The Bioscience Sector in Atlantic Canada

By Matthew Johnson

 

As Canada’s leading healthcare-focused investment firm, Bloom Burton & Co. seeks to develop strong connections to health and bioscience innovation clusters across the country. In this new blog series, Matthew Johnson, VP Business Development, will recount experiences traveling across this “Health Innovation Nation”.

There’s no question that the Atlantic region of Canada is a vital contributor to our national identity. One need look no further than the Tim Horton’s “Canada 150” coffee cup to appreciate that the Atlantic provinces provide us with plenty of iconic “Canadiana”.

You may be surprised, however, to learn of the contributions of the bioscience sector in Atlantic Canada, how its growing output is serving to reinvent the traditional economy of the region, and how the culture of collaboration across provincial boundaries may serve as a model for the rest of the country. The evolution of the Atlantic bioscience sector leverages a history of scientific ingenuity and the entrepreneurial, self-reliant spirit of the east coast, resulting in a dynamic environment for innovation.

I recently traveled to Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, where I met with numerous organizations and entrepreneurs active in life sciences research and commercialization (apologies to Newfoundland-Labrador – next time!).

On a beautiful day in Charlottetown, I met with Synapse Applied Research and Industry Services at the University of Prince Edward Island, where I learned about UPEI’s unique capabilities in human and animal health research. I was introduced to a talented theoretical chemistry researcher/entrepreneur developing a machine learning platform to model quantum mechanical properties of small molecules for use in drug discovery. PEI BioAlliance and Emergence Bioscience Incubator also call Charlottetown home, and I was grateful for the opportunity to learn about their efforts to grow the bioscience sector in the province and the country.

In Halifax, I met with the Industry Liaison and Innovation team based at Dalhousie University, which supports commercialization of research at Dal as well as at the Nova Scotia Health Authority and IWK Health Centre. We were joined at lunch by an impressive founder building software to reduce the barriers for translation and dissemination of clinical practice innovation.

In Moncton, NB, with the gracious support of BioNB and Springboard Atlantic, we assembled a day of engaging discussions about the opportunities and challenges faced by the Atlantic bioscience sector. With input from universities, private health research institutes, provincial economic development authorities, and entrepreneurs, the consensus was that while Atlantic Canada is home to abundant health research and discovery, these resources are vastly untapped due to lack of capacity for commercial assessment and poor connectivity to global capital markets. This situation is not unique to Atlantic Canada; indeed, it is precisely the reason Bloom Burton & Co. provides our specialized suite of scientific and financial service solutions to academic, non-profit, and government organizations.

Like many regions across Canada, the Atlantic provinces have recognized the potential in their bioscience sector to become an essential driver of economic growth and prosperity, and are seeking to capitalize on the strength of their scientific research and the passion of their entrepreneurs. Based on my observations, I am confident the Atlantic region can become one of the top bioscience clusters in Canada, if not the world.

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