Canada Offers Innovative Resources for Life Sciences Meetings

Leading-edge research in gene therapy and genomics helps pioneer treatments for disease while attracting top-tier international business events.

Experts in Excellence
Experts in Excellence
Destination Canada Business Events' specific knowledge of this vast land makes this team a first stop for life sciences executives and organizers tailoring the right package for their event, whatever the size. Learn more about Canada's strengths in the life sciences sector here

Canada's strength within the life sciences sector stems from its pioneering research, development and innovation to improve healthcare delivery and patient care from coast to coast to coast. The country has the world's second-highest number of bio-technology companies — more than $918 million is currently invested in active R&D — with treatment protocols, pharmaceuticals and medical devices pushing global health forward with each new discovery. 

With its large pool of life sciences professionals spanning a broad range of expertise, Canada is a compelling draw for international business and professional conferences seeking access to first-rate academic institutions, extensive research networks and numerous partnership opportunities. Planners wanting to incorporate thought leadership and technical tours at world-class labs and research centers into their conference schedules can choose from several beautiful cities across Canada.

Here's how six cities are becoming the gold standard for life sciences business events.

Toronto's collaborative, connected sector makes it a leader in genomics

MaRS Discovery District is North America's largest urban innovation hub.
MaRS Discovery District is North America's largest urban innovation hub. Photo Credit: Destination Toronto

Centers of Excellence
Centers of Excellence
Canada is an ideal destination for business events in numerous innovative sectors. Click here to learn about Canada's leadership in sectors including technology, agribusiness, natural resources and more.

Canada's largest combined life sciences sector employs 36,000 people, and is home to more than half of the top 100 life sciences companies in the world, 37 research institutes and nine teaching hospitals. Renowned for its innovation in genomics, healthcare-related AI, neuroscience and regenerative medicine, Toronto benefits from $1 billion spent each year on public and private research carried out in the Discovery District, Canada's largest concentration of hospitals, research institutes, business incubators, and venture capital organizations.

"Toronto is the most diverse city on the planet," says Dr. Milos R. Popovic, director of research at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute at the University Health Network and chair of RehabWeek 2019. "This diversity of thought, ideas and culture has enabled us to become a leader in the technology field and in medical research." 

Planners can tap Toronto's five universities and six colleges for speakers, in addition to leveraging the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health, an international non-profit bringing together 600-plus leading research and life sciences organizations to securely share genomic and health-centric data. 

“We wanted to emphasize the translational stage of stem cell biology at the meeting, and chose the perfect venue: Toronto really embraces diversity and innovation."
—Robert Deans, PhD, member of the Toronto Organizing Committee for the International Symposium of The International Society for Stem Cell Research

At Deep Genomics, a Toronto start-up, researchers employ AI to identify genetic mutations and study promising drug candidates for rare diseases. At the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, the Cancer TArgeted Nucleic Acid Evaluation study uses next-generation genome sequencing technology to create a province-wide database. 

Toronto attracts many world-class conferences, including 2019's International Symposium of The International Society for Stem Cell Research.

"We wanted to emphasize the translational stage of stem cell biology at the meeting, and chose the perfect venue: Toronto really embraces diversity and innovation," says Robert Deans, PhD, chief innovation officer at BlueRock Therapeutics and member of the Toronto Organizing Committee for that event. "We had access to the top thought-leaders in the field."

Other groups that recently met in Toronto include the Society for Vascular Surgery, the Advanced Medical Technology Association. Looking ahead, Toronto is set to host the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics in 2024. 

Vancouver is a leader in cancer research and genome analysis

Much of Vancouver’s life-science activity is clustered in the University of British Columbia–Broadway Corridor.
Much of Vancouver’s life-science activity is clustered in the University of British Columbia–Broadway Corridor.

Vancouver is a major hub for life sciences research, both nationally and globally. British Columbia’s life sciences industry includes about 310 companies — about 70 percent of them located in Metro Vancouver — particularly in the areas of oncology research; infectious diseases, including a focus on HIV, SARS and prions; neuroscience research; and regenerative medicine. The sector employs over 14,000 people across the province, generating more than $800 million in revenue annually, with a mix of established and next-generation firms such as STEMCELL Technologies and Amgen’s B.C.-based subsidiary.  

Much of Vancouver’s life-science activity is clustered in the University of British Columbia–Broadway Corridor. Ranked as the top life science university in the country, UBC has commercialized more than 80 life sciences technologies and its Life Sciences Institute is home to 17 Canadian research chairs. The Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre at BC Cancer is an international leader in genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics for precision medicine, funding more than 1,700 researchers across the province. Its team of experts bring a range of expertise in an effort to advance the global understanding of cancer and other diseases and could make for insightful presenters at life-science events.

