London has the potential to become the cornerstone of biotechnology research in Canada, and some would say we are well on our way. The sector as a whole, while experiencing tremendous growth, is currently facing several challenges though.
New expansion plans for Western’s Research Parks hope to face some of those challenges head-on and extract the full potential that our biotechnology sector has to offer.
Paul Paolatto, Executive Director for WORLDiscoveries and Western Research Parks, identifies two main barriers that are currently holding our biotechnology sector back.
“One is capitalization; companies have large gestational cycles and need access to capital,” noted Paolatto.
Startups need access to large amounts of capital to keep them operational until they are ready to go to market – a process that can take years because of regulations, clinical trials, and the length of time required to advance the research.
The second issue as Paolatto sees it is access to the healthcare marketplace. Access to industry leaders can be key in developing the relationships they need to move from idea to product to distribution.
“We think we can help bust through in a few areas,” said Paolatto. “Bringing in industry partners to help with the acquisition of some of these companies so they can find the capital they need” is one support the Research Park hopes to offer. The other includes better connecting startups with industry leaders to help move biotech products into the market faster.
The overall plan for Discovery Park includes the establishment of a new Western University Hospital Gateway, expansions to existing buildings including the Stiller Centre and the NRC, as well as converting the Windermere Manor into a new International Innovation Village.
The Innovation Village will emulate the MaRS model in Toronto, providing a distinct focal point for London’s growing startup and RD&C community.
This ambitious plan comes with a price tag of approximately $90 Million, and is expected to take 10 years to fully implement.
In Paolatto’s mind, one of the greatest benefits to London is not only establishing the city as the premier healthcare centre in Canada, but also in helping with talent acquisition and retention. “It’s going to help us retain our youth. If we can create jobs for them in the sector, then they can remain in the community and make long term contributions to London.”