Leading Pharmaceutical Innovation
One of Canada’s premiere pharmaceutical search and development facilities is growing.
Montreal’s NEOMED Institute, renowned for bridging the gap between basic research and the commercialization of new drugs, has changed the pharma R&D business model by combining industrial expertise with drug discovery and development acumen. In 2019, it will be able to accommodate even more businesses.
Jointly funded by the pharmaceutical industry, the Ministère de l’Économie, de la Science et de l’Innovation du Québec, and the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) of Canada, NEOMED was founded with a specific and unique mission: promote the development of Canada’s life science ecosystem by attracting and enabling a network of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to grow and prosper and to bridge the gap between great early stage Canadian discoveries and innovation and the industrial knowledge needed to translate that discovery into a therapeutic option for patients across the globe.
Born out of the closure of and AstraZeneca’S R&D Centre in Montreal, NEOMED relaunched the site as a state-of-the-art research facility for the benefit of the Canadian Life Sciences ecosystem. NEOMED acquired a second R&D site, from their partner GlaxoSmithKline in 2015, and were named and funded as a federal Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR) in 2014.
The not-for-profit institute currently supports 10 in-licensed therapeutic programs, two world-class R&D facilities housing 30 resident companies which collectively employ more than 350 people through its two sites, (Montreal Technoparc and the Cité de la Biotech in Laval).
The proof is in the pudding. In just over 6 years, the NEOMED Institute is an integral partner for Canadian universities and early-stage biotechnology companies. “With the enabling ecosystem built around our R&D infrastructure and services, companies have successfully advanced and new pharmaceutical therapeutic programs and related services,” says Pierre-Yves Desbiens, Chief Operating Officer and Head of Operations.
The latest step for the NEOMED Institute is its new Innovation Centre, a new, purpose-built 100,000-square-foot expansion project at the Ville St. Laurent Technoparc site. Set to open in the fall of 2019, Phase 1 of the project will encompass a 50,000 square feet space connected by a covered walkway with the existing facility in Ville St. Laurent, where over 200 clients in the chemistry, biology and life sciences will share living space, including a modern co-working business centre, adapted to the needs of the evolving NEOMED life sciences ecosystem.
“The Centre specializes in small molecule drug discovery,” says Desbiens. “It offers fully-equipped medicinal chemistry and biology laboratories, capacity for 105 chemistry hoods, an on-site vivarium and specialized drug discovery equipment. We are facing major demand from biotechnology companies and Contract Research Organizations wishing to join our ecosystem.”
The heart of this expansion project is collaboration, innovation, and growth. “We are so much more than just a real estate set-up,” says Desbiens. “We also try to help out stakeholders with their growing pains. This way, companies can focus on research while we are focused on their infrastructure needs—that is what the NEOMED Institute is for—allowing them to evolve in an environment designed and built to meet their needs.”
NEOMED’s success in retaining and providing opportunities for the brightest engineering and scientific minds speaks for itself. It is difficult to think of another Centre of its kind with the same track record of contributions to the pharmaceutical industry.
Desbien says NEOMED has been behind many Canadian Life Sciences success stories, and points to enGene Inc. as an illustration of the NEOMED Innovation Centre doing what is does best. enGene is built around an innovative oral gene-delivery formulation called the ‘Gene Pill’ that has the potential for the oral delivery of a wide range of protein drugs. Starting as a four-person team, NEOMED helped enGene flourish into a 50-person team in only three years, with established partnerships with large pharmaceutical companies. By providing the best ‘set-up’ for enGene, meaning, laboratories, vents, space made to the specific regulations, and R&D support services, enGene has become one of the country’s biotech leaders.
“This NEOMED model is unique and it has been ideal for enGene’s growth trajectory,” says Dr. Anthony T. Cheung, President and CEO of enGene. “What I like most about the site is that it is truly a turn-key system for its tenants. The building, laboratories and animal facility are world- class, and the support system and network have been great. It has helped us upgrade our research capability and productivity. The NEOMED network has made it seamless to settle into Montreal, and Montreal has Canada’s best talent pool in drug development. An important thing that makes NEOMED exceptional is its flexibility. It understands and accommodates the ebbs and flows of a start-up, and does a great job helping us manage our needs for space during our recent aggressive expansion plan. I don’t have to worry about infrastructure issues.”