The "3rd Annual BioPartnering North America" conference, held February 68 in Vancouver, British Columbia, brought together 900 representatives of 450 companies worldwide to promote new collaborations and alliances.
Sponsored by the Technology Vision Group (Santa Cruz, CA), the meeting provided many networking opportunities, and presentations by numerous venture capitalists brought participants up to date on the current state of biotech industry funding and deal making, with special attention paid to Canada. Most speakers observed that biotech funding and deals are on an upswing.
Companies from the U.S., Europe, Canada, Australia, and South Africa participated in the meeting, signaling that biotech has become truly global. Asked why she came from Australia, investment director Helen Hill of Invest Australia replied, "If the science is right, we will go there."
As 40% represented Canadian companies, it is clear that there is much interest in Canadian biotech. The meeting provided a significant opportunity for Canadian companies to show off their technologies, and British Columbia (BC) biotechs made a strong showing.
BC is the seventh largest biotech cluster in North America, the fastest growing biotech sector in Canada, and the third in North America after San Francisco and Boston. Home to about 91 biotechs, over 60% of BC's companies focus on biopharmaceuticals and biomedical applications in cancer, inflammatory diseases, cardiovascular health, infectious diseases, and drug delivery.
KPMG's "2003 Competitive Alternatives" report ranked the province the most cost-effective location for biotech, clinical trials, and medical devices in the Pacific Region, ahead of any of the western U.S. states, with R&D costs about 55% less than the American average.
With the province's outstanding natural beauty, high standards of living and education, and strong economy (the lowest jobless rate since 1981), a number of recent tax changes are making the area more biotech-friendly.
As a result, BC has been able to attract new scientific talent, retain its own native brainpower, and develop management expertise, said Caroline Bruce, Ph.D., associate director, international business development, at the University of British Columbia's Industry Liaison Office. "The federal government is also committed to doubling or tripling research funding for biotech," Dr. Bruce said.
BC biotech has grown rapidly in the past decade. "In 1992, there were about five-to-ten companies in BC, with over two-thirds of BC biotechs created between 1991 and 2001," said Paul Stimson, former director of BC Biotech, now head of the Human Proteome Organization (HUPO; Montreal).