Moving from Lab to Market: Models of Knowledge Translation (KT) in Canada

Conference Day: 
Day 1 - November 1st 2017

Organized by: Sean Lee, Head of External Relations, TRIUMF

Kathryn Hayashi, President and CEO, TRIUMF Innovations Inc; Gordon McCauley, President and CEO, Centre for Drug Research and Development; Parimal Nathwani, Vice President Life Sciences, MaRS Innovation; Laura O’Blenis, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Canadian Association of University Research Parks; Rebecca Yu, Vice President, Market Access & External Affairs, Takeda Canada.

Moderator: Karimah Es Sabar, CEO and Partner, Quark Venture Inc.

Takeaways and recommendations: 

Successful KT models

  • The Centre for Drug Research and Development acts as a global bridge between ideas and commercial opportunities with laboratories and in-house expertise, using a shared risk/reward model.

  • TRIUMF Innovations Inc. is the commercialization arm of the TRIUMF, Canada’s national particle and nuclear physics facility, specializing in spin-offs, collaborations, licensing, technology assessment and partnering.

  • MaRS Innovation operates in the “valley of death”, targeting high-potential projects for: milestone-based de-risking; intellectual property management (IP); assistance in company creation; interim management; and seed capital. Its start-ups remain in Canada and specialize in the areas of health information technology, medical devices and therapeutics.

  • The Canadian Association of University Research Parks operates 27 parks in Canada, 75% of which have accelerator programs or incubator space.

  • Takeda Canada brought its incubator model to Canada which focuses on public-private partnerships and targets Canadian technology firms seeking to go global.

Best practices for KT

  • Growing, training and engaging local talent is an essential component of knowledge translation.

  • Wrap experienced boards and advisors around emerging CEOs.

  • When transferring knowledge to emerging companies, ask tough questions early, plan to scale and kill programs early if necessary.

Policy considerations

  • Canada is only advanced life sciences nation without a large, domestic anchor company.

  • Canada has ample funding for scientific development but needs to devote additional resources to IP development and marketing.

  • Consider expanding the scope of the Scientific Research and Experimental Development tax credit program to include innovation activities such as marketing.

  • Canada needs to make bigger bets and offer longer-term support as opposed to the current peanut butter approach of spreading knowledge translation efforts thinly.

  • Canada needs to do a better job of attracting specialized talent. Often when recruited talent do not succeed in the short term, they stay awhile and return home.

  • Canada must build up expertise in multiple verticals, followed by long-term commitment and focus by companies and government.