Merck invests in pan-Canadian life sciences research innovation sector

A $4-million public-private partnership will promote research innovation involving three academic commercialization centres in Canada

CHICAGO, Illinois April 22, 2013Merck Canada will be announcing today at the BIO International Convention that it is reinforcing its commitment to the Canadian life sciences research innovation sector.

Merck will provide $4 million in funding to the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer – Commercialization of Research (IRICoR) for future corridor projects developed in collaboration with two other Canadian Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECRs) based in Ontario and in British Columbia.

This partnership announcement was covered by PEHub.

IRICoR will work in conjunction with MaRS Innovation and the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) to identify, develop and commercialize technologies in healthcare. All three CECR institutions – identified as CECR in 2008 by the federal government – share a common objective: facilitating and accelerating the commercialization of research breakthroughs that will improve the quality of life of Canadians and others around the world.

“The corridor initiatives we are funding today are part of our new approach to R&D which is about building collaborative research relationships. Private-public partnerships, in particular, will provide a fertile environment for innovation to grow and to quickly reach the commercialization stage in the best interest of patients,” said Dr. Thomas Cannell, President and Managing Director, Merck Canada Inc. “This is an important milestone for the company as it is broadening its scope to include important research centers that are part of the Quebec – Ontario and Quebec – British Columbia corridors.”

“Merck Canada’s investment in research and development in Quebec is excellent news, and its partnership with one of our public research flagships – Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer – Commercialization of Research (IRICoR) – demonstrates the dynamic nature of our biopharmaceutical industry. Further, it is proof that our business environment is both competitive and well suited to this new industry model. It is for these reasons, and thanks to our highly skilled workforce, that Quebec remains the partner of choice in the development of pharmaceuticals,” said Quebec Minister of Finance and the Economy, Mr. Nicolas Marceau.

Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation, the Honourable Reza Moridi, said, “We commend Merck for this important investment that opens up exciting joint research and commercialization possibilities for the teams at MaRS Innovation in Ontario and IRICoR in Quebec. We support and seek collaborations such as this so that companies, institutions and governments can help foster economic growth and an improved quality of life for all.”

Bridging the commercialization gap between academic research and industry

“This important contribution further solidifies our position as the leading center for innovative drug discovery and medicinal chemistry in Quebec.  The funds will allow us to continue to develop innovative therapies through our validated business model of working closely with leading pharmaceutical companies. This exciting partnership will leverage the unique expertise within IRICoR and its partners to capture more value from the world-class research being carried out in Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia. This is the best way to rapidly bring the benefits of our cutting edge research to patients who are suffering from serious unmet medical needs,” said Dr. Michel Bouvier, President and CEO of IRICoR.

“MaRS Innovation joins Merck and IRICoR in welcoming this partnership and the life sciences research that it will support,” said Dr. Raphael Hofstein, President and CEO of MaRS Innovation. “These funds will provide much-needed capital to help bridge the gap to successful commercialization for early-stage technologies, and will allow our scientists to demonstrate the depth of Canadian expertise when it comes to creating innovative life sciences opportunities.”

“CDRD is delighted to be collaborating with Merck and IRICoR on selected projects of mutual interest. As a national drug development and commercialization centre, CDRD recognizes the critical importance of building partnerships such as this that bring together complementary resources from across the country,” said Ms. Karimah Es Sabar, President and CEO of The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD). “This is a unique occasion to further leverage CDRD’s drug development platform to help Canada develop the most commercially-promising discoveries and maintain our competitive edge on the international scene,” commented Ms. Es Sabar.

This announcement marks the latest contribution by Merck in its 2010 announcement to inject $100 million over five years in biopharmaceutical research and development (R&D) in Quebec. Today’s announcement brings Merck’s total contributions to date to approximately $65 million.

In late 2012, Merck announced a $13.5-million investment to fund basic and translational research at four prominent universities and hospital-affiliated Montréal research institutions, including the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), the Université de Montréal Hospital Research Centre (CR-CHUM), the Montreal Heart Institute Research Centre (MHI) and Concordia University.

Prior to that, in 2012, Merck invested $35 million in the Merck Lumira Biosciences Fund, as its primary investor and only pharmaceutical industry partner. The Fund, established by Merck in collaboration with Lumira Capital, Teralys Capital and other partners, provides investment capital to support early stage life science innovation in Quebec.

Merck has invested $6.8 million in AmorChem, a fund launched in 2011 to increase the commercial potential of high quality academic research carried out in Quebec. In 2011, Merck also announced a $5 million investment over five years in the Quebec Consortium for Drug Discovery (CQDM).

Note: All amounts expressed in this press release are in Canadian dollars unless otherwise noted.

About Merck

Today’s Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well.  Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Through our medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer and animal products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships.

About IRICoR

IRICoR, the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer – Commercialization of Research, is a non-profit organization whose mandate is to accelerate the discovery, development and commercialization of novel drugs in oncology, immunology and related indications that originate from Université de Montréal. IRICoR is Quebec’s only fully-integrated drug discovery and commercialization center of its kind, with one of the largest academia-based medicinal chemistry groups in the country. IRICoR, as a Center of Excellence in Commercialization and Research, invests in highly innovative projects to rapidly transition them from academia to the market, while identifying the best development partners for these commercially-promising projects.

About MaRS Innovation

MaRS Innovation is the commercialization agent for Ontario’s exceptional discovery pipeline from 16 leading academic institutions. As a single-entry point to member-based activity of $1 billion in annual research and development, MI is a gateway for investors and licensees to access technology assets. Supported by the Government of Canada through the Networks of Centres of Excellence, by the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Centres of Excellence, and by its 16 member institutions, MI is a transformational partnership that turns research strengths into commercial opportunities. MI’s portfolio includes the most promising assets from its members’ pipeline, which it advances into global markets through industry partnerships, licensing and company creation.

About CDRD

The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) was established in 2007, and is Canada’s fully-integrated, national drug development and commercialization centre, providing expertise and infrastructure to enable researchers from leading health research institutions to advance promising early-stage drug candidates. A Canadian Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR), CDRD’s mandate is to de-risk discoveries stemming from publicly-funded health research and transform them into viable grant opportunities for the private sector — thus successfully bridging the commercialization gap between academia and industry, and translating research discoveries into new therapies for patients.

The news release is available at www.cnw.ca.

Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, marketing and communications manager.