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Canada: A country built for success in the bio-economy

Genome Canada President and CEO, Dr. Pierre Meulien

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Their work days look very different — the aquaculture producer hauling in a full net, the farmer harvesting a bumper crop, the mining technician maximizing extraction, the biomedicine researcher developing a new therapy, the forester protecting trees from pests or the auto-parts maker using green materials.

But there’s a common link. At their core, all of these pursuits are about the nature of life itself. And that means solving the mysteries of the genome can lead to a competitive edge for these and other Canadian industries.

At GenomeCanada, it’s our job to ensure Canadians benefit from our country’s strengths in genomics research. Since 2000, $2.3 billion has been invested in genomics, with 56 per cent secured from partners. It’s an investment that’s well-spent and achieving results. The modern bio-economy will contribute some 2.25 per cent to Canada’s GDP by 2017. Canadian excellence in applying genomics research could also generate significant export opportunities. The global bio-economy market will be worth $1 trillion by 2030, as estimated by the OECD.

It’s not surprising that Canada would become a leader in the science and application of genomics. We’re a vast country with diverse habitats, distinct regional economies and great universities and research institutes in every province. There’s a growing entrepreneurial spirit, especially among younger Canadians, and we have a highly educated workforce that can make the most of technological progress.

Canada has always been about diverse regions helping each other succeed in their key industries, while cooperating to build a national economy that offers a good quality of life right across the country. In similar fashion, the Genome Canada model combines national leadership with an ability to respond to regional and local needs and priorities. Six independent regional Genome Centres foster genomics research and its applications in sectors of strategic importance to Canada. Five world-class Science and Technology Innovation Centres deliver the most advanced technologies and expertise to the research community.

We recently developed genomic sector strategies to advance Canada’s core economic areas: Forestry, Agri-food, Energy and Mining and Fisheries and Aquaculture. We have a unique opportunity to protect and expand Canada’s traditional life science-based industries by integrating new technologies (including genomics) and thus making them more competitive, productive and profitable.

BIO International is a valuable opportunity to showcase Canada’s growing genomics advantage to the world. At this annual gathering, we can see how Canada’s diverse application of genomics is a true strength. With whoever we meet — decision-makers from nearly every U.S. state and other places around the world — we can discuss shared challenges and opportunities. Genome Canada can offer international partners access to a deep talent pool, one with expertise encompassing a wide range of industrial priorities, environmental conditions and community needs.

Now, to further expand the use of genomics knowledge within industry, we’re making strategic investments through the Genomic Applications PartnershipProgram. This new program is further stimulating investment from private and public partners to address real-world challenges and opportunities through genomic-derived solutions. This will strengthen the hand of Canadian companies as they compete internationally, and it will produce goods and services we can sell to the world to create more jobs at home.

Few places have as much opportunity and potential as Canada does in tailoring genomic solutions to a diverse range of policy goals and economic interests. Genome Canada is determined to realize this potential for the benefit of Canadians. And we look forward to furthering this effort by promoting Canada’s genomics experience and expertise to global leaders at BIO International in San Diego.

I look forward to seeing you there …