Charlottetown, PEI-The federal government says it is investing $29 million towards the establishment of two commercialization centres to accelerate Canadians’ access to innovative cancer immunotherapies and natural products.
The announcement was made by Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains, alongside Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food Lawrence MacAulay and Prince Edward Island Premier Wade MacLauchlan.
In Charlottetown, the Natural Products Canada (NPC) will receive $14 million over five years, in support of its work to establish Canada as a global leader in the development and marketing of natural products.
In Montréal, the Centre for Commercialization of Cancer Immunotherapy (C3i) will receive funding of $15 million over five years to develop, translate and commercialize cancer immunotherapy.
“Today’s CECR recipients reflect the impressive depth and quality of research conducted here in Canada in two vital areas: innovative cancer therapies and ground-breaking natural alternatives to products already on the market,” said Bains. “The Government of Canada is proud to support this important stage on the research spectrum: getting products out of the lab and into the market, so that they can begin to improve the lives of Canadians.”
The two recipients were chosen from the most recent competition in the Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR) program. The CECRs match clusters of research expertise with the business community, facilitating the development of products and technologies at a stage in the commercialization process where it is otherwise difficult to attract private-sector investment.
“Our research ecosystem needs to be balanced in a way that supports the constant interchange between discovery and innovation,” said B. Mario Pinto, president, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and chair, Networks of Centres of Excellence Steering Committee. “Commercialization centres satisfy a very specific need, by providing a solid connection between the ideas generated by foundational research and the expertise that can take the most promising ideas towards commercialization.”
The NPC, headquartered in Charlottetown, includes key partners in PEI (PEI BioAlliance as NPC Atlantic), Saskatchewan (AgWest Bio as NPC West), Ontario (Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization as NPC Ontario), and Quebec (Institute for Nutrition and Functional Foods as NPC Quebec). The federal contribution will be matched by over $10 million from industry and other sources, for total funding of over $24 million over the next five years.
Rory Francis, executive director of the PEI BioAlliance, expressed his gratitude to the federal government for seizing the opportunity to bring together a unique national team to help academic centres and early stage companies develop and commercialize new products for global markets.
“Natural Products Canada will align the existing expertise of universities, scientific research organizations, small and medium sized enterprises, multi-nationals, the investor community, and government partners in accelerating time to market for promising early stage technologies,” said Francis. “This is an amazing opportunity for the Canadian bioscience sector and a very exciting platform for the next stage of growth of the PEI Bioscience Cluster, ” he said.
The Prince Edward Island Bioscience Cluster has had a strong focus on natural products for health applications for over a decade. Of the 44 companies in the PEI Cluster, more than 30 work on natural product-related technologies. Revenue earned by PEI bioscience companies surpassed $200 million in 2015.
C3i, which is based in Montréal, will accelerate access to innovative cancer immunotherapies for patients. Operating out of the Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont’s Research Centre, C3i will be a one-stop shop for the development, translation and commercialization of ground-breaking cancer treatments.
The CECR program currently funds 23 centres, working in areas that include information and communications technologies, health, natural resources and energy. Created in 2007, the program invests $30 million per year in Canadian innovation.