Innovation is being called for in virtually every corner of the public sphere. Federal Budget 2017 outlined a national Skills and Innovation Plan. Ontario singled out health innovation as a priority in its 2017 budget. In February, the Advisory Council on Economic Growth identified healthcare and life sciences as one of eight key sectors for Canada to focus on.
This is good news for investors because it means there are going to be new opportunities — and more of them — to back new solutions and technologies, especially in the health sector.
But opportunities on their own are not enough. The right elements need to be in place to realize them successfully.
In Ontario, where health technologies are concerned, those right elements include focused support for innovations in the “awkward phase” of having outgrown the academic granting system but not yet matured to the point of producing robust evidence of effectiveness. This is a crucial time when investment is sorely needed, but for investors represents a high risk.
Since its inception, FACIT has actively helped bridge the oncology innovation gap in Ontario.
FACIT, the Fight Against Cancer Innovation Trust, was created to mitigate that risk so that cancer-fighting innovations can get out of the lab and into the marketplace — where they can reap returns for investors while delivering health benefits to Canadians and benefitting Ontario’s economy.
That de-risking entails many things. First, we are a funder, committing capital to thoroughly vetted projects with high potential. Since inception, we have made $30 million in funding and equity investments. That stake has helped attract an additional $286 million to drive the commercialization of promising oncology innovations.
Dollars alone, however, won’t drive innovation to market. A whole array of capabilities is needed to convert great ideas into saleable solutions: business leadership, intellectual property management, product development, planning and more. We surround early stage technologies with commercial teams that have the required skills and experience to build and grow sustainable companies and deliver results. In many cases, we have and will continue to create start-up companies to guide and advance specific technologies.
That was the case with Triphase Accelerator Corporation, which we co-founded with our strategic partner, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), as well as MaRS Innovation and MaRS Discovery District. Triphase developed a proteasome inhibitor to treat glioblastoma — a type of brain cancer — as well as forms of multiple myeloma. Last November, the company proved its capability to serve as a clinical proof-of-concept accelerator when it sold assets for that innovation to Celgene Corporation.
That’s just one example. With Turnstone Biologics, we brought multiple organizations together into one corporate body and drew more than $65 million in venture capital from Versant Ventures, OrbiMed Advisors, and F-Prime Capital. We helped to launch Fusion Pharmaceuticals and facilitate its attraction of financing from J&J Innovations-JJDC, HealthCap, TPG Biotech and Genesys Capital.
Working as we do creates a pipeline of projects, giving investors access to a greater range of technologies to consider investing in while increasing the capital pool. It’s a model that works for all stakeholders: investors, innovators, governments, and patients. The proceeds we earn as a shareholder in commercially successful ventures like Triphase will be reinvested in other oncology innovations in the province, fuelling the cycle.
The Advisory Council on Economic Growth has called for a “reimagining” of government as a convenor, catalyst, and investor to drive innovation. As an arm’s-length instrument, we perform all three roles, recognizing that commercializing innovation is a complex and necessarily cooperative endeavour. Our invitation is for investors to join us, leverage our process and model, and seize the opportunities that the current focus on innovation is likely going to make increasingly abundant in the years to come.
Jeff Courtney is president of Fight Against Cancer Innovation Trust (FACIT)
Looking to invest in oncology innovation? Contact FACIT today: https://facit.ca/contact
Spotlight: Ontario’s Regenerative Medicine Pipeline Next Post:
Noblegen aims to raise $50-M in Series B round