The sector employs over 14,000 people across the province, generating more than $800 million in revenue annually, with a mix of established and next-generation firms such as STEMCELL Technologies and Amgen’s B.C.-based subsidiary.

Another of BC Cancer’s distinguished programs is the Personalized Onco-Genomics Program, the first program of its kind to deploy whole genome analysis to inform individual treatment planning for patients. The Centre for Clinical Genomics, dedicated to providing diagnostic genomic testing for the population of British Columbia, provides another research institute on the leading-edge of life sciences. The institution detects mutations in the 17 genes most commonly tested to screen for hereditary breast, ovarian and colorectal cancers, among other work.

With this wealth of life science resources, it is no wonder that Vancouver has numerous life science conference on the books for the coming months and years. These include this year’s Connective Tissue Oncology Society annual meeting, expected to draw 1,000 attendees, and next year’s Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging annual meeting, expecting 5,000 attendees. In 2023, Vancouver is expected to welcome the Society for Neuro-Oncology’s annual meeting and the Union World Conference on Lung Health.

Montreal: A major player in life sciences

Montreal is home to four universities with 36 life sciences programs, training more than 10,000 graduates each year, including McGill University, home to the McGill University Health Centre.
Montreal is home to four universities with 36 life sciences programs, training more than 10,000 graduates each year, including McGill University, home to the McGill University Health Centre.

Montreal, Québec is Canada's top city for R&D investments and research centers in the life sciences sector, with five areas of excellence: neuroscience, cardiology, oncology, metabolic diseases and AI. With 44,000 people working here at more than 650 organizations, including 12,000 researchers and professionals in 300 public and para-public research centers, Montreal is a catalyst for innovation in areas of research from cancer to genomics.

Some of the top research facilities in the city include McGill University Health Centre and the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre, one of the largest hospital-based research centers in North America. Four universities with 36 life sciences programs train more than 10,000 graduates each year, and more than $1 billion in annual funding is dedicated to university research.

Industry giants including Merck, Pfizer, Medtronic, Abbvie, Novartis have headquarters in Montreal, a city known for its scientific excellence and collaboration between research, industry and government. 

Researchers from McGill University, along with an international team of more than 1,300 scientists and clinicians, recently concluded the ICGC/TCGA Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes Project (PCAWG), known as the Pan-Cancer Project, the most comprehensive map of whole cancer genomes. The study improves the fundamental understanding of cancer, identifying new pathways for diagnosis and treatment. This project will now be a valuable resource for future cancer genomics research.

Events slated to take place in Montreal include the 2023 Annual Meeting and Exhibition for the Canadian Ophthalmological Society and the 2023 Congress of the International Council of Nurses. 

Edmonton's strong genetics and gene therapy community 

Alberta Cell Therapy Manufacturing at Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology at the University of Alberta, Edmonton.
Alberta Cell Therapy Manufacturing at Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology at the University of Alberta, Edmonton.

Edmonton, Alberta is a hotbed of innovation that fuels research in biotech, medtech, medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Home to the University of Alberta, one of Canada's leading research facilities and Alberta Health Services — the largest integrated health system in Canada — Edmonton attracts more than $500 million annually in external research funding. Many of the city's hospitals have health research institutes, including the Cross Cancer Institute, Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute and the Genome Alberta Metabolomics Innovation Centre. The city is also home to Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology, Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, and the SMART (Sensory Motor Adaptive Rehabilitation Technology) network facility.

At the University of Alberta, researchers led by Entos CEO John Lewis recently identified 11 gene targets that could help prevent the spread of cancer. This discovery may lead to creating therapies to block metastasis in several deadly cancers. Scientists will now test these genes and gene-products as drug targets.

“We picked Edmonton because it has a well-established medical genetics program, and we rely on genetic counselors in the host city to help pick the venue, create the scientific content and source local experts."
—Charlotte Fung, co-chair of the Canadian Association of Genetic Counsellors conference education committee

Edmonton's convention facilities and hotels are close to six education institutions, so planners can incorporate technical tours and entry to research labs, health accelerators and simulation centers. 
 
"We picked Edmonton because it has a well-established medical genetics program, and we rely on genetic counselors in the host city to help pick the venue, create the scientific content and source local experts," says Charlotte Fung, a Toronto-based genetic counselor and co-chair of the Canadian Association of Genetic Counsellors conference education committee.

"We relied on our genetic counseling colleagues from the Clinical and Metabolic Genetics clinic in Edmonton to identify and connect with local academic and industry expertise; they suggested Canada Research Chair in health law and policy Dr. Tim Caulfield as our keynote speaker, and we're grateful he will deliver his presentation virtually in October." 

