Earlier this year, Invest Ottawa — a city-funded group that helps promote economic development — appointed business development managers to oversee growth in various clusters of the local high-tech sector.
Sophie Chen is the senior business development manager for the life sciences sector at Invest Ottawa.
OBJ recently spoke to those managers, as well as a cloud expert, to get their insights into these key areas.
Here is what Sophie Chen, a senior business development manager at Invest Ottawa, had to say to reporter David Sali about the life sciences sector:
More than half of our life sciences companies are actually from the medical subsector. A lot are using technologies from traditional sectors like photonics and telecom and wireless and then applying those to the health-care industry. Annidis uses optical-sensor technology to make eye examination devices. It’s the only device that can see through all 10 layers of your eye and detect potential eye diseases before they become serious. We have a lot of companies doing DNA analysis, such as DNA Genotek.
We have a big national medical devices institution. Tofy Mussivand (chair and director of the cardiovascular devices program at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute) is probably the No. 1 person in the medical devices software (field). He’s still doing a lot of cool things in his national medical devices institute. They are producing a lot of innovative technologies.
The second area we are stressing is health IT. The Ottawa Hospital was one of the first hospitals that introduced iPads to nurses and doctors ... so they can check patients’ records wherever they go and they can exchange records wherever they go. It’s greatly transformed the way health care is delivered to patients. A lot of national research institutes, such as the National Research Council, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and the Ottawa Heart Institute, are here and we have a huge talent pool coming from them.
In medical devices, the big players are Abbott Point of Care and Nordion. They probably employ more than one-third of employees in the medical devices industry. Best Theratronics are doing great in the advanced manufacturing area for medical devices. For health IT, we have big players such as IBM and Telus here. Both of them have their major solution-builders here. Patientway is a smaller company that deals with security of patient records. In the biopharmaceutical research area, Pfizer has a big R&D operation.
Canada’s largest cardiovascular health centre is here, the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. OHRI is the third-largest hospital research institute in Canada and we have two national centres of excellence here – the Canadian Stroke Network and the Canadian Stem Cells Network. With those here, it (helps) attract talent to do more research in these areas and to encourage more commercialization coming out of those areas. And the medical devices institute is headquartered here.
Being the national capital region, one advantage we have is all the regulating bodies and all the decision-makers are here. Health Canada is here, the Public Health Agency of Canada is also here. This all makes it very convenient for companies to get approvals from Health Canada and also to get further funding to do commercialization and research in the life sciences area. We do have all the key components for success – from industry, from the government, from the academic and hospital research side.
For life sciences, the overall R&D cycle to conduct biopharmaceutical research is long. People need to be patient. We need to keep contributing to those areas.
We need to align these three sectors – the government, researchers and industry – so we can continue to encourage more commercialization out of those research areas. Sometimes it’s a challenge to have the research people meet with the businesspeople so that things can happen. That’s something we really need to improve. For medical devices, we have so many cool technologies, but people need to work with the hospitals to understand their needs. Industry needs to talk with the doctors. They need to understand what the patients and the doctors need.
The third thing is the capital side. When it comes to life sciences, we see less and less focus and expertise from investor teams. We need to encourage more investment into this sector, to encourage more research and commercialization.
TRENDS TO WATCH
Medical devices and health IT, as well as technologies enabled by these new devices and new solutions, are going to be big in the life sciences industry. They will have a huge impact in how health care is going to be delivered, from the devices side, the applications side and the solutions side. In the future, you won’t really need to see the doctor face to face (to get medical results). Everything will be delivered to your own device (such as an iPhone or iPad) and you’ll be able to check your test results from different health-care providers.
This is going to be the next trend in the health sciences industry and it’s going to be huge.
This interview is part of a six-piece series examining Ottawa's key technology sectors. It originally appeared in the fall edition of Ottawa Technology Magazine.