There are a lot of good things going on in Mississauga’s life sciences sector. The city is home to some of the biggest players in biotech and pharma. Its Pill Hill is a major source of investment and innovation in Mississauga. And its academic and business communities are constantly collaborating, finding new ways to leverage the city’s strengths in the sector and make the business of biotech viable.
Over the years, Mississauga has become a fertile breeding ground for innovation, creativity, and a wealth of talent. A confluence of factors that in turn generates investment in the city.
The city’s home to over 350 life science companies, with 21 post-secondary institutions located within an hour’s drive. It boasts the third largest life sciences cluster in Canada. What’s been affectionately dubbed ‘Pill Hill’ by the locals is a thriving area of the city where a number of life science companies are located.
Public sector engagement
For life science companies looking to attract financing, it helps to be located in an area where you have access to both private and public funding sources. Mississauga has many on these.
On the public side, it’s home to the Research, Innovation, Commercialization Centre (RIC Centre), an incubator that helps innovative technologies become businesses. The RIC Centre works with emerging companies, helping them commercialize their technical products or services. These are some of its main programs for helping entrepreneurs go from startup to standalone:
- Entrepreneurs in Residence: a group of experienced entrepreneurs guiding the next generation of entrepreneurs through the commercialization process. The program also has three different panels to help expose startups to a larger audience: the 360 Virtual Advisory Board, the Regional Alliance Panel, and the Investment Review Panel.
- VentureStart: A FedDev-funded program to help entrepreneurs in Southern Ontario with the launch of new enterprises.
- Innovation Idol: an annual event described as Dragon’s Den meets American Idol. Three – four companies are selected to present their startup to an audience, with a panel that provides feedback. The audience votes based on who they’d most likely invest in. The event is a showcase, giving startups the public exposure needed to grow.
One of the winners of Innovation Idol is Induce Biologics, a company whose state-of-the-art technology is helping surgeons to regenerate bone. Induce was the winner of the RIC’s Innovation Idol contest in 2011, which helped raise the company’s profile and provided Induce with a share of a $40,000 prize.
For companies and researchers based in Mississauga, there are a number of funding sources, including angel investors, government programs and academic institutions, small cap companies and venture firms like OMERS Ventures. Both the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), and the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) have branches in Mississauga, that offer financing and consulting services for entrepreneurs.
A prime location
Another important aspect for attracting capital is location. Mississauga has all the advantages of being located right beside Toronto, yet recognized as an entirely separate entity. The once-sleepy city of Mississauga is now a metropolitan city, a business hub in its own right.
This means it has access to Toronto’s diverse economy and its broad pool of businesses, as well as some of Canada’s top investors. Additionally, the airport is located in Mississauga, which means that all investors flying into Toronto will pass first through Mississauga.
Businesses also have access to talent in the universities and research hospitals around Mississauga. That can be a big attractor for companies, as having the right people and talent is key to raising money.
Private sector investment
In the private sector, Mississauga is home to number of major players including Hoffmann-La Roche, Amorfix, Medtronic, Baxter, AstraZeneca, Amgen and GSK.
As these companies continue to innovate and grow, they make investments in Mississauga. Roche won a major boon for Canada in 2013, opening its new pharmaceutical headquarters and global development site, resulting in new employment opportunities in the city.
GSK is also investing in the city. It’s running a venture fund for the life sciences, called the Pathfinders Fund for Leaders in Canadian Health Science Research. The $25 million fund was established to help Canada become a world leader in research and development. It encourages health science research and fosters innovation in Canadian medical schools.
Along with investments from global giants, there are local companies also raising money. YM BioSciences made headlines last year when it was bought by Gilead for approximately $465 million. Amorfix just raised $280,000 in a private placement. Novodaq, a Mississauga-based company, raised financing last year to the tune of $154 million. Both groups, global and local, are influencing access to capital in Mississauga.
Another source of investment is the Angel One Network, a member-based organization of investors who live, work or have strong interests in a number of Southern Ontario communities, including Mississauga. Since incorporating in September 2011, Angel One members have invested over $12 million into 42 investments.
Ultimately, for an ecosystem where money flows through the entire life sciences sector, you need a constant growth of companies. Companies need to raise capital to grow. And as they raise capital and grow their businesses in Mississauga, they begin to expand their offices and invest in infrastructure and talent, putting money back into the city. If they do an exit, a lot of that money is put back in the hands of investors, allowing the investors to re-invest in other companies in Mississauga.
All of these factors combined, Mississauga is a prime spot for attracting and producing capital.