Canada has about 400 biotechnology companies, many of which are startups, versus about 175 in Israel.Canada’s biotechnology industry found a new romance at Bio 2002, the major international biotechnology conference in Toronto and the partner is the booming Israeli biotech industry.
During the June conference, Matimop, the Israeli industry center for research and development, along with its Canadian counterpart, the Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation, organized a Canada-Israel brokering event that led to more than 100 one-on-one meetings between companies. Matimop Deputy Director-General Haya Miller found the Canadian executives enthusiastic about meeting with potential Israeli partners.
“Research and development collaborations are vital for early-stage companies, ” Miller said. “Collaborations help these companies shoulder the burden of the long and expensive process involved in bringing biotechnology products to market.
“I was repeatedly impressed with how knowledgeable the Canadian biotechnology executives are about the micro-details of the Israeli industry,” Miller added. “They all seemed up-to-date on recent business developments, such as the establishment by the government of two new specialized biotechnology incubators.”
Going from first date to closing a deal is a process that often takes many months in the business matchmaking process, but Miller cited several examples of relationships which showed signs of becoming serious from the outset.
“Five pairs ended the brokering day by filling in application forms for matching funding from (Canada),” she said. “That’s a significant number that can be expected to grow in the weeks to come.”
One pair that used the conference as an opportunity to announce an alliance was Mirador DNA Design, based in Montreal, and Israel’s Sensis. The two companies will work on developing a new generation of analytical technologies in genomics and proteomics, a potential market estimated at $5 billion.
“Israeli companies come up with very creative solutions to the most complex of problems,” said Pierre Sevigny, chief executive of Mirador DNA Design. Sevigny, a regular visitor to Israel, will travel next week to visit Sensis’ research and development facilities in the north of Israel.
The admiration seems mutual. Allergene, an Israeli company developing a drug for asthma, recently completed pre-clinical trials in Montreal.
“The McGill University center is a world leader for animal models for asthma research and was the perfect place for the Allergene trials,” said Dr. Vicki Rabenou, director of the Rad-Ramot Incubator, which hosts Allergene.
The industries in the two countries have much in common. Both began slowly but in recent years have had dramatic growth. Although Canada’s industry is larger – about 400 companies compared with about 175 in Israel – many of the companies in both countries are startups.
“The important thing to remember about international matchmaking is that it creates jobs in both countries, ” said Henri Rothschild, president of CIRRDF. “By working with Israel, Canadian companies will generate jobs and revenues for themselves that otherwise simply wouldn’t have happened.”