Vancouver is ready to foster the next generation of biotech companies

Creative Destruction Lab launches the global Advanced Therapies stream in Vancouver, in partnership with the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine.

woman holding test tubes

Photo: National Cancer Institute/Unsplash

On Tuesday night at the Pan Pacific Hotel, biotech scientists, mentors, and ventures from across Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. came together to discuss The Future of Regenerative Medicine.

Regenerative medicine — broadly defined as science, technology, and engineering-based approaches to replace or regenerate human cells, tissues, and organs — can also be seen as the “future of medicine,” said keynote speaker Michael May, president and CEO of the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM). Recent local advances in the industry include Victoria-based Axolotl Biosciences, which is developing stem-cell-based bioinks for 3D bioprinters. This enables the printing of biological tissues, allowing researchers to test products without placing human beings or animals at risk.

Historically, Vancouver is already home to a number of legacy biotech companies: other keynote speakers included local biotech champions Ali Tehrani — founder of biopharmaceutical company Zymeworks — and Peter Zandstra, founder of cell therapy company Notch Therapeutics. However, speakers highlighted the need to cultivate local ecosystems which bring together biologists, machine learning engineers, business leaders, supply chain experts, regulatory professionals, and investors in order to develop a future where cures in healthcare can be found — a future where “technology is driving biology,” said Tehrani.

One audience member asked: “We’ve had a lot of people that have flown in to learn — what’s the pitch for them to stay here and build?” May, in response, emphasized the strong local foundations of science and innovation, and access to large markets. “We have all of the pieces of the puzzle here, founded around great science,” said May. “I think that Canada represents an environment where you can hit above your weight and create synergy and collaboration. And we’re right next to the world’s largest market, but everyone around the world loves us too.”

The event was hosted by Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) Vancouver — a not-for-profit organization that delivers programming for pre-seed and seed-stage science- and technology-based companies — to launch CDL’s Advanced Therapies stream. This initiative will enable support for rising founders in health therapeutics, across hubs in Oxford, U.K.; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Toronto, ON; and Vancouver, B.C.

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