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Investors should look to Alberta for their biotech investments

Health and Life Sciences
Published On
March 18, 2021

Competitive advantages combined with new government policy create near-term investment opportunities in western Canada

The pandemic has created a catalyst for Alberta to establish itself as a leading destination for investment into biotechnology and pharmaceutical R&D and manufacturing.  Alberta biotech companies and researchers rose to the challenge when they heard of the fast-spreading COVID-19 virus in early January 2020. Many biotech organizations pivoted quickly to throw the bulk of their resources to addressing the emerging crisis. Within a year, there were seventeen proposals for vaccines out of the University of Alberta and today, two Alberta companies have developed vaccines that are now entering clinical trials. 

The Governments of Alberta and Canada are responding by making investments to support vaccine development and grow domestic manufacturing capacity. The Edmonton Metropolitan Region in Alberta, Canada is well-positioned to be a state-of-the-art integrated biotechnology and pharmaceutical hub for vaccine production for this and future pandemics. The region has a strong network to support research and development and commercialization of new medicines. Some of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region’s key strengths for biotechnology and pharmaceuticals include:

  • Talent and research expertise
    • The University of Alberta ranks in the top fifteen globally for its research citations in the pharmaceutical sciences, and third in Canada for number of active clinical trials in 2020
    • The Li Ka Shing Virology Institute is home to some of Canada’s top virologists – including Order of Canada recipient, Lorne Tyrell and Nobel Laureate, Dr. Michael Houghton.
  • Industry infrastructure and a growing cluster
    • Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation (API) is a not-for-profit institute that helps commercialize pharmaceuticals.
      • In the past two years API has incubated enterprises that have grown to a combined market capitalization of $370 million.
    • The Edmonton region has a strong ecosystem of pharmaceutical companies that includes a cluster of chemical companies and engineering talent in manufacturing early-stage inputs and mid-stage active pharmaceutical ingredients.
      • This cluster has already attracted biopharmaceutical giant, Gilead Sciences into the region. Gilead’s investment spans over 15 years and they’ve continued to invest with a recently completed expansion.
  • Logistics and access to markets
    • The Edmonton International Airport is the first airport in Canada to successfully secure CEIV certification for pharmaceutical handling through the International Air Transportation Association. This means they have the expertise and capability to get drugs and vaccines to a global market. 
      • The Edmonton International Airport is the closest major North American airport to Asia via circumpolar routes.
  • Government support
    • Alberta’s Economic Recovery Plan prioritizes leveraging Alberta’s world class research to grow the pharmaceutical industry – sending a clear message to investors that the government is serious about their support of this sector. 
      • Last week, the Government of Alberta announced they would be accepting proposals for COVID-19 vaccine development and manufacturing to be done within the province.
    • The Government of Canada has also expressed interest in building up its domestic vaccine production capacity. 
      • The 2020 Fall Economic Statement included a mandate to explore ways to support pandemic preparedness and support the growth of clusters of biotechnology expertise across the country. 
      • A recently completed consultation focused on targeted enhancements to Canada’s biomanufacturing and life sciences ecosystem and growing critical biologics and therapeutics manufacturing and life sciences capabilities.

These competitive advantages, combined with recent announcements from both the provincial and federal governments, mean it’s the perfect time to  invest in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. 

An emerging opportunity

“Alberta has the building blocks to actually build out a legitimate, credible pharmaceutical industry and vaccine development industry, all the way from development to production,” said Alberta’s Jobs Economy and Innovation Minister, Doug Schweitzer in a recent oped in the National Post. Over the next several weeks Edmonton Global will be hosting a series of online discussion forums spotlighting current investment opportunities and specific aspects of our competitive advantage including:

  • Expertise in vaccine development and manufacturing
  • Biotech research and development expertise
  • Talent, supply chain & logistics

Our first conversation will take place on Monday March 22 at 12:00MDT and will be livestreamed on our social media channels (LinkedIn,Twitter, Facebook). 

We’ll be chatting with Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation’s CEO, Andrew MacIsaac as well as representatives from two Alberta companies that are developing COVID-19 vaccines – Dr. John Lewis, founder and CEO, Entos Pharmaceuticals and Dr. Jared Davis, President, Providence Therapeutics. Be sure to follow us on social media (LinkedIn,Twitter, Facebook) to keep up to date on these upcoming events.

Learn more about the opportunities in the life sciences sector in the Edmonton Region.