Want to feel proud of Canada? Look no further than the contributions Canadians have made to life sciences and health care innovation

In 1921, Frederick Banting and Charles Best managed to extract insulin from the pancreas, which was considered impossible. Their monumental discovery led to a treatment for diabetes.

Best and Banting’s work also set a national precedent for innovation. For the past 90 years, from 1921 to 2011, Canada has stood at the forefront of medical research and its application in the life sciences and health care.

From discovery to application

The Canadian Diabetes Association, co-founded by Best in 1953, supports innovative researchers across Canada. These researchers include Vancouver’s Dr. Brian Rodrigues and Winnipeg’s Dr. Paul Fernyhough.

Dr. Rodrigues is developing a new drug delivery system to help diabetic patients who suffer from heart disease. His ingenious idea uses small magnetic beads to localize drugs in the heart.

Dr. Fernyhough found that anti-inflammatory medication repairs damaged nerve endings in rats. His discovery may prevent the loss of sensation, pain and potential amputation of lower limbs in people with diabetes.

Games, bones and ambulatory care: the future of health care in Canada

Drug delivery and new medications are only two of the many areas where Canadians are thinking outside the health care box.

Health care and information technology are colliding unexpectedly in the game development studio of Algoma University: Algoma Games for Health develops video gaming software for the rehabilitation and therapy of those with disabilities and age-related conditions (talk about turning medical treatment into something fun and positive!).

Algoma Games for Health is now partnering with Toronto Rehab to help stroke victims.

Speaking of partnering: Induce Biologics, whose technology combines growth factors and biomaterials to stimulate bone regeneration in the body, recently teamed up with with Therapure Biopharma to scale-up its award-winning technology.

Peel’s not the only Canadian thinking about the future. Women’s College Hospital is building the Hospital of the Future: an innovative ambulatory care hospital, with surgeries, procedures and treatments that don’t require an overnight stay. WCH will be completely re-focused around specialized operating areas and clinical spaces, rather than in-patient wards and bedrooms. The goal? Increase cost-effectiveness, minimize patient infections and let women live more independent lives.

Canadians fighting infectious disease

We have good cause to fear the spread of infectious disease–the world has been unprepared for hundreds of pandemics. Toronto, for example, was unprepared for the SARS crisis of 2003.

In response, two Canadians created Infonaut, which tracks the spread of illness and disease in real time. Infonaut give health care professionals, government agencies and health care providers insight into how diseases unfold. See Hospital Watch Live, Infection Watch Live and Region Watch Live to observe Infonaut software in action. BIO.Diaspora was also created in the wake of SARS. This software uses global airline patterns to predict how emerging infectious diseases might spread around the world.

Spurred by the H1N1 crisis of 2009. Canada’s National Research Council invested in Infonaut to help control the disease, while BIO.Diaspora accurately predicted its spread–publishing their results in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Canadian innovators have a bright future in the life sciences and health care. The question is: How can we get more Canadians involved in this exciting future?

How MaRS champions innovation in life sciences and health care

MaRS works with innovators and entrepreneurs across 5 practice areas, including life sciences and health care (LS + HC). MaRS LS + HC advisors help clients create successful global businesses in the areas of therapeutics, medical devices, health care IT and diagnostics.

Olivia Macleod

Olivia is an Intern (Advisory Services) at MaRS this summer. She has just finished a degree in Biochemistry at Queen’s University and enjoys learning about new scientific discoveries. See more…