For several years, going to BioFinance was about as much fun as listening to a Leonard Cohen album.

Canadian Biotech is Back!
Front page image courtesy and (c)

Now, however, we’re starting to see smiling faces.  We’re not out of the woods yet by any means and it’s definitely too early for swagger, but a number of indicators give cause for optimism.

Why biotech is coming back

  1. The quality of Canadian life sciences companies is higher than ever.
  2. The difficulties of fundraising in the past three to four years have selected the companies with the strongest value propositions.
  3. Pharma is desperate to fill its pipelines and is increasingly going to earlier stage deals to do so.
  4. Companies are now raising funds again, even from Canadian VCs (yes – it’s true).

In general, the companies presenting had their act together and had a more credible view of what it will take to develop their products than we saw in previous years. MaRS client companies Fluorinov Pharma, Induce Biologics, Receptor Therapeutics and Segasist all gave credible and persuasive presentations.

Furthermore, the pipeline for the next generation of Canadian life sciences start-ups looks rosy.  The technologies highlighted in the MaRS Innovation Early Stage Technology Showcase were nothing short of amazing!  Almost every case was novel, addressed major markets and had strong proof of concept. Xagenic (POC diagnostics for infectious disease), Dr. Gang Zheng (nanocarriers and porphysomes) and Dr. Andrei Yudin (cyclic peptides) in particular look set for great things.

And as if that were not enough, David Schechner (Canaccord Genuity) stated that he thought we were on the verge of another biotech bubble!

Coming back to Earth for a moment, there were some issues that will need to be addressed if we are going to capture the full value of Canada’s biotech potential:

Canadian biotech’s bucket list

  1. Economic stability – the potential for another recession is very real, especially in the US, and that certainly could derail growth.
  2. Better relations with US investors – Canadian companies need a more sophisticated and sustained marketing effort to convince US institutions to invest here.
  3. Access to domestic capital – Canadian VCs have not raised much funding in the past 3 years which will certainly hamper their ability to invest going forward.

These notwithstanding, please enjoy this precious moment.  We ARE going to do it!

John McCulloch

John provides assistance to life sciences entrepreneurs in business strategy, management, intellectual property, financing and licensing. See more…