On November 23, the Chamber invited four experts to come discuss the contribution of the life sciences and health technologies (LSHT) sector to the Canadian economy along with its potential for growth and opportunities for public-private partnerships in pharmaceutical research.
Pamela C. Fralick, President, Innovative Medicines Canada; Frédéric Fasano, CEO, Servier Canada; Martin Godbout, Chairman of the Board, Génome Québec, BIOQuébec and IRICoR; and Jean-Claude Tardif, Director, Research Centre, Montreal Heart Institute and Professor of Medicine at Université de Montréal, discussed these important issues along with the results of the recent EY analysis of the economic contribution of Canada's innovative pharmaceutical industry.
Below are the main questions that the panel answered:
1) What projects from the past year hold the most promise?
Quebec’s new life sciences strategy is a very positive sign for the future of the industry in the province and has been well received by the community. We’re making major advances in precision medicine, a very promising field of the future. Diagnostic tools and their application in genomics are also getting more and more sophisticated.
2) What is the potential to open up and leverage public health data to reinforce innovation in your sector?
The Minister of Health and Social Services has made a commitment to open access to public data in the next two years. This will let us compile information to measure the impact and effectiveness of drugs in real life and not just in a laboratory setting. There is a potential to develop a brand-new area of research that will have promising avenues for collaboration between the public and the private sector to leverage this data.
3) The Quebec LSHT strategy sends a strong message about your industry’s capacity for innovation. Which part of this strategy do you find most promising?
The Quebec LSHT strategy is very ambitious and has had a unifying effect. But now is the time to act, and companies have to take advantage of this strategy through a collaborative approach. Our goal is to take things to another level and make Quebec a hub where companies want to innovate, invest in, and commercialize new treatments.
4) Ottawa launched a consultation process this year on reducing the cost of new drugs. What will the impacts of this federal reform be on the industry?
One problem with the Government of Canada’s approach is a lack of dialogue with the members of the industry when it comes to not just lowering drug costs but also advancing the life sciences. The sector has developed because of its economic stability. The lack of information about the impacts of this reform on the industry and patients is worrying. We would like a broader consultation to take place. A bad decision could weaken the ecosystem and reduce investment in R&D, which would slow the development of new treatments in the country and ultimately harm patients.
5) What should the sector do to reinforce the LSHT ecosystem in Quebec and Montréal?
The momentum is there, and industry leaders need to take action to help promising projects move forward. Using data from our health care system is an excellent project that will benefit everyone: patients, researchers and the industry. New approaches such as artificial intelligence will also improve patient characterization and treatment. Communication is important: governments know about the potential and economic spin-offs of our industry, but we also need to communicate with the public so that people better understand the concrete benefits of the LSHT sector and how using health data will benefit everyone.