Dr. Raphael (Rafi) Hofstein is president and CEO of MaRS Innovation (MI) – the commercialization agent for an exceptional research discovery pipeline stemming from 16 leading Ontario academic institutions. As a single entry point to annual member research and development activity of $1B, MI provides a gateway for investors and licensees who wish to access Ontario’s technology assets.
During the 2012 BIO convention in Boston, Dr. Hofstein blogged about how CQDM of Montreal and MaRS Innovation of Toronto had teamed up to help “fill” the QC-Ontario corridor and why the corridor is good for business in both provinces.
In my previous blog post during BIO2012, I talked about how MaRS Innovation and CQDM had jointly collaborated to form Encycle Therapeutics, a startup that was created around disruptive technology, developed by Professor Andrei Yudin of the University of Toronto, involving the cyclization of biologically active peptides.
A year later, I’m pleased to report that Encycle is alive and kicking. The company has since recruited seasoned management, and its developing product line is drawing tremendous interest from global pharmaceutical groups. In the next few months, we expect Encycle to raise significant capital and establish meaningful ties with strategic allies.
Taking a wider look at the life sciences sector, this has been a vintage year for Ontario in general and MaRS Innovation’s ecosystem in particular.
Ten years ago, the Government of Ontario established the Ministry of Research and Innovation (MRI) to accelerate efforts to create a knowledge-based economy. MRI developed a robust innovation agenda; five years later, when MaRS Innovation was created, it became a significant component within that agenda.
Professor Michael Porter once observed that preparing early-stage technology for market is, metaphorically speaking, a lot like inserting raisins into the dough prior to baking a cake.
If that’s the case, here are some of the year’s essential raisins that demonstrate the overall strength and appeal of Ontario’s biotechnology ecosystem:
- The federal government’s Networks of Centres of Excellence program approved MaRS Innovation for $15 million in extended funding, which is being matched by $25M from our 16 member institutions and the provincial government.
- MaRS Innovation signed several strategic partnerships with global pharmaceutical corporations that recognize the benefits of landing in Ontario, including Johnson & Johnson, GSK, Baxter, Pfizer, Merck, CML Healthcare and GE Healthcare.
- MARS Innovation incorporated a company called ApneaDx whose product is a sleep apnea detector. The company will be among the first to benefit from a new Ontario government initiative called MaRS Excellence in Clinical Innovation and Technology Evaluation (EXCITE). This program enhances premarket assessment for new medical devices. Its goal is to secure provincial procurement for made-in-Ontario innovations at an accelerated pace.
- MaRS Innovation is also benefiting from its partnership with Clinical Trials Ontario (CTO), another Ontario initiative. CTO’s goal is to streamline and harmonize all processes involved in organizing and administering clinical trials in the province to make Ontario a prime location to perform clinical trials. If all goes well, companies drawn to the province will increase their interaction with research institutes and start-ups that are part of both MI’s and the provincial ecosystem.
- In March 2013, the Ontario government announced a $100-million grant to the Ontario Brain Institute, which is meant to enhance and accelerate translational research addressing neurological disorders. This landmark donation will also create spillover benefits for MARS Innovation through our start-up companies that are active in that space.
- MaRS Innovation and our 16 member institutions also stand to benefit from the Ontario government’s new initiative to establish a high-performance computing commercialization program through the Ontario Centres of Excellence. By funding this program, Ontario positions itself as a leader in medical data processing and monitoring, a key element in shifting from classical to personalized medicine.
That’s only a teaser of the biotechnology developments to come.
During Dr. Porter’s visit to Ontario several months ago, he suggested that the province has all the ingredients necessary to bake the tastiest of cakes.
He was right, and we will.
Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, marketing and communications manager.