CAGC's conference returns to Edmonton in person in 2023, adds Fung, which will be a great opportunity to highlight the gene therapy work being done here. 

"There have been many advances in medical genetics and genetic counseling, and we're eager for updates from our medical and biochemical genetics colleagues," she says. "Edmonton provides a multitude of culinary and entertainment options for our attendees. There are direct flights from most major centers in Canada, and Edmonton is a wonderful city to enjoy in the fall."

Halifax: A thriving ecosystem where research, business and infrastructure converge

Located on Canada's east coast, Halifax, Nova Scotia, offers many competitive advantages in the health and life sciences sector, including top research centers and state-of-the art hospitals conducting R&D for a booming industry. With seven universities in the city and 10 throughout the province, Halifax is also Canada's post-secondary capital, and planners can tap the expertise of more than 3,600 highly skilled people working in this field.
 
Generating more than $300 million across 1,500 companies in Nova Scotia, Halifax's health and life sciences sector includes the Life Science Research Institute, an integrated facility that hosts Innovacorp — a venture capital organization that supports start-ups — the Brain Repair Centre — known for its success treating symptoms of Parkinson's Disease — and industry associations like BioNova. More than 100 multinational biotech companies have partnerships or facilities in Halifax including Novartis, Pfizer, GkaxiSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.

Halifax's world-class harborfront location provides the perfect setting for events, and the city's abundant natural resources give ocean science and technology researchers plenty of real-world testing conditions.

Halifax's Dalhousie University is home to the Institute of Genetics, one of 13 institutes that make up the Canadian Institute of Health Research. The Institute of Genetics is headed by Dr. Christopher McMaster, who specializes in identifying genetic mutations that can treat diseases such as Parkinson’s and muscular dystrophy. He is also director of the Cheminformatics Drug Discovery Lab, which uses sophisticated software to design and then synthesize new drugs, and serves as a director of Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Halifax's world-class harborfront location provides the perfect setting for events, and the city's abundant natural resources give ocean science and technology researchers plenty of real-world testing conditions. 

Recent conferences hosted in Halifax include the 2017 International Conference on Magnetic Resonance Microscopy and 2018's International Society for Heart Research.

Ottawa's knowledge-based offerings and business events infrastructure makes it a top destination

University of Ottawa is one of several world-class research institutions in Canada's capital city.
University of Ottawa is one of several world-class research institutions in Canada's capital city. Photo Credit: Ottawa Tourism

Canada's capital city houses federal departments and agencies employing leading life sciences experts that are directly responsible for health regulation, protection, promotion and research funding. Nearly 6,500 people in 130 companies are active in this sector at world-class research facilities that support discovery, development, commercialization and expertise in health IT, eHealth and medical devices.

Five of Canada's top hospital research institutes are located here, along with Canada's National Research Council and 35 Canada Research Chairs. Planners can access experts from the private sector, government and academia and within Ottawa's two national life science Networks of Excellence: The Stem Cell Network enables the transition of stem cell research into clinical applications, commercial products and public policy, and the pan-Canada Biotherapeutics for Cancer Treatment develops, manufactures and conducts clinical testing of personal biotherapeutics.

“Ottawa is an ideal choice: It’s a safe city with 6,000 hotel rooms in the vicinity of the Shaw Centre, with museums and the ByWard Market down the street, so you can walk anywhere."
—Paul White, research scientist at Health Canada’s Environmental Health Sciences & Research Bureau

The city's natural beauty and walkable, compact downtown is ideal for delegates wishing to explore national landmarks and museums, says one of the organizers for the 2022 International Conference on Environmental Mutagens.

"Ottawa is an ideal choice: It's a safe city with 6,000 hotel rooms in the vicinity of the Shaw Centre, with museums and the ByWard Market down the street, so you can walk anywhere," says Paul White, a research scientist at Health Canada's Environmental Health Sciences & Research Bureau. 

Upcoming meetings include 2022's International Congress on Infant Studies.

destination-canada-logo-smallIn Canada, life sciences leaders will find support from federal, provincial and municipal governments, as well as academia and innovation investors and one of the world's easiest visa regimes. Further simplifying the business process is the pool of destination and sector experts provided by Destination Canada Business Events. The team's specific knowledge of this vast land makes Destination Canada Business Events team an organizer's first stop for tailoring the right package for their event, whatever the size. To learn about assets and opportunities and arrange research trips and site inspections go to businesseventscanada.ca. Learn more about Canada's strengths in the life sciences sector here.

Canada is an ideal destination for business events in numerous innovative sectors. Click here to learn about Canada's leadership in sectors including technology, agribusiness, natural resources and more.

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