Putting the Bio in Canadian Biomanufacturing

Putting the Bio in Canadian Biomanufacturing
Putting the Bio in Canadian Biomanufacturing

By Eduardo Longoria

“One of the things to remember is Canada no longer has any domestic production capacity for vaccines. We used to have it decades ago, but we no longer have it.”

The meaning of this statement by Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is never more relevant than in the midst of a global pandemic. This statement was made last month in reference to Canada’s need for COVID-19 vaccines and plans to provide for the Canadian population as well as commit to building the nation’s manufacturing capabilities.

Canadian COVID Situation

The Canadian government has placed far more orders per capita than any other country. However, this fact, while reassuring, does quite a bit to highlight the nation’s problem. Despite Canada’s University and startup system, the country still requires importation for most of its biomanufacturing needs. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) lists 202 vaccine candidates, 47 of which are in human trials and 7 of which Canada has contracts to receive from manufacturers for a total of $1 billion. However, out of those 7 contracts, only one of them (Medicago) is actually Canadian. Importations wouldn’t be a cause for concern during normal times, but companies would prioritize their home nation first during a global emergency.

Canada has guarantees for 414 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna, Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, AstraZeneca, and Medicago.

Along with the sheer number of doses, Canada has been sure to diversify the types of vaccines that it is getting. While Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna are producing mRNA vaccines, the other six companies are working with vaccines based on DNA and protein subunits, etc. Hopefully, this diversity will provide a greater likelihood of success and offer alternatives for a country with a sizeable population.

Plans to ReBuild

After realizing its situation, Canada has begun efforts to rebuild its manufacturing sector. Last August, the Canadian government announced that it contributed $120 million over two years to build its biomanufacturing facility in Montreal, including the National Research Council.

“We’ve begun to invest once again in ensuring that Canada will have domestic vaccine production capacity because we never want to be caught short again, without the ability to support Canadians directly,” said Justin Trudeau.

Ottawa previously committed $23 million to Saskatoon’s VIDO-InterVac operations in March and pledged $175 million to Vancouver-based AbCellera Biologics in May to boost its research and production capabilities.

While Canada is not developing its own vaccine, it is supporting the production of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 through the Pandemic Response Challenge Program (PRCP) and the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP). The project collaborates with Zymeworks Inc. and ImmunoPrecise Antibodies Ltd for the design and development of antibody candidates. ImmunoPrecise has managed to identify antibodies that are directed against the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein by screening tens of thousands of antibodies from multiple sources.


While Canada does have a strong start-up scene and increasingly so in health and biotechnology, some experts in Canada believe that this is insufficient to build domestic production. 

Ty Shattuck, CEO of McMaster Innovation Park, was quoted as saying 

“Startups don’t create value, they consume value, you can’t be all-startups any more than you can have a school with all kindergarteners. You’ve got to have graduates that eventually grow up and do the hard work and create value. And, frankly, we don’t have that yet.”

McMaster’s innovation park was built by McMaster’s university as part of a partnership with the government of Ontario.  MIP’s advantage is that it caters to aspiring manufacturers by offering the infrastructure needed to get to the next level. It currently controls about 700,000 square feet of real estate and plans to grow to 2.8 million. 

Canada tends to fail mid-tier companies that are trying to grow into giants. The nation’s lending environment is often wary of lending for specialized industrial space, and politicians find it easier to back dorm room startups rather than taking the more substantial risk on companies looking to scale. As a result, much of Canada’s talent find it worthwhile to take a trip to Boston, where capital is more available and industrial space more abundant.  As of 2018, Massachusetts had 2.6 billion dollars of venture capital funding as opposed to the 3.2 billion Canadian dollars for the entire nation of Canada. 

While the Canadian government is taking a greater interest in its biomanufacturing sector, it will likely take some years to build up. Until then, the nation will depend on foreign vaccines like the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccine that were approved recently by Health Canada via interim order.  The reason is not just because of lower spending but the lower levels of corporate involvement in VC funding as well as the average of two extra years that Canadian companies have to bootstrap before they receive VC funding. If Canadian corporate culture is unable to compel firms to invest in later-stage companies, then the problem of Canadian bio manufacturers not scaling will last until the government of Canada can fill the funding gap.

By Eduardo Longoria

  1. Canada’s Venture Capital Landscape | BDC Study
  2. Health Canada Authorizes Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine in Canada
  3. ImmunoPrecise begins preclinical manufacturing of lead antibodies targeting SARS-CoV-2 – Canadian Manufacturing

Putting the Bio in Canadian Biomanufacturing | GeneOnline News

16 Comentários

  1. Magnificent goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to
    and you’re just too wonderful. I really like what you’ve acquired here, certainly like what you are stating and the way in which you say it.
    You make it enjoyable and you still take care of to keep it wise.
    I can not wait to read much more from you. This is actually a
    great website.

    • How wonderful to know that we have people with such elegance commenting on our content, welcome and get ready, we have stories ready to be published, we are sure you will like it

    • I’m glad you liked it, our articles are made with a lot of research by our professionals, who work strongly in the scientific area, giving this veracity in the articles, welcome and thank you

  2. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really something which I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complicated and very broad
    for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I
    will try to get the hang of it!

    • Well, scientific articles are most of the times technical and complex, but the function of our blog is to bring this accessible culture and win readers like you discover to accept the challenge and help us spread science in all possible places, merci!

  3. Hi, I think your website might be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your blog site in Chrome, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer,
    it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you
    a quick heads up! Other then that, superb blog!

    • We received your comments, don’t worry, your comment appears after being rated by our security system, many of the comments are spam, so it takes a while! Thank you very much for the comment, we are so happy to hear that you like our content! Welcome!

    • We received your comments, don’t worry, your comment appears after being rated by our security system, many of the comments are spam, so it takes a while! Thank you very much for the comment, we are so happy to hear that you like our content! Welcome!

Deixe uma resposta

O seu endereço de email não será publicado.