Canada’s new biomanufacturing and life sciences investment strategy

Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted each country’s need for strong and dependable biomanufacturing infrastructure. The Canadian government, along with various provincial governments, have recognized this necessity and have recently announced multiple investment initiatives with the aim of creating large-scale and flexible biomanufacturing capacity as well as new hubs for biotech innovation. Not only are these initiatives aimed at building resiliency in Canada’s biomanufacturing and life sciences sectors, supporting the growth of these industries, and preparing for future pandemics, but they are also aimed at supporting commercialization of the many biotech innovations which stem from the country’s academic medical centers.

Some of the most prominent recent announcements include the Government of Canada’s memorandum of understanding (MOU) with COVID-19 vaccine developer Moderna to build a state-of-the-art mRNA vaccine production facility in Canada, the governments of Canada and Ontario partnering with Sanofi and investing over $450 million to build a biomanufacturing facility focused on influenza vaccines, and two government supported entities, the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM) and McMaster Innovation Park (MIP), signing a Letter of Intent (LOI) to partner in the development of a biomanufacturing campus at MIP focused on regenerative medicine-based technologies and cell and gene therapies. In addition to these initiatives, the Government of Canada has allocated over $2.2 billion over the next seven years to various domestic biomanufacturing and life sciences industry investment initiatives which will add to the over $1.2 billion that the federal government has already invested in increasing Canada’s vaccine, therapeutics, and biomanufacturing capacity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These commitments include investments in prominent private sector companies such as AbCellera Biologics and leading life sciences industry institutions including adMare BioInnovations and the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO).

In this bulletin, we outline a number of recently announced government-led initiatives in the biomanufacturing and life sciences sectors. While each of these initiatives in and of themselves are encouraging, the aggregate of such initiatives represents a paradigm shift for Canada’s biomanufacturing and life sciences sectors and demonstrate a significant commitment of resources and focus directed towards these important sectors.

What you need to know

  • Memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Moderna: The Government of Canada recently announced that it has entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with leading biotechnology company and COVID-19 vaccine developer Moderna, Inc. to build a state-of-the-art mRNA vaccine production facility and to contribute to domestic research and development as a valued partner in Canada’s life science ecosystem.
  • Canada’s biomanufacturing and life sciences strategy: Last month, the Canadian Government announced its Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy, which allocates more than $2.2 billion to various domestic biomanufacturing and life sciences industry investment initiatives, including:
    • $59.2 million over three years, starting in 2021–22, for the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) to develop its vaccine candidates and expand its facility in Saskatoon;
    • $500 million over four years, starting in 2021–22, for the Canada Foundation for Innovation to support the bioscience capital and infrastructure needs of post-secondary institutions and research hospitals;
    • $250 million over four years, starting in 2021–22, for the federal research granting councils to create a new tri-council biomedical research fund;
    • $92 million over four years, starting in 2021–22, for adMare BioInnovations to support company creation, scale-up and training activities in the life sciences sector;
    • $45 million over three years, starting in 2022–23, for the Stem Cell Network to support stem cell and regenerative medicine research;
    • $250 million over three years, starting in 2021–22, to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for a clinical trials fund; and
    • $1 billion over seven years, starting in 2021–22, through the Strategic Investment Fund (SIF).
  • Canada’s investment in COVID-19 initiatives: The investments described above add to the $1.2 billion that the Canadian Government has already invested in increasing Canada’s vaccine, therapeutics and biomanufacturing capacity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes investments in 10 firms through the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) as well as investments in vaccine candidates and therapeutics through the Next Generation Manufacturing Supercluster, the National Research Council of Canada, the regional development agencies, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation, including:
    • $175.6 million in AbCellera Biologics through the SIF toward its antibody therapy research and the construction of an antibody production facility;
    • up to $199.16 million in Resilience Biotechnologies Inc. (RBI) through the SIF to increase its manufacturing and fill-finish capacity for a number of vaccines and therapeutics, including for those that use novel technology such as mRNA and that are now being deployed to fight COVID-19;
    • up to $173 million in Medicago through the SIF to advance its virus-like particle vaccine candidate and establish a large-scale biomanufacturing facility; and
    • $126 million for the National Research Council’s new biomanufacturing facility in Montréal. Once built, the new facility will be capable of large-quantity, end-to-end production of vaccines—approximately 2 million doses per month. The facility is expected to eventually to produce Novavax vaccines.
  • Sanofi and the governments of Canada and Ontario partner to build Toronto biomanufacturing facility: In March of 2021, the governments of Canada and Ontario announced an investment of up to $460 million to support Sanofi Pasteur Limited in building an end-to-end influenza vaccine manufacturing facility in Toronto, Ontario. This new facility will ensure drug product formulation, fill-and-finish, and inspection. As part of this project, Sanofi will invest more than $455 million, making this a $925-million project, and has committed to creating and maintaining 1,225 highly skilled jobs in Canada. In addition, the company will also invest at least $79 million a year to fund Canadian research and development.
  • CCRM and McMaster Innovation Park (MIP) Partner to Build and Operate Biomanufacturing Campus: In late 2020, two government supported entities, the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM) and McMaster Innovation Park (MIP), signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) to partner in the development of a biomanufacturing campus at MIP focused on regenerative medicine-based technologies and cell and gene therapies. The LOI advanced an existing relationship between CCRM and MIP and formalized their intent to co-develop a plan around the construction and operation of what is envisioned to be Canada's largest and most advanced Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization (CDMO).

While these government funds are just a start, private sector investment has followed, with venture capital investments in Canadian life science companies raising over $1 billion in each of the past two years and public equity markets bringing over $4 billion and $1 billion to the industry in 2020 and 2019, respectively. The life sciences industry in Canada is growing up to match its first-class medical research, with both public and private entities funding and contributing resources to fuel exponential growth.

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This publication is a general discussion of certain legal and related developments and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require legal advice, we would be pleased to discuss the issues in this publication with you, in the context of your particular circumstances.

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