Networks of Centres of Excellence of Canada
Government of Canada

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$20.8 million for 2009-17
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Number of partners

Partner contributions
$43.2 million

Montréal, Quebec

President and CEO
Diane Gosselin Diane Gosselin

Board chair
Richard Fajzel Richard Fajzel
President and CEO, Exactis Innovation

Strengthening business ties between small biotech and big pharma

The opportunity

The high risks and escalating costs of drug development have made it difficult for early-stage biotech companies to attract financing. That challenge, combined with imminent patent cliffs, has triggered a major restructuring of the global pharmaceutical industry as companies race to decrease risk and become more capital efficient. Through CQDM, Canada has developed proven investment models that are reducing risk through open innovation and collaborative R&D with early-stage biotech companies, academia and public bodies. This allows companies to move beyond a fee-for-service model, retain equity and ownership of their intellectual property, and grow their operations in Canada.

How CQDM is seizing the opportunity

CQDM is sponsored by nine of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies (Merck, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Boehringer Ingelheim, Eli Lilly Canada, Janssen, Novartis Pharma Canada and Sanofi Canada) and the governments of Quebec and Canada. It provides critical funding and a neutral ground where pharmaceutical and biotech companies collaborate with academic researchers, graduate students, research institutions, venture capitalists, and governments to accelerate the development and validation of precompetitive research tools and platforms. Nearly 100 top scientists from pharma company sponsors also act as mentors for CQDM projects. This forges strong links between big pharma, small biotech and academic scientists, while ensuring that research is aligned with each company’s needs.

Among the results

  • In January 2015, Janssen became the latest pharmaceutical company to partner with CQDM. It will contribute to funding the Explore Program, which supports non-conventional and innovative research projects. In addition to Janssen’s financial contributions, its chief researchers will participate in CQDM’s unique mentoring program.
  • CQDM pharma members have integrated 85% of the new technologies produced through the network in their operations, including a family of biosensors to predict efficacy and side effects of many commonly used drugs (e.g. for depression or allergies) that target G-protein coupled receptors. This process helped French company Domain Therapeutics establish itself in Montreal to commercialize the technology.
  • Caprion Proteome Inc. of Montréal has established a diagnostic division to commercialize a new blood test that can rapidly identify people who are pre-diabetic. CQDM’s financing model allows small biotechs to de-risk and validate research, retain royalties, milestones and product development rights, and access global markets.
  • CQDM helped Medicago Inc. to reinforce its position as a world leader in the field of virus-like particles, to grow and become a cohesive company specializing in vaccine production, to increase its capacity to develop products, and, to collaborate with prominent international partners. Medicago Inc. recently invested $245 million to transform its pilot production plant, based in Quebec, into a large-scale manufacturing plant to commercialize its vaccines in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Japan.
  • Five start-up companies have been launched as a result of CQDM-supported research. Among them is Encycle Therapeutics, whose platform technology has generated a library of more than 1,400 nacellins, cyclical molecules with a greater potential for cell permeability and oral bioavailability.

Connect with CQDM

* (formerly known as Quebec Consortium for Drug Discovery)


July 4, 2014
Open innovation, creative partnerships and profitable collaborations
April 17, 2014
The high risks and escalating costs of drug development have made it difficult for early-stage biotech companies to attract financing. Those that succeed often have to relinquish too much equity; those that don’t may move out of Canada or close up shop. These challenges, combined with imminent patent cliffs, have triggered a major restructuring of the global pharmaceutical industry as companies race to decrease risk and become more capital efficient. Read more
Building Canada's Strengths: Drug Discovery and Commercialization
April 17, 2014
Developing new drugs is a long, complex and expensive process. The NCE supports several models that are helping reduce the risk and accelerate the commercialization of medical innovations that will improve health-care delivery and patient care in Canada and abroad. Read more
Building the world's largest life sciences corridor between Quebec and Ontario
August 1, 2013
In 2011, the Ontario and Quebec governments established the Ontario-Quebec Life Sciences Corridor, enabling the two provinces to become one of the largest bioclusters in the world. One of its priorities is to enhance opportunities for investment, partnership and collaboration in life sciences research, innovation and commercialization. Read more
Quebec and France team up for better biomedical research
November 2, 2011
An international partnership between a non-profit organization based in Quebec and a health cluster in France is taking shape in the health and therapeutic innovation sector. The Quebec Consortium for Drug Discovery (CQDM) is collaborating with Alsace BioValley in order to develop new tools to facilitate the discovery of safer and more effective drugs. Read more
Watch Video
Protein trafficking and misfolding under scrutiny
May 25, 2016
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Gala Prix Performance 2014 | Diane Gosselin, PhD, M.B.A
January 6, 2015
This link will take you to another Web site Watch Video (available in French only)
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CQDM video
December 2, 2013