Canadian Centres of Academic-Industry Collaboration

Canadian Centres of Academic-Industry Collaboration in the Commercialization of Health Research

The pharmaceutical industry has been increasingly shifting towards more collaborative and externalized R&D. Canada has been playing an important role, given our world-leading science organizations including the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the National Research Council and Genome Canada. These organizations are partnering directly with firms to lead innovation and drive discovery. The government of Canada also put in place programs to ensure Canada can lead in this shift, including the Centres of Excellence for Commercialization of Research (CECRs), Business-led Networks of Centres of Excellence (BL-NCEs) and other innovation initiatives such as the Structural Genomics Consortium. The objective of these programs is to encourage more partnerships between academia and industry in order to commercialize Canadian discoveries and put Canada on the global map for innovation. These efforts align and often pre-date new innovation models more recently being pursued by global pharmaceutical companies.

As a result, leading multi-national pharmaceutical companies have responded to these commercialization opportunities within Canadian health research. There are more than fifteen centres where over thirteen pharmaceutical companies have invested a combination of seed money and expertise. These centres are working under different models (i.e. investors, incubators, service providers, open innovation) where companies are participating in financing collaborative research activities, contracting out research, licensing in and out of research output, and providing in-kind support, to providing expertise and consultation, and helping to review projects. In return, firms gain from a range of benefits such as exclusive access to the intellectual property, early access to technology platforms, and contract services.

These Canadian health research and commercialization centres include:

The following global pharmaceutical companies have partnered in one or more of these initiatives:

  • Abbvie
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • Novartis
  • Sanofi
  • Astellas
  • Boehringer Ingelheim
  • Johnson&Johnson/Janssen
  • Pfizer
  • AstraZeneca
  • Eli Lilly
  • Merck
  • Roche

Examples of successes arising from these partnerships include:

  • A radiopharmaceutical to deliver targeted radiotherapy to metastatic prostate cancer (CPDC and Molecular Insight Pharmaceuticals)
  • Development of a treatment for early-onset morbid obesity (IRICoR and Pfizer)
  • Genomic biomarkers for the treatment of cardiovascular disease (CepMED and Roche)
  • Collaborative research to identify and validate molecular targets (PC-TRIADD and Novartis)
  • Development a new class of antivirals (NEOMED, contract partners and Centre universitaire de Sherbrooke)
  • A partnership in tuberculosis and malaria drug discovery (SCG, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, other academic and industry partners)

For more information about these centres:

Health Research Institutions and Research Networks

Canada's extensive network of academic health institutions and research centres includes 17 medical schools, over 45 groupings of academic healthcare organizations and about 13,600 researchers, as well as strategically focussed research networks. Canada's research excellence is recognized in many therapeutic areas, including cardiovascular, metabolic disorders, neuroscience, oncology, and infectious diseases and vaccines. Canada ranks amongst the top 10 countries worldwide in terms of the number of biopharmaceutical research papers published, specialization of research, and impact output and scientific impact. Canada is a leader in the development of key technology platforms including stem cells and regenerative medicine, genomics and antibody technologies.

Health Research Networks

Federal Research Networks

The federal government's Networks of Centres of Excellence Secretariat fosters world-class national research networks focused on key strategic areas of research interest. Three types of networks supporting health-related research and commercialization have been established under the Secretariat, namely, the original Networks of Centres of Excellence, the Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research, as well as Business-led Networks of Centres of Excellence.

International Research Networks

Canadian research institutions and researchers participate in international research networks, including the following:


Canadian Health Research Institutions

Federal Laboratories

The National Research Council is the Government of Canada's leading organizations for research, development and technology-based innovation. Six NRC institutes are dedicated to biotechnology, of which four are health related, namely:

  1. Biotechnology Research Institute
  2. Institute for Biodiagnostics
  3. Institute for Biological Sciences

In addition to institutes, the NRC has state-of-the-art research facilities across the country, from which Canadian companies and universities can access and benefit. The NRC research facilities of interest to life science companies include: