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Budget 2019 Driving Canadian Biotechnology Innovation

March 27, 2019
By: 
Andrew Casey
President and CEO
BIOTECanada

The federal budget is an opportunity to build on 21st century economy needs while ensuring Canada remains at the forefront of discovery and development of biologic based products and technologies. The federal budget offered important new commitments to help Canada continue to grow its potential as a global research leader and user of vital new products and technologies improving health outcomes for Canadians, protecting the environment we depend upon and meeting the demands for a skilled and competitive workforce.

Budget 2019 proposes the necessary funding and legislative revisions so that regulatory departments and agencies can move forward on the Roadmaps for high-growth sectors of including: agri-food, aquaculture and health and bio-sciences, including providing the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Health Canada. Key to the biotechnology industry is the use of novel or experimental approaches: The Roadmaps propose greater exploration, innovation, and the use of sandboxes and pilot programs for new and innovative products. This will allow these products to be approved for use in a risk-based and flexible way—encouraging ongoing innovation while continuing to protect Canadians’ health and safety, and the environment.

Building the capacity of the biotechnology ecosystem requires an environment for small companies to thrive here in Canada. The SR&ED tax credit remains a valuable tool for discovery and commercialization of SMEs to grow operations here in Canada. Ensuring the SR&ED credit remains relevant to the nature of commercialization needs is key to Canadian competitiveness in the global marketplace for new idea’s and solutions for the planet. To better support growing innovative businesses as they are scaling up, the Government proposes to eliminate the income threshold for accessing the enhanced credit. This will ensure continued enhanced support for small and medium-sized innovative businesses that are experiencing rapid growth in income or may have variable income from year to year; that is, at the exact time when continued Government support can help take a business to the next level. The capital threshold will continue to apply to ensure that the enhanced rate remains targeted toward small and medium-sized businesses.

The biotechnology ecosystem in Canada is a world leading network of researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, incubators and global commercial operations, all working together to build on established success for ongoing economic growth. The federal budget helps Canada improve and increase the tools needed to nurture and attract global calibre talent. Skilled human capital and investment capital are central to the biotechnology sector’s ability to take an innovative idea from the lab to commercial viability. If a company is unable to secure both talent and investment then their innovative idea will move to where the people and investment dollars are. Being able to attract talent from abroad, including returning Canadians who have left the country for opportunities, is critical for the biotech industry's companies that are commercializing innovation. Building on the success of the Global Talent Stream pilot, Budget 2019 proposes to make the Global Talent Stream a permanent program. A permanent Global Talent Stream will give Canadian businesses expedited, predictable access to top global talent when Canadian workers are unavailable.

The budget’s initiative to develop a national strategy for drugs for rare diseases represents an important opportunity for Canadians to have improved access to innovative treatments for rare diseases. The government’s significant investment should help to bring Canada into step with other jurisdictions. Moreover, the strategy may also serve to create an opportunity for leveraging the value the industry invests in caring for rare disease patients and provide certainty for public drug plans.

Canadian science and research forms the foundation of Canada’s biotech ecosystem. Building globally competitive companies from that foundation is an important economic objective for Canada’s biotech ecosystem. In this context, the measures and initiatives in the 2019 federal budget include: important regulatory improvements, research tax credits, improved access to talent, rare disease strategy and funding. All told, these measures stand to contribute to the creation of a healthier business climate which can help to attract the investment and talent required to grow Canadian biotech companies.