a collaborative environment for businesses and researchers to work together on innovative projects and cutting-edge research.
It is located on 80 hectares of land on the south side of Edmonton, a strategic location that offers easy access to the university’s research facilities, as well as the city’s transportation network. The park provides a range of services to its tenants, including access to research and development facilities, business incubation and acceleration services, and technology commercialization support.
There has been a long history of successful commercialization of R&D projects in the research park with many companies going on to become successful businesses in the Edmonton region. Hermay Labs will contribute to driving the park’s economic growth and diversification through upgrading the existing RC1 wet lab space.
The ERP has three multi-tenant buildings supporting different innovation initiatives:
Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation recently became the new manager and leaseholder of the Biotechnology Business Development Building (BBDC).
The Edmonton region’s life sciences sector is gearing up for major growth and innovation in pharmaceutical manufacturing and biotechnology development.
Dr. Yao says the team at Hermay Labs is thrilled to see their project in motion, “There is a very limited amount of wet lab space in the Edmonton region, and we’d really like to see that be the focus and grow. We already have some biotech and engineering companies interested in the lab space we are upgrading. The potential of having a space like this in the region is huge.”
Feeding into the ecosystem, the University of Alberta will be a major asset to tenants of Hermay Labs, giving graduates interested in starting their own life sciences and research and development companies an opportunity to continue their work in the region. The University of Alberta has the largest consortium of virologists in Canada within the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology. It’s also home to leading experts in medical microbiology, immunology, and infectious diseases and has developed a reputation for creating startups and building partnerships with industry.
This past March, the University of Alberta announced another asset to the region’s life sciences sector – the new Prairie research hub for pandemic preparedness. The hub will work to strengthen and develop tools to fight Covid-19 and other potential pandemic diseases. The Prairies research hub and Hermay Labs will collectively build a resilient biomanufacturing ecosystem in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. The University of Alberta’s pipeline of virologists, chemists, and biochemists will have increased access to lab space and resources to develop antivirals and critical drugs that are in short supply in Canada.
“If you build it, they will come,” says Dr. Yao.
Passionate about the growing potential of Edmonton Research Park and Hermay Labs’ facility upgrades, he hopes to see the park transform the region’s life sciences ecosystem within the next few years. He is eager to see the upgraded Hermay Labs facility come to life and grow the park’s existing health and life sciences community further.
“The building is quite spacious with a lot of potential to make major or minor modifications to suit the needs of those coming in,” says Dr. Yao. “Hermay Labs will be a community partner to all those looking to make a new home in our upgraded lab spaces. We really believe in the potential this place will hold for both companies seeking research and development space and the Edmonton region life sciences community.”
He envisions the park to be an innovative research and development hub focusing on two major areas:
Hermay Labs will be seeking additional federal and provincial grant funding to complete the lab space upgrades. Dr. Yao sees the value in creating a comprehensive hub that can foster a community approach to life sciences research and development in the Edmonton Research Park. He hopes that through upgrading the facilities with grant funding, Hermay Labs will be able to better support businesses moving into the building and really foster a supportive research community.
Dr. Yao anticipates that the new labs will spark further innovation coming out of the region. “The region’s infrastructure needs to be competitive to grow,” he says. “The collaborative nature of researchers here will be an asset. They’re constantly looking at how we can improve and innovate so that the next person doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
To learn more about the health and life sciences in the Edmonton region, click here