Nine notes: Vancouver as life sciences hub
A new report from Invest Vancouver contextualizes the thriving sector while exploring the ways it can grow.
If you ask Invest Vancouver, the hottest fashion piece of spring 2023 is the lab coat. A new report from the organization — Life Sciences in Metro Vancouver: Shaping a Globally Prominent R&D Hub — highlights the many ways our region's life sciences industry is attracting global attention, and identifies key recommendations to encourage its growth.
As we told you last week, Metro Vancouver's vibrant life sciences industry has made a number of major contributions to public health in recent years, including developing crucial COVID-19 vaccine technology, advancing cancer treatment, and delivering antibody-based medicines for diseases such as COVID-19 and cancer. The fastest-growing life sciences company in Canada, AbCellera, calls our backyard home and is even growing its local footprint.
The report features findings from comprehensive interviews with firms and an analysis of over 20 years of economic data. Invest Vancouver’s approach provides an extensive and current understanding of the region as a life sciences hub, as well as what’s coming next in the local sector. Here are nine things we’re mulling over after reading the report.
Noisy neighbours: To contextualize the scale of the local industry, Invest Vancouver compared the number of life sciences companies in Metro Vancouver with Greater Toronto and Greater Montreal, in addition to six American cities. These rankings are based on firm counts in 2021 and represent the type of comparisons considered by firms in the initial stages of a location search. While Vancouver was the top Canadian city for R&D firms, it trailed Toronto’s count in biotech and pharmaceutical companies and medical devices companies.
Where is the hub?: The familiar refrain of Vancouver needing a physical innovation hub rings true for life sciences, according to the report. Invest Vancouver highlighted Invest Nova Scotia’s The Labs at Innovacorp and AdMare BioInnovations’ Montreal space, among others. Closer to home, the life sciences industry can look to oceantech for inspiration. The Centre for Ocean Applied Sustainable Technologies (COAST) recently received a $2 million investment to build out its innovation hub.
Increased investability: In line with this, and the investment climate at large, there was a surge of life sciences funding activity in 2020 and 2021. Total investment exceeded $1 billion in both those years. AbCellera accounted for 60 percent of total investment in 2020, and 30 percent from 2018 to 2022. AbCellera even paid it back (literally) last week, investing in Abdera Therapeutics.