Montreal scientists and business leaders put heads together to accelerate life sciences innovation and socio-economic gains


Montreal will soon have a new life sciences accelerator that will galvanize the city's solid footing on the international research stage. The new autonomous enterprise, a not-for-profit entity to be incorporated later this summer, is the brainchild of an Executive Steering Committee launched by the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and McGill University last March to develop a business plan for a life sciences technopole. The entity will hasten the translation of research discoveries of both institutions and their affiliated partners from bench to bedside to business.

"Montreal is a research powerhouse and the time is ripe for capitalizing on our knowledge," declared Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette, Executive Steering Committee Co-chair. "I am very happy with the Committee's work. The results underscore a fundamental notion that both sides of the industry were looking for a better way of working together."

The not-for-profit entity's mission is fourfold:

  1. accelerate the translation of life sciences innovation from research laboratories to clinical and business applications;
  2. develop hubs in ultra-specialized facilities in Montreal neighbourhoods where scientists, businesses and industrial specialists can form strategic cross-discipline alliances and multiply the socio-economic gains arising from research;
  3. support the pursuit of excellence in patient care, research, teaching and technology evaluation of the MUHC, McGill University and its affiliated partners; and
  4. make a significant impact on the quality of life of Montrealers.

"Putting a winning strategy in motion is key to keeping other countries from successfully poaching our brain-matter. And let's not forget the fact that the potential for economic spin-offs is huge," added Senator W. David Angus, Executive Steering Committee Co-chair. "No country worth its salt is going to just stand by and let the competition command centre stage, so our challenge is to create an effective and friendly working environment for our talent and to maximize investment."

Montreal has a vast wealth of life sciences activity. Based on the May 2006 report by Secor-Taktik entitled Montréal, Health Technopole, in 2005 Quebec listed 497 companies, 44 public and parapublic institutions, and 195 research agencies tied to life sciences. Of that number, close to 90% of related jobs were concentrated in the Montreal area. The report also noted that increased participation by Montreal's university hospitals could add significant value to the local economy.

"Research-intensive university hospitals are paramount in this country's pursuit of better health care and the MUHC is proud to assume this exciting new challenge," stated Dr. Arthur T. Porter, Director General and CEO of the MUHC. "The MUHC will always raise the bar of excellence in the name of its patients. Our Redevelopment Project and this initiative offer us a unique opportunity to provide the most auspicious conditions for innovation; just imagine the possibilities!"

Dr. Heather Munroe-Blum, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University, was in enthusiastic agreement: "By providing our researchers with services adapted to their needs and a world-class competitive environment, they will be able to fulfill their potential. At the same time, Montreal communities get a boost while Quebec can attract new talent and export homegrown knowledge and expertise. It's a win-win-win!"

A board of directors for the new entity will be appointed over the summer, following its incorporation. In addition to Senators Angus and Hervieux-Payette, Executive Committee members included: Dr. Arthur T. Porter, Director General and CEO, McGill University Health Centre; Dr. Heather Munroe-Blum, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, McGill University; Dr. Francesco Bellini, President and CEO, Neurochem; Mr. Robert Brown, President and CEO, CAE; Mr. Brian Baxter, President, Telus Management; Mr. Claude Garcia, Director of Companies; Mr. Sylvain Gareau, Vice-President Life Sciences, Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec; Mr. Robert Gratton, Chairman of the Board, Power Financial Corporation; Mr. Charles Kaplan, Vice-President and General Director, AstraZeneca R&D; Mr. Louis L. Roquet, President and CEO, Desjardins Capital de risque; Mr. Jean-Denis Talon, Chairman of the Board, AXA Canada; Mr. Russell Williams, President, Rx&D.

About the McGill University Health Centre
The MUHC is a comprehensive academic health institution with an international reputation for excellence in clinical programs, research, teaching and technology evaluation. The MUHC is a merger of five teaching hospitals affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University: the Montreal Children's, Montreal General, Royal Victoria, and Montreal Neurological hospitals, and the Montreal Chest Institute. Building on the tradition of medical leadership of the founding hospitals, the goal of the MUHC is to provide patient care based on the most advanced knowledge in the health care field and to contribute to the development of new knowledge.

About McGill University
Founded in 1821, McGill University is Canada's leading research-intensive university. McGill has 21 faculties and professional schools, offering more than 300 programs from the undergraduate to the doctoral level. There are approximately 23,000 undergraduate students and 7,000 graduate students at McGill's two campuses in Montreal, Canada. McGill is one of two Canadian members of the American Association of Universities.

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