Signals Blog

Commercialization plenary summary, part 1 of 4

Till and McCulloch Meeting (#TMM2012) attendees in Montreal had the opportunity to hear from four speakers involved in commercializing discoveries in regenerative medicine, from the perspectives of not-for-profit, financial and industrial organizations. I’ll separate these out into a few posts.

From Toronto’s Centre for the Commercialization of Regenerative MedicineDr. Michael May began today’s plenary by sharing a sincere assessment of the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and fledgling regenerative medicine companies in Canada. (I spoke with May late last year on the needs of Canadian startups in the biotech and regenerative medicine sectors.)

“Commercialization is very, very difficult … there are plenty of great ideas being developed, but [across Canada] there’s a lack of capital, universities have underused technology transfer offices, and we’ve seen premature company formation and licensing of technology to regions outside of the country.”

To counter these problems, May outlined plans at the CCRM to enable local start ups through the support of product development, the integration of scientific research and business, as well as industry engagement. A hallmark of the plan is product development core facilities, through which companies can eliminate the need to replicate common resources and instead focus their efforts on what’s valuable to startups: proving and developing their technologies. This is especially true for firms developing new methods of cell manufacturing, commercializing bioreactors, biosensors, biocompatible materials, and transplantable cells.

But perhaps the two hottest market needs identified by May, along with other presenters today, are well characterized human stem cell lines and the continued development of tissue mimetics for drug screening.

“In just the last 10 months, we’ve evaluated 31 potential technologies and have formed 10 industry collaborations” says May, “We’ve also managed to generate revenues from iPS cell production”.  An industry consortium of 20 companies has also been formed, acting a proxy for the regenerative medicine industry.

One of the highlights of May’s presentation was the report of an imminent spinoff in the next few months.  Contrary to common assumptions of startup, the company won’t be featuring a single lone researcher with a single concept: “[This company] involved technology from across Canada along with some international intellectual property.”

It seems CCRM is developing a reputation as a successful technology broker.  May explained that CCRM also wants to play the role of a mentor or coach for researchers, and I think it’s fair to generalize that academic researchers seldom have the time to perform in-depth market research for commercializable products.

“We want to be internationally recognized as the leading global developer of regenerative medicine technology and patents,” said May.

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Paul Krzyzanowski

Paul is a computational biologist and writer living in Toronto. He's been a contributor to Signals for three years, writing articles for the general public about how biotechnology and biomedical research can be used to solve pressing medical problems. Alongside Paul's experience in computational biology,
 bioinformatics, and molecular genetics, he's interested in how academic research develops into real world, commercial technology, and what's needed for the Canadian biotech industry needs to grow. Paul is currently a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Ontario Institute of Cancer Research. Prior to joining the OICR, he worked at the Ottawa Hospital Research 
Institute and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Ottawa, specializing in computational biology. And finally, Paul earned an H.B.Sc. from the University of Toronto a long time ago. Paul's blog can be read at