Why the BIO Conference Matters to Ontario

By: Dr. Tom Corr, CEO of Ontario Centres of Excellence

This week, Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) is joining companies, researchers and agencies from Ontario’s vibrant life sciences sector at the annual BIO conference taking place in Chicago.

For those working in this busy space, BIO is the ‘must-attend’ event of the year. More than 16,000 delegates are expected, with an eye to making deals and long-term connections that will enhance and expand their companies and businesses.

For OCE, the BIO conference is an opportunity to network with colleagues in the innovation space and learn more about emerging trends and best practices in life sciences from around the world. It’s also a chance for us to share what we know based on our extensive work as Ontario’s leading industry-academic agent.

Ontario is already known around the world as a huge player in the life sciences space, with dozens of research institutions and hundreds of companies employing tens of thousands of people and generating more than $14 billion in revenue annually. But there’s always more to do and more to learn, which is where an event like BIO comes in.

Ontario is particularly world-renowned for research in neuroscience, oncology, regenerative medicine, medical imaging and minimally invasive surgery. In Ontario we have seen the creation of various centres of excellence to drive commercialization of this research – centres like the Ontario Brain Institute, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine, the Centre for Imaging Technology Commercialization and the Centre of Surgical Invention and Innovation.

OCE works closely with these centres, researchers and companies. Another area in which we are working (through a partnership with the governments of Canada and Ontario, IBM and seven Ontario universities) is high-performance computing. With the kind of substantial investment in high-performance computing infrastructure that has come about as a result of this partnership, we can further accelerate the development of leading-edge bio-medical technologies.

Ontario also has world-class capability in clinical trials and health technology assessment, which are key components in bringing new bioscience technologies to market and may provide further opportunities for global companies to leverage these strengths.

When it comes to global reach, though, Canada as a market is small. It has relatively high barriers to entry and limited sources of investment for early-stage ventures. It is therefore critical for Ontario companies to become increasingly focused on more diversified international market access and sources of capital.

Developing international partnerships at conferences such as BIO is important in gaining better knowledge of global industry trends and a better understanding of international market potential, in developing personal linkages with foreign markets and building on existing strengths between Ontario and national/international partners. This will lead to an increase in innovation, productivity, investment and job creation.

We in Ontario have much to offer the world from both a life sciences and a business perspective; so it not only makes sense, it is imperative that Ontario have a strong presence at an event like BIO.

Dr. Tom Corr is President and CEO of Ontario Centres of Excellence, Ontario’s leader in innovation and entrepreneurship.

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