Overshadowed by Alberta’s immense energy sector, it may surprise you to learn that Edmonton is positioned to potentially lead Canada’s $28B pharmaceutical and medical devices industry. According to Deloitte’s “Life sciences in Alberta: State of the industry 2013“, Edmonton makes up nearly 60% of Alberta’s entire life sciences industry while Calgary accounts for about 32%. The medical device sector and health biotechnology and pharmaceuticals sector are the largest sectors in Alberta’s life sciences industry at 38% and 23% respectively.
Although Edmonton’s strength in Alberta’s life sciences industry is considerable, one of our biggest hurdles is the lack of capital which can be overcome by highlighting Edmonton as an attractive investment opportunity. Focusing on Edmonton’s strength in medical devices would allow the industry to reach its necessary critical mass to become positioned as a leader in Canada’s life sciences industry.
In the period of the past five years, the global life sciences industry exhibited continuous growth in the face of economic pressures and instability. This is a result of an aging population, rise in chronic diseases, innovations and emerging market expansions. These factors motivate companies to meet the increased demand by continuing to develop new products.
The need for investment capital in Edmonton’s life sciences sector
In Alberta, funding for companies in the life sciences industry comes from a variety of sources with many respondents to Deloitte’s survey having indicated receiving funds from government facilitated programs, angel investors and corporate investors. This may indicate a need for programs that connect companies that are not receiving funding from these popular sources to increase overall capital to the sector. Furthermore, the survey identifies potential areas where companies may find additional funding from these underutilized sources such as institutional investors, public financing or seeking acquisitions.
There are efforts from all levels of government, post-secondary institutions and not-for-profit organizations that are committed to diversifying Edmonton’s economy and advancing the life sciences sector. These include TEC Edmonton, Startup Edmonton, Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions (AIBS), Alberta Innovates Health Solutions (AIHS), and Edmonton Research Park. These organizations would be able to provide even greater resources to companies if they had access to more capital and if Edmonton was heavily promoted as an ideal location to invest in for our life sciences industry.
One of the advantages of investing in Edmonton’s life sciences industry is the access to highly skilled labour and cutting edge research through its proximity to post-secondary institutions such as University of Alberta (UofA), University of Calgary (UofC), MacEwan University, NAIT and NorQuest College. The UofA and UofC graduate a combined 3000 students in science and medicine every year. In addition, many of these institutions are in the process of expanding their operations with multimillion dollar projects planned such as the Singhmar Centre for Learning ($190M), the MacEwan Centre for Arts and Culture ($153M) and the NAIT Centre for Applied Technologies ($130M).
Innovations in Edmonton’s life sciences industry
Innovative Trauma Care™ is a fast growing Edmonton company founded in 2010. Their product, iTClamp™, is a device used to temporarily close wounds by controlling hemorrhaging and promoting blood clot formation by creating a temporary pool of blood under pressure. iTClamp™ has already been approved for use in Canada, Europe and the US.
NanoSpeed Diagnostics Inc. is an Edmonton based company incorporated in 2009. Their product Test4D™ is the first and only point-of-care-test that allows for the safe testing of Vitamin D deficiency at home within ten minutes. Vitamin D has been found to decrease the risks for several major diseases including various forms of cancer, Alzheimer’s and dementia (NanoSpeed).
OMx is an Edmonton based company established in 2012. They provide customers with accurate and detailed information about their health by measuring nutrients, vitamins, toxins and other chemicals in their urine and building a comprehensive summary over time. From the analysis, individuals are able to make adjustments in their lifestyle and track their progress through their personalized profiles available through the web or mobile application.