CSPS_Panel_discussion _InSymbiosis

Highlights from the Canadian Society of Pharmaceutical Sciences 20th Symposium, 2017

I was honored to chair CSPS‘s panel discussion on Innovation and Development of Modern Pharmaceuticals that focused on the different aspects of the rapidly changing landscape of drug development. The presenters were:

  • Positioning Canada to Lead: Come Together, Right Now! Bettina Hamelin, Vice-President, Research Partnerships, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)
  • Competitiveness of Quebec Life Sciences: How do we Compare to the Best? Frank Béraud, Chief Executive Officer, Montréal InVivo
  • Gene Therapy 2.0: Taking Gene Medicine to the Masses Anthony T. Cheung, PhD, CEO and President, enGene, Inc., Montreal, QC
  • Towards Innovating the Biotech Business Model Alicia Levey, PhD, Vice President of Business Development, Inception Sciences, San Diego, CA
  • From Drug Discovery Research to Innovative Therapeutics in Partnership with Industry: a Seamless Path Nadine Beauger, PhD, MBA, Chief Executive Officer, IRICoR, Montreal, QC
  • Ilkos Therapeutic Inc.: A Different Business Model Monique Champagne, B.Pharm., M.Sc., President & CEO, Ilkos Therapeutic Inc.

CSPS Abstracts + Bios_2017 (002)

The presentations and the following panel discussion were very lively and focused largely on the restructuring of the pharma industry leading to novel business models for innovation. Not too long ago pharmaceutical companies integrated under one roof all aspects of the value chain including research, development, manufacturing and marketing/sales.

rudi blog

Nowadays, the majority of the innovative steps of research and early development are performed by VC and angel backed biotech companies accompanied by novel business models as a by-product. In contrast, large pharma companies focus on maintaining their revenue streams and purchase innovative drugs from the biotech industry rather than developing them in-house. As a consequence, pharma companies closed many of their R&D centers and Montreal amongst other major pharma hubs have witnessed their fair share of pharma closures.

Broken Closed

Bettina highlighted in her presentation that this closure of R&D centers has pushed Canada to overcome the ‘Canadian Inertia’ which often slows the evolution of novel business ideas leading to the foundation of new R&D companies. In addition, Frank highlighted a study showing that Montreal is better suited than other former pharma hubs to deal with the changed landscape. This is mainly due to Montreal having competitive salaries, a large talent pool and a very competitive tax environment for R&D. There are also niches of excellence in neurosciences, genomics and vaccines with great international reputations and a very established biopharma industry and many CROs and service providers in the life sciences space.  Moreover, Nadine presented IRICoR as an example of an institution that has absorbed many ex-pharma scientists and provides a state of the art research facility providing local companies access to excellent drug discovery resources. In fact, we at InSymbiosis, routinely work with IRICoR and appreciate their insight and expertise.


During the discussion many questions came up that cannot be answered at this point. Is this new business model of separating innovation from development and sales and marketing sustainable? How should the government spend tax payer’s dollars to promote R&D? How shall we prepare students for this rapidly changing environment? How should collaboration between industry and biotech be promoted? Is personalized medicine, targeted to smaller patient cohorts but with greater efficacy and few side effects, the key to navigate around the patent cliff? One thing is for certain in our industry – nothing can be taken for granted.

But for sure, where change occurs, opportunity exists. At InSymbiosis, being situated in the prime location for dealing with this rapidly changing drug development environment, we are riding the wave of this explosion of multiple new small biotech companies and service providers by leveraging our collaborative business model to create symbiotic relationships that drive innovative new ideas into development candidates and beyond!

Karl-Rudolf Erlemann