Subscribe Home Page News Opinion Foreign Policy Politics Policy Legislation Lobbying Hill Life & People Hill Climbers Heard On The Hill Calendar Election 2021 Archives Classifieds
Hill Times Events Inside Ottawa Directory Hill Times Store Hill Times Careers The Wire Report The Lobby Monitor Parliament Now
Reuse & Permissions Advertising FAQ
Contact UsLog In
106 200
Opinion

Time to go on offence with Canada’s bio-manufacturing strategy

By Michael May       

To ensure we do not experience the same issues in the future around emerging technology platforms, we need to transition from a pandemic focus and execute on a robust manufacturing strategy that leverages Canadian strengths for meaningful benefit to Canada and measurable global leadership.

Stainless steel bioreactors, pictured. It is encouraging and exciting that bio-manufacturing has become a priority of the Canadian life sciences enterprise, and it is understandable that recent investments have been driven by COVID-19 vaccine development and manufacturing, writes Michael May. Photograph courtesy of Commons Wikimedia/Rick Lawless
Share a story
The story link will be added automatically.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a health-care crisis. It has, in many ways, focused a lens on the importance of the life sciences, technology development, and innovation strategy on the health and economic well-being of all Canadians. Yet, we all ache for the COVID context to be finally removed from all our decision-making: how we work, who we visit, how we interact, where we go … for example. The same applies to our thinking on Canada’s bio-manufacturing strategy. It is time to transition from defence to offence and focus on a strategy that will create Canadian advantages in the future around Canadian strengths in the life sciences.

Over the last decade, regenerative medicine, which includes cell and gene therapy, has become one of the hottest sectors in biotechnology and it happens to be an area of scientific excellence in Canada after decades of investment in the field. Several years ago, a consortium of regenerative medicine and biologics organizations (collectively, “Advanced therapy”) from across Canada put together a proposal to the new “supercluster” program of the federal government. The consortium consisted of both industry, academia and public-private partnerships (like my organization, CCRM), and proposed investment in pan-Canadian collaboration, new facilities and training.

Get The Weekend Point of View Newsletter

Top Canadian political and policy opinion and analysis. Saturdays and Sundays.
By entering your email address you consent to receive email from The Hill Times containing news, analysis, updates and offers. You may unsubscribe at any time. See our privacy policy

Essentially, we pitched that manufacturing capability and infrastructure were essential for securing economic benefit from Canada’s leadership in advanced therapies. Our application also included discussions around security of domestic access to advanced therapies and the need for Canada to contribute to the global bio-product supply chain as a bargaining chip to ensure access to revolutionary medicines, some of which will inevitably be manufactured elsewhere. Imagine how brilliant Canada would have looked in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic if the proposal had been successful.

Cheryl Reicen and Adam Falconi recently published an analysis of investment in Canadian bio-manufacturing during the COVID-19 pandemic titled “Canada’s New Bio-manufacturing and Life Sciences Investment Strategy.” CCRM’s efforts to establish a substantial commercial-scale cell and gene therapy contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) in Canada, on the back of a decade of work on manufacturing technology development and clinical-stage, good manufacturing practices (GMP)-compliant manufacturing, was acknowledged in the article.

First, Canadians should be pleased and proud of the world-leading availability of COVID-19 vaccines in Canada, despite not having any domestic bio-manufacturing capacity in this area. Second, the level of investment in bio-manufacturing across the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been impressive. Indeed, the most recent announcement by Moderna to build a manufacturing facility in Canada will be the envy of other countries in the same bio-manufacturing predicament as Canada. The needle has certainly moved since our supercluster application days.

Yet, three important points came to mind when I read the analysis by Reicen and Falconi. First, all of the investments by government have been towards vaccine manufacturing. This makes sense considering the pandemic and the need to take a defensive, reactive stance to a crisis, but vaccine manufacturing represents a fraction of the opportunity and need for bio-manufacturing investment in Canada. Second, at the time that the government made these investments, most of the recipients were foreign or foreign-controlled entities. Future investment needs to focus on advancing a more Canadian strategy. Third, the investments are separate and independent, not synergistically tied together by a coordinated national strategy.

