Out of the Lab, into the Patient: Canada’s Commercial Opportunity in Cell and Gene Therapy Manufacturing

The burgeoning field of cell and gene therapy represents the frontier of modern medicine. Unlike many conventional drugs, these living therapies are specially engineered to directly attack disease, rather than just treat its symptoms.

The good news is that Canada is a player in this groundbreaking industry. Canadian science helped pioneer stem-cell biology in the 1960s, and more than half a century later, Canadian researchers and biotech startups are successfully leveraging that science into a pipeline of promising treatments. Hundreds of potentially life-saving therapies are in various stages of development and clinical trials in Canada and around the world. They are designed to combat a range of deadly and debilitating diseases, including cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, liver disease, Alzheimer’s and many rare conditions.

The challenge now is to build a complete Canadian ecosystem, from discovery and venture capital to talent and commercial-scale manufacturing. This report examines the state of the Canadian cell and gene therapy sector, highlighting both its strengths and the key gaps that remain as companies work toward getting their treatments out of the lab and into the patient.

The key hurdles are scaling up production at a reasonable cost, building commercial-scale manufacturing and laboratory infrastructure, and creating a large enough talent pool to sustain a world-class industry.

Rattled by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian government is helping to rebuild from scratch the country’s lost vaccine-making capacity. So far, it has committed $1.2 billion to various projects in Quebec and Ontario.

The risk now is that in the rush to address today’s crisis, the pandemic, policymakers will neglect the rest of the biotech industry, including the cell and gene therapies that will be the backbone of Canadian healthcare in the decades to come.

Canada’s cell and gene manufacturing industry is at an inflection point. Companies are transitioning from drug discovery into producing therapies for clinical trials. Looming on the horizon is the need for full-scale commercial manufacturing. But how much of that production will happen in Canada?

25%

The global market for cell and gene therapies has been growing by more than 25 percent per year.

U.S.$34 billion

By 2030, the value of the cell and gene therapy market is projected to reach more than U.S.$34 billion.

12th

Canada ranks 12th in the world for the quality of its research and development efforts.

  • Author: Barrie McKenna | Freelance Writer
  • Data and Analytics: Nigel Biggar, Sana Maqbool
  • Editor: Guy Nicholson
  • Executive Editor: Karen Mazurkewich
  • Research Associate: Heather O'Brien