Biotech in Canada: A bold history and bright future

Biotech in Canada: A bold history and bright future

From September 19-23, Canada celebrated National Biotechnology Week, and has great reason to cheer!

Canada is a biotech powerhouse, driving an $86.5 billion bio-economy that employs over 485,000 people in Ontario alone.

Historically, Canadians have been on the forefront of the discovery, innovation and commercialization of biotech-based products:

  • Insulin was discovered as a treatment for diabetes, by Dr. Frederick Banting and Charles Best at the University of Toronto (1922).
  • The first effective polio vaccine was licensed in 1955 by Toronto’s Connaught Laboratories (now Sanofi-Pasteur), which began a successful Canadian treatment program that led to the demise of the disease and served as a model for international usage.
  • Allelix is formed in 1981 as Canada’s first biotechnology company.
  • The defective gene that causes cystic fibrosis was discovered by Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui at the Hospital for Sick Children (1989).
  • With the harvesting of herbicide-tolerant canola, Canada becomes the first country in the world to grow commercial biotech crops (1995).

(with thanks to the Biotechnology Timeline provided by BIOTECanada and

About 40% of the MaRS Life Sciences & Healthcare Practice client portfolio is commercializing biotechnology products – and if you have a biotech business, too, we invite you to work with us to jump-start your business’ growth.

What is Biotechnology?

The term “biotechnology” refers to the use of living organisms and processes to create innovative products and techniques. Biotechnology has been in action since 8,000 BC, when humans began selecting and altering plants and animals for harvesting and domestication, for such products as wine, cheese and cultivated potatoes.

Today, biotechnology influences everything from life-saving vaccines and medicines such as the HPV vaccine and penicillin; pest-resistant crops; and game-changing research in genomics, cancer treatments, or stem cells.

Did you know that Biotechnology Worker is one of The 5 happiest careers in America?

Biotechnology is the future, the past, and the present.

See below to learn more, or drop by MaRS to pick up a flyer!

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