OTTAWA, April 29, 2021 – The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced Canadians’ recognition of the importance of health research and innovation to our health and economic security, and according to a new report from Research Canada, it has presented a unique opportunity to strengthen the cross-sector partnerships that are critical to unlocking the potential of Canada’s health research and innovation ecosystem.
The various stakeholders that comprise Canada’s health research and innovation ecosystem—our academic institutions, research hospitals, networks, incubators, start-ups, innovative companies, investors, health charities and patient groups—participate in cross-sector partnerships that are critical to a functioning ecosystem, but we have an incomplete understanding of how these partnerships work and are impacted by policy and investment. This gap in understanding is particularly evident regarding the role of Canada’s health and biosciences industry within this ecosystem. To address this gap and advance dialogue, Research Canada, with the support of Shift Health, convened an Expert Advisory Panel of leaders across Canada’s health research and innovation ecosystem to lead an independent study focused on exploring the current, desired and potentially threatened role of industry within our health research and innovation ecosystem.
A thriving health research and innovation ecosystem requires a balanced approach to policy that supports and encourages cross-sector partnerships and recognizes the need for novel approaches to partnership in light of a changing biomedical innovation landscape. “The innovation model is changing—increasingly dependent on transdisciplinary, trans-sector sharing of ideas, data and resources,” says Dr. Catharine Whiteside, former Dean of Medicine and Vice-Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions at the University of Toronto and member of Research Canada’s Expert Advisory Panel. “If Canada is to be at the forefront of 21st century innovations that benefit patients, we need to create an environment in which partnerships across our ecosystem, including the biopharmaceutical industry, can flourish.”
The Report emphasizes that the biopharmaceutical industry—just one stakeholder among many—plays a unique and irreplaceable role in a functional health research and innovation ecosystem. In order to safeguard the critical partnerships industry brings to the health research and innovation ecosystem, Canada needs a balanced policy environment that encourages these partnerships. “Life sciences companies don’t reduce their decision to invest, remain and grow in Canada to a single policy or incentive. They consider the vitality of the ecosystem as a whole,” says Dr. Scott Halperin, Director of the Canadian Center for Vaccinology and member of Research Canada’s Expert Advisory Panel. “If Canada is to be globally competitive, we need to create a balanced policy and investment climate that empowers all stakeholders in the health research and innovation ecosystem.”
“The pandemic has reminded us of the critical importance of a strong health research and innovation ecosystem—and it has laid bare the weaknesses we must address,” says Dr. Ryan Wiley, President of Shift Health and Policy Advisor to Research Canada’s Board of Directors. Canada’s health research and innovation ecosystem will succeed only if we plan and act as an integrated community of partners focused on a common future. “We cannot return to the status quo. We need to reinvigorate a spirit of trans-sector partnership that will elevate Canada’s health research and innovation ecosystem to a position of global leadership.”
While the Expert Advisory Panel’s Report is focused largely on the role of industry within the health research and innovation ecosystem, it reinforces the importance of supporting and encouraging cross-sector partnerships among all the stakeholders within the ecosystem. “The health research and innovation ecosystem depends on a complex network of policies and partnerships,” says Dr. Rose Goldstein, Chair of Research Canada’s Board of Directors and Expert Advisory Panel and Professor of Medicine at McGill University. “As we look to the future, Canada needs an integrated, pan-sector strategy to maximize the contribution of our ecosystem to Canada’s health security and economic prosperity.”
The full Report of Research Canada’s Expert Advisory Panel is available online at: https://rc-rc.ca/invigorating-the-biopharmaceutical-sectors-contribution-to-canadas-health-research-and-innovation-ecosystem/
The Expert Advisory Panel
Dr. Rose Goldstein (Chair), McGill University & Research Canada
Dr. Elizabeth Douville, AmorChem & Genome Canada
Dr. Pierre-Gerlier Forest, University of Calgary
Dr. Scott Halperin, Canadian Center for Vaccinology
Jacques Hendlisz, CATALIS Québec
Sue Mack-Klinger, Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Gordon McCauley, adMare BioInnovations
Dr. Catharine Whiteside, University of Toronto
Dr. Bradly Wouters, University Health Network
About Research Canada
Research Canada is a national alliance dedicated to increasing investments in health research through collaborative advocacy and engaging government, academia, industry and non-profit sectors to build support for long-term health research funding. For more information, visit rc-rc.ca.
About Shift Health
Shift Health brings a science mindset to strategy consulting for the health research and innovation ecosystem. Working with governments, academia, industry, not-for-profits, healthcare providers and patient partners across Canada and around the world, Shift Health is helping to create the future of healthcare. For more information, visit shifthealth.com.
Manager of Policy and Public Affairs