Life sciences organizations ask Ottawa for national strategy following Sanofi investment

Sebastian Leck
April 14, 2021

A group of 19 health sciences and business associations asked for a national life sciences strategy and increased collaboration on Monday in an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In the letter, the organizations asked for a "coherent life sciences strategy," more collaboration between the government and private sector, and "less uncertain and complex regulations" that the group said were slowing down progress.

Signatories to the letter included Brian Lewis, President & CEO of Medtech, Richard Fajzel, chair of the Canadian Health Research Forum and Perrin Beatty, President & CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, along with leaders of other provincial life sciences organizations such as BioQuebec, LifeSciences BC, BioAlberta and Bioscience Association Manitoba.

The initiative was launched by Life Sciences Ontario as a social media and advertising campaign. The open letter appeared as an advertisement in the Globe and Mail and the Hill Times in English, and in Le Devoir in French.

The Canadian government recently made an investment of $415 million into a partnership with French pharmaceutical manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur Limited — a member of Life Sciences Ontario — through the federal Strategic Innovation Fund. Together with $55 million from the Ontario government and $455 million from Sanofi, the funding will support an influenza vaccine manufacturing facility in Toronto to build Canada's biomanufacturing capacity.

Jason Field, the President & CEO of Life Sciences Ontario, told Research Money in an interview that they are pushing for a strategy that will cut across government agencies and ministries. He noted that the sector is unique in that it affects not only researchers and private companies, but also patients, hospitals and the broader healthcare system.

“We would really like to see the federal government enter into a dialogue about how they can better align innovation, economic development and health policy to support our industry,” Field said. “It's hard to determine the value of new innovations when, for example, your procurement office is only looking at the price and not the fact that this has a huge impact on other areas across government."

Field added that the letter is not a specific ask for funding, but rather about changing the way that the government approaches the sector to take an “all-of-government” approach. "We're not asking them to spend more money here,” he said.

The Health and Biosciences Economic Strategy Table has already made recommendations in 2018 that could be implemented, Field said. One example is value-based procurement, which would seek to maximize value to patients and systems rather than minimizing cost.

"The elements are all there. It just takes a commitment to make it happen. After all that we've been through with COVID-19, I think now is the time to make that kind of commitment," Field said.

Brian Lewis, the President & CEO of Medtech, an association representing medical technology companies, told Research Money in an email that a national strategy should include a focus on commercialization.

"From our perspective a coherent strategy would include a strong focus on commercialization in Canada, which is one area that is currently lacking," he wrote. "While a continued [focus] needs to be on Canada’s world-class R&D ecosystem, there’s a significant gap right now when it comes to innovators being able to commercialize their medtech innovations in Canada."

The final 2018 report released by Canada’s Economic Strategy Tables identified barriers that could prevent Canada from achieving its health and biosciences goals, including complex regulatory processes, a risk-averse procurement culture, disconnected digital health systems and a lack of access to capital.

The report recommended the creation of a procurement innovation agency, a national digital health strategy and initiatives to expand late-stage funding to build “anchor firms” in Canada. The full list of recommendations can be found here.


Other News

Events For Leaders in
Science, Tech, Innovation, and Policy

Discuss and learn from those in the know at our virtual and in-person events.

See Upcoming Events

You have 1 free article remaining.
Don't miss out - start your free trial today.

Start your FREE trial    Already a member? Log in


By using this website, you agree to our use of cookies. We use cookies to provide you with a great experience and to help our website run effectively in accordance with our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.