The vision for CCRM’s cell and gene therapy commercial manufacturing spin-off is that it be the anchor company of a “bio-manufacturing campus,” located at McMaster’s Innovation Park in Hamilton, Ont., that incorporates incubator space for companies, logistics, supply chain and other ecosystem partners, analytics support for product characterization and assay development, and a training facility, developed in partnership with Montreal-based CellCAN, to tackle talent gaps in the industry. It will be seamlessly connected to CCRM’s existing technology development, company creation and investment activities, and our pan-Canadian discovery pipeline and associated world-class clinical capabilities. The aim is to create a bio-manufacturing ecosystem that can be extended beyond cell and gene therapy to other advanced therapeutics that will address chronic disease and future pandemics.

It is encouraging and exciting that bio-manufacturing has become a priority of the Canadian life sciences enterprise, and it is understandable that recent investments have been driven by COVID-19 vaccine development and manufacturing. To ensure we do not experience the same issues in the future around emerging technology platforms, we need to transition from a pandemic focus and execute on a robust manufacturing strategy that leverages Canadian strengths for meaningful benefit to Canada and measurable global leadership.

Michael May, PhD, is president and CEO of the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM), a Canadian, not-for-profit that develops technologies, launches new companies and catalyzes investment in the field of regenerative medicine, including cell and gene therapy. 

The Hill Times 

Disclosure: The licence to share this op-ed widely was purchased after its publication date. All op-eds that appear in The Hill Times, including this one, pass through the editorial-oversight process, which includes fact-checks and edits for style, grammar, and punctuation. Editorial is not involved in the licensing process.
To read more great stories like this one and stay ahead of the political curve, subscribe to The Hill Times.

Conservative call for ethics probes ‘entirely to script,’ making character a ballot box question, say strategists

News|By Mike Lapointe
Strategists and pollsters say they expected the focus to shift to the issue of a leader’s character at this point in the campaign calendar.

Legislative change needed on access to information, but ‘overheated rhetoric’ doesn’t help, says Wernick

Canada has a ‘blackout bureaucracy,’ says journalism professor Sean Holman, who debated the former Privy Council clerk this week on the role of access to information in Canada’s democracy.

AFN’s call for Indigenous voters to be election ‘kingmakers’ challenged by lack of voter enthusiasm, say chiefs and politicos

News|By Matt Horwood
First Nations electors have the political power to flip several ridings, but turnout among Indigenous voters is traditionally much lower than it is for the average population.

Rising support for far-right People’s Party unlikely to trouble Tories, say strategists and experts, as O’Toole makes a pitch for the centre

News|By Neil Moss
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has tried to recruit support from the centre, but it may have left the party vulnerable to a challenge on its right flank.

Green Party targets Prince Edward Island seats in rare campaign trip by leader Annamie Paul

News|By Matt Horwood
The provincial Greens' rise to become the official opposition in 2019 signals that P.E.I. voters are tired of 'politics as usual,' says one prof, which could translate into increased support for the Greens at the federal

Youth turnout may be stronger than expected this year and the NDP are reaching them the best: politicos

News|By Alice Chen
The Liberals have a conflicting track record, the Conservatives are sticking mostly to their older base, and the Greens are failing to capitalize on their opportunities, say experts and candidates.

Northern races heat up as candidates vie to succeed Qaqqaq, Bagnell

News|By Alice Chen
Experts say that left-leaning parties seem to have a foothold in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, but Yukon could be anyone’s game.

International students struggle to come to Canada amid COVID-19 variant concerns, says Universities Canada president

News|By
The number of international students may rise this year compared to 2020, but travel restrictions related to COVID-19 variants may be a roadblock, according to Paul Davidson, the president of Universities Canada.

Trades worker shortage getting worse as politicians promise more construction

More than 700,000 skilled tradespeople will retire by 2028, and Canada's efforts to replace them are falling short, warns a new report from the Royal Bank of Canada.
Your group subscription includes premium access to Politics This Morning briefing.