Canada’s Healthcare Support System – Part 2
Medical Industry Week – Private and public sectors working to boost Canada’s healthcare system
This model differs from the usual avenues for non-profit organisations looking to develop treatments. Traditionally, these parties have been required to beg for cash from companies on a donation basis with various degrees of success. A prime example of the OCE model in practice is the Ontario Diabetes Association, which is conducting research that will be supported by OCE funding with an industry partner.
At the core of the OCE philosophy is the requirement that any research that it backs has to be a product that the industry partner can use to create jobs. The process helps these non-profit organisations to get research done but also spurs on economic development. SIP’s initial proposals are focused on collaborations in the health improvement sector (first area to attract proposals in 2011), followed by sustainability environment and poverty reduction initiatives.
Healthcare Technology Exchange
Representing a major lynchpin in efforts to continue the turnaround of the Canadian Med-Tech industry is the Healthcare Technology Exchange (HTX), a Federal and Ontario government-funded organisation that aims to support the research and development of advanced healthcare technologies.
Originally set up by the Ontario government, the HTX bids to help companies bridge, what John Soloninka, HTX’ President & CEO, describes as, the “valley of death”. The rather dramatic phrase refers to the pre-commercialisation gap where companies need some financial assistance before showing up on the radar of banks, institutions, public investors or venture capitalists. This important contribution has largely come in the form of government “angel tax-relief”, a process that allows small companies to apply the necessary capital to support R&D, trials, reimbursement and other activities.
HTX manages its C$21.4 million budget, provided by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development Innovation to help SMEs and start-ups to get funding to reach the domestic and global market and to attract multi-nationals to set up R&D in Ontario through incentives. The agency co-invests with other investors in R&D in small medium enterprises (SMEs), but also provides persuasive incentive funding for large organisations.
Over the last 12 months, HTX investments include GE Healthcare digital pathology; as well an October 2010 investment in Xagenic, a company that came out of Ontario universities and is developing rapid POC molecular diagnostics focused on infectious diseases and cancer. Other low key investments include e-health, tissue simulation, radiology applications and embedded micro processors that have led to partnerships with multi-nationals, FDA clearance and licensing. In effect, HTX believes that a small amount of assistance in the right area makes all the difference.
HTX Research Grants
HTX awards research grants of C$350,000 and C$750,000 to come such as Baylis Medical, Tornado Medical Systems, RNA Diagnostics, XLR Imaging and Patient Ordersets.com, Colibri Technologies (catheter-based 3D imaging), Profound Medico. Collectively, they provide an infrastructure – effectively engines of commercialisation – and create assets that benefit the province of Ontario as a whole.
One of the HTX’s leading investments is PICOE, an initiative that is bidding to transform digital pathology, a market that is comparable in development of that for digital radiography ten years ago. HTX invested C$2.25 million in support of GE’s development plan, of which more is featured later in this article.
Centre for Imaging Technology Commercialization
Also being backed by HTX is the Centre for Imaging Technology Commercialization (CImTeC), an organisation that helps small companies to compete in markets and overcome regulatory issues to make a fully viable product. One such example is a joint initiative between Sunnybrook Hospital and the University of Western Ontario that is focused on medical imaging opportunities. This has resulted in a C$28 million incubator-style five-year project for small local and international companies to get the expertise and help needed to commercialise technologies at a faster rate.
The Ontario Brain Institute
The Ontario Brain Institute (OBI), which is focused on neurosurgery/brain health opportunities, is also seen as a potential catalyst for growth for Ontario and Canada as a whole. Although highly competitive, neuroscience is still regarded to be in its infancy despite its potential to become as big as cardiovascular care in the next five to ten years.
Supported by local philanthropist investment. OBI is acting as single umbrella for the provinces’ neuroscience area, encouraging synergy across all institutes, and focusing on marketing innovative devices worldwide. Providing a template for other sectors, a total of 22 companies, spanning diagnostics, imaging, prosthetics and devices, and brain fitness, have benefited from C$20 million in investment that has resulted in the commercialisation of 22 technologies. Operating at the heart of ONE is the MaRS organisation and its most recent incarnation – MaRS Excellence in Clinical Innovation and Technology Evaluation (Excite), an innovation incubator that was publicly revealed for the first time in Toronto in late December 2011. The alliance brings together a health system ((Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee); Federal Government departments; Academia (Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario and over ten academic health institutions across Ontario); Industry (MEDEC and HTX) and the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto.
The goal of MaRS Excite is to respond to increasing demand for effective and reliable healthcare technology assessment. Whilst the emphasis has been on finding out that a device is safe and effective, there is also the need to establish its cost effectiveness by comparing the technology against substitutes and competing technologies. Uniquely, MaRS Excite aims to move this process, usually done after the product is approved and on the market, back to the development stage.
The initiative will seek to harmonise health technology evaluation into a single, pre-market evidence-based evaluation process for technologies with disruptive potential and specific relevance to health system priorities. Medical technologies considered for EXCITE pilot studies include devices and equipment used to maintain, restore and promote health. They encompass interventions at any stage of health care, including primary prevention, early detection of disease and risk factors, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care.
Currently, the evaluation of medical technology is conducted and funded by the provincial government and occurs after regulatory approval and market introduction. However, the post-market approach can be inefficient, fragmenting pre-market risk-based evaluation from post-market evidence-based evaluation.
The deadline for the initial phase of the MaRS Excite plan passed in December and 2012 promises to be a big year for the programme, which will have to match the ambitions of the MaRs organisation to more effectively capture the commercial potential of Toronto’s science and technology research activities.
Since opening in 2005, MaRS has steadily grown to reach full capacity, paving the way for the plans to commence the second stage of its development, which involves a significant expansion of its facilities – a process that is expected to be completed in 2013.
Excite is just one aspect of the MaRS alliance and is symbolic of the collaborative framework within Ontario. A framework of partners that include:
- MaRS Innovation, a member-based partnership designed to transform the Toronto-based academic research enterprise into an established cluster;
- Business Acceleration Programme (BAP), a range of entrepreneur support programmes and services coordinated by MaRS and delivered through the Ontario Network of Excellence;
- Social Innovation Generation, which actively develops programmes to support the launch and growth of a social nature;
- The Investment Accelerator Fund (IAF) and the C$7 million fund for life science companies that provide sustainable economic benefit to Ontario;
- The Ontario Network of Excellence (ONE); and
- The Centre for Impact Investing, a national hub focused on increasing the awareness and effectiveness of social finance to catalyse new capital, talent and initiatives dedicated to tackling social and environmental problems in Canada.
This network of organisations all provide the ingredients that has the ultimate aim of ensuring that Ontario and Canada compete effectively in the healthcare industry on both a macro and micro economic level.
Over the next series of articles, Medical Industry Week focuses on how some of these businesses and organisations are using these programmes in practice throughout Canada and with a view to competing globally.
Tagged with: Baylis Medical • Centre for Imaging Technology Commercialization • Colibri Technologies • colibri technologies job • GE Healthcare • Healthcare Technology Exchange • healthcare technology with brain • jobs at colibri technologies • Medical Industry Week • Medical Technology • Ontario Ministry of Economic Development Innovation • Patient Ordersets.com • Profound Medico • RNA Diagnostics • RNA diagnostics device • rna diagnostics market report • The Ontario Brain Institute • Tornado Medical Systems • XLR Imaging
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