Networks of Centres of Excellence of Canada
Government of Canada

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Funded 2009-20

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NCE contributions
$22.2 million

Montréal, Quebec

Strengthening business ties between small biotech and big pharma

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 pharmaceutical companies, 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.

CQDM was 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 provided critical funding and a neutral ground where pharmaceutical and biotech companies collaborated with academic researchers, graduate students, research institutions, venture capitalists, and governments to accelerate the development and validation of precompetitive research tools and platforms. Nearly 120 top scientists from pharma company sponsors also acted as mentors for CQDM projects. This forged strong links between big pharma, small biotech and academic scientists, while ensuring that research was aligned with each company’s needs.

Among the results

  • Eight startups have been launched as a result of CQDM-supported research, including 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.
  • A CQDM-financed project realized a proof-of-concept of a revolutionary approach that uses magneto-aerotactic bacteria to deliver anti-cancer drugs to cells at the core of tumours that are deprived of oxygen.
  • CQDM partnered with the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy to fund collaborative projects between Canada and Germany. The first project to receive funding was for an integrated platform for the study of the endoplasmic reticulum, which helps cells manufacture and distribute substances such as proteins.
  • A CQDM-financed project developed PulmoBlind, the first safe, sensitive and non-invasive molecular imaging agent designed for early diagnosis and monitoring of pulmonary hypertension.
  • * (formerly known as Quebec Consortium for Drug Discovery)