Collaboration boosts Canadian biotech sector

Related tags Biotechnology Biopharmaceutical

Laborium Biopharma and the Biotechnology Research Institute of the
National Research Council (BRI-NRC) have entered into an alliance,
further boosting the biomanufacturing sector of Montreal in Quebec,

The deal could be seen as typical of Canada's burgeoning biotechnology industry, which has made momentous progress in recent years. Biotech revenues were over C$3.6 billion (€2.3bn) in 2001, a 400 per cent increase since 1997. While revenues more than quadrupled, spending on biotech R&D nearly tripled, from about C$494 million in 1997 to more than C$1.3 billion in 2001.

Montreal itself is seen as the heart of this growth, with more than 18 000 people employed in 230 private companies, and over 6000 people employed in the city's 76 research centres, 24 teaching hospitals, and 52 public research facilities. Quebec pharmaceutical companies alone invested C$372 million in R&D in 2000, primarily in Greater Montreal.

The collaboration aims to offer complementary services for manufacturing and packaging under the stringent current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP). In addition the agreement should see the NRC purchase a piece of land that the council is planning to develop in the future.

The alliance between Laborium and the BRI-NRC​ is taking place in the context of a biopharmaceutical contract manufacturing organisation (CMO). At a time when the global market is growing at 15-20 per cent annually, large international players such as DSM Biologics, whose main facilities are adjacent to the BRI-NRC site, are focusing on the biomanufacturing of commercial large-scale lots of biological products.

However, a lack of specialised industrial capacity for biomanufacturing preclinical and clinical lots, at both the national and international scale, is creating business opportunities.

Although the biomanufacturing industry is a high-risk industry, it is one of the fastest growing sectors in Canada as well as globally. Unlike traditional pharmaceutical drug development, the industry has resulted from the convergence of emerging technologies predominantly from the genomics (the study of genes and their function) and proteomics (the study of proteins and their function) industries.

Currently, the Canadian biomanufacturing industry is young, in that the majority of companies are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and very few are at the revenue generating stage. Canada has an opportunity to develop the industry and benefit from the increased value of the biopharmaceutical products that are developed and manufactured here.

The partnership is set to become part of BRI-NRC's initiative to build up an integrated cGMP biomanufacturing and training centre. The plan is to enable partners to cover the chain of biomanufacturing, adding aspects to the training profile of a specialised biomanufacturing workforce.

The NRC fully expect to form additional collaboration agreements in the future, and are prepared to consolidate the strategic initiative for cGMP biomanufacturing within the Montreal Metropolitan area making it one of the five World leading geographical zones for cGMP biomanufacturing.

This alliance also plans to construct a cGMP pilot plant for manufacturing preclinical to clinical biological products scheduled to begin in the spring of 2005. Additionally, the BRI-NRC is planning to build a practical training centre as well as additional R&D facilities that will work in synergy with the innovation capacity of the present and future industrial partners.

Canada is ranked third behind the US and the UK in generating biotechnology revenues. It is also second only to the US in terms of the number of biotech companies located in the country and ranks first in R&D expenditure per employee.

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