Canada’s regenerative medicine landscape ripe with commercial potential: MaRS Industry Report

Toronto, April 4, 2008 – With its deep research strength, strong international collaborations and unique aggregated approach to intellectual property development, Canada is ripe with commercial potential in the field of regenerative medicine, according to the new MaRS Regenerative Medicine Industry Report.

The report – the first in a series of sector analyses to come from MaRS – examines a range of criteria, including government funding and support, world-class scientific research, coordinated commercialization strategy, regulatory environment and legislative constraints and determines that Canada ranks in the top five in all of those criteria, when compared to all other nations in the world.

“This report on Canada’s unique assets in regenerative medicine outlines a range of excellent opportunities for the commercial sector to propel top-ranked Canadian research from the lab into the marketplace. We have a rich history and outstanding scientific capacity in all areas of regenerative medicine, and Canada is well positioned for commercial leadership as applications in this important sector matures,” said Dr. Ilse Treurnicht, MaRS CEO.

Regenerative medicine describes the emerging field of biotechnology that aims to repair, replace and/or regenerate damaged tissues and organs in vivo (in the living body) by stimulating previously irreparable organs to heal themselves. The U.S. National Institutes of Health includes tissue engineering, biomaterials and cellular therapeutics, including stem cell therapies, under its definition of regenerative medicine.

In this field, Canada boasts world-renowned research as measured in citation analysis, with Canadian researchers authoring several landmark papers – including the initial breakthrough discovery of stem cells by Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch in Toronto in 1961 – that continue to draw citations from other researchers worldwide, the report notes.

These and other strengths are translating into commercial opportunity as at least 10 Canadian companies have regenerative medicine products in development. And there is global interest in their products: in late 2006, U.S. biotech leader Genzyme acquired the Canadian company AnorMed for US$580M after an intense bidding war.

Indeed, 2007 was a notable year for the field of regenerative medicine worldwide. Among the highlights:

  • Independent findings by Japanese and American research teams, published in Cell and Science respectively in November, have opened the door to a fundamental shift in research support as each team reported successfully obtaining cells that exhibit all the qualities of human embryonic stem cells but are derived from adult human skin cells. Ethical concern and political fallout around human embryonic stem cell derivation may become moot.
  • North American research collaboration strengthened with the announcement at MaRS last spring of the $30 million Cancer Stem Cell Consortium, an offshoot of the Canada-California Strategic Innovation Partnership. University of California, Berkley’s Stem Cell Center and Canada’s International Regulome Consortium are partnering on cancer stem cell research.
  • U.S National Institutes of Health is tracking over 700 regenerative medicine clinical trials in orthopedics, cardiology, wound healing, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases.

Driving much of this activity are not only scientific advances in the understanding of stem cells and how they function but also the increasing recognition of the limitations of current medicine in the face of an aging population and the rising prevalence of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, orthopedic disorders and autoimmune diseases.

Canada’s advantage in this field lies not only in strong fundamental research and patent activity but also in a coordinated approach to commercial development: in 2005, the Canadian Stem Cell Network established Aggregate Therapeutics Inc. as its commercialization arm, allowing an exclusive first right to commercialize the unencumbered intellectual property of 16 major universities and research hospitals across Canada. To date, Aggregate, which is based at the MaRS Centre, has screened more than 40 technologies and optioned/licensed four to form the basis of Aggregate’s initial product portfolio.

“With our focus on building Canada’s innovation economy, MaRS will continue to develop and publish industry reports that analyze areas where particular strength in science aligns with extraordinary global market opportunity,” explained Ilse Treurnicht, noting that a number of other MaRS industry reports are in development.  These reports will be living documents, and will be continuously updated to reflect the latest developments in Canada and elsewhere in the world.

MaRS is a non-profit innovation centre connecting science, technology and social entrepreneurs with business skills, networks and capital to stimulate innovation and accelerate the creation and growth of successful Canadian enterprises.

To request a copy of the MaRS Regenerative Medicine Industry Report, please see:

Read the blog and comment on the report >>

About MaRS
MaRS Discovery District ( is a large scale, mission driven innovation centre located in Toronto and networked across Ontario, focused on building Canada’s next generation of technology companies. MaRS works closely with entrepreneurs to grow and scale their ventures into global market leaders in life sciences and health care, information, communications and digital media technologies, cleantech, advanced materials and engineering, as well as innovative social purpose business.

For more information, contact:
Linda Quattrin
Director Communications
MaRS Discovery District