A place to grow and compete: seeding Ontario’s oncology innovation economy

by • June 3, 2019 • Bio-Pharma, Feature, Feature-Home, Health, OpinionsComments Off on A place to grow and compete: seeding Ontario’s oncology innovation economy139

Cancer care is important to all Canadians but historically, our patients and the local economy have not reaped the benefits of our investments in academic research and discoveries. Commitment to the commercialization of Canada’s most promising innovations is needed in order to retain both intellectual property (IP) and talent pool, and ultimately move these innovations out of the lab to reach patients. Local commercialization and the ability to compete with incumbent biotechnology hubs requires a coordinated strategy to position entrepreneurs for success. Academic scientists and trainees seeking to commercialize need industry connections and an appreciation of private sector investors’ perspective. Given that private markets prioritize established U.S. hubs, Ontario First capital, incubation and management are critical to grow entrepreneurial impact domestically. 

As part of the strategic solution, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) harnesses the Province’s high impact research and strengthens collaboration among its world-class, cancer research centres. FACIT – OICR’s commercialization partner, business accelerator and seed investor for oncology innovations – helps competitive companies grow roots by providing Ontario First capital, executive management and connections to its industry and investor network. FACIT and OICR’s joint mission is to lead Ontario’s oncology innovation economy, deriving tremendous local value from IP and benefitting patients with improved therapies and diagnostics. 

Planting the seeds 

It would be great if a large multinational manufacturing corporation in healthcare could call Canada home and give our science graduates and workers high quality jobs. The reality however, is a biotech version of RIM or Shopify has not been led by Ontario’s private sector and cannot be created by industrial policy. These anchor companies have been shown to arise organically from seedlings of a biotech ecosystem.  

Since inception, FACIT has invested $40 million into Ontario’s most promising biotech seedlings. With this spark, its portfolio of Ontario-based biotechs has brought in $750 million+ in additional investment to the Province. By addressing the healthcare seed capital gap, FACIT has leveraged a $3-4 million annual operating grant and grown it to $100 million+ in assets under management. Further, FACIT has created/seeded some of the most successful Canadian biotechs, including Turnstone Biologics, Fusion Pharmaceuticals, and Triphase Accelerator. 

Nurturing growth 

A successful output of the FACIT-OICR commercialization model was showcased in January 2019, when FACIT and Triphase announced a historic $1 billion US partnership with Celgene for an OICR-discovered blood cancer therapy. The partnership represents the largest oncology licensing transaction for a preclinical asset in Canadian history, and the largest biotech asset transaction worldwide for academia/NPO.  

FACIT played an instrumental role in this partnership and led the global business development strategy. By investing $3 million in seed capital, FACIT put Ontario IP in an unusual position of strength to negotiate a transaction with maximum regional impact. Without access to this Ontario First capital, the IP would have been undersold to an international suitor, taking R&D jobs and real economic impact along with it. Through Triphase, R&D jobs, clinical trials and industrial development will stay in Ontario, benefiting both the economy and patients.   

Reaping the benefits 

From the industry-quality asset discovered by OICR’s Drug Discovery team to clinical development by local accelerator Triphase, the FACIT-Triphase-Celgene partnership solidifies a strategic ‘discovered & developed in Ontario’ pathway for cancer commercialization. This model reflects the collective efforts of multiple local stakeholders and receptors to accelerate innovation and capitalize on Ontario’s investments in research, education and healthcare, creating an emerging avenue for economic growth.  

Ontario is in a favourable position to build on this momentum and surpass these recent successes; however, dedicated Ontario First capital is necessary to keep the Province competitive. Fueling high-potential innovations into FACIT-OICR’s proven commercialization model will create R&D jobs, scale-up local biotechs and attract investment into the Province. Growing Ontario’s oncology innovation economy will ultimately deliver the best cancer care to its patients.  

Learn how the FACIT-OICR commercialization model puts Ontario First in the fight against cancer. Visit facit.ca. 

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