The Hill Times Policy Briefing on Biotechnology of September 22, 2008 overviews events, opinions and noteworthy facts on the direction of the Biotechnology Industry in Canada, including the following:

Feds' new regulatory system better on clarity, short on speed: industry:

The minority Conservative government introduced a new Cabinet Directive on Streamlining Regulation on April 1, 2007 replacing the 1999 government-wide regulatory policy. Some commentators have said that there is a new level of communication between government and industry and that the noticeable change has been with clarity but not speed. A spokesman for the Treasury Board Secretariat stated that the directive applies to all departments and implementing it is a question of capacity. He also stated that the government's biotech regulatory regime is intended to protect Canadians while being responsive to innovations and a rapidly changing environment. The government's new Cabinet directive requires in-depth cost-benefit analysis and mandatory consultation with affected parties.

Time to fix, modernize innovation gap, say biotechnology industry stakeholders:

The Conservative government released a government strategy last year entitled Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada's Advantage which "sent the right message", but there are opinions that Canada's biotechnology environment needs to be modernized to fix the innovation gap in skills and regulatory systems. To address the problem that Canada's overall productivity gains are below those of other trading nations with whom we compete and to encourage greater private sector investment, the government has announced changes to the Scientific Research and Experimental Development Program which would increase the expenditure limit for tax credits from $2 million to $3 million, facilitating university, business and government collaboration through an $82.4 million investment in the Networks of Centres of Excellence; and R& D investments through the Industrial Research Assistance Program.

Canada must do a better job of commercializing its R&D:

Canada's Industry Minister Jim Prentice delivered a speech at the Penfield Lecture to the Montreal Neurological Institute Hospital and had three main points: 1) The importance of attracting the best and brightest from around the world; 2) Universities, medical research centres and public-sector research facilities must be the focal point of world-class research; and 3) Canada must do a better job of commercializing its R&D.

Some Notable and Noteworthy facts on biotechnology industry: 

  • Industry Minister Jim Prentice is responsible for Industry Canada, a department with a budget of $1,045,800,000 and 5,719 full-time employees.
  • Canada's federal regulatory departments and agencies will develop a plan to ensure biotechnology, nanotechnology, and ICT products, services and technologies are regulated responsibly and in a timely manner, according to the government's S&T strategy
  • There are more than 550 Canadian companies in the biotechnology sector, 46 percent in industrial and agricultural biotechnology and 52 per cent in the health-related biotechnology sector
  • Some 13,400 Canadians are directly employed in biotechnology-related activities. Biotech companies invest $1.7 billion in research and development annually

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