There are more pharmaceutical companies in Ontario than in any other Canadian province, including global companies like Sanofi and homegrown companies such as Apotex. Here you’ll find the talent, scientific excellence, reputable research partners and low costs to help you accelerate drug discovery and keep your pipeline full.

Pharma in Ontario: A dynamic presence

To understand the staying power and potential of the pharmaceutical industry in Ontario, you just need to look at the numbers and how they’re trending. From strong to off-the-charts, the indicators are resoundingly positive.

Ontario is home to some 1,900 life sciences firms that employ some 66,000 people and generate over $58.7 billion in revenues annually. The pharmaceutical sector alone is responsible for $43 billion of those revenues and employs about 31,000 people.

Ontario’s Pharmaceutical Industry by the Numbers

in revenue
in exports
of Canadian
pharmaceutical goods
pharma employees
annual STEM grads
of Canadian
pharmaceutical employment

Unstoppable synergy

Looking for evidence of agile, innovative start-ups with promise? Solid mid-sizers with strong track records? Want proof that some of the world’s biggest pharma players are prospering here, too? We’ve got them all—and the result is a dynamic cluster of life sciences firms whose collective reach spans the spectrum in terms of size, scope, maturity and focus.

Ontario companies export about $7.88 billion, or 63.9% of Canadian pharmaceutical goods, mainly to the U.S.—and they have access to the $20-trillion United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement (USCMA) marketplace, which is also the world’s largest health care market.

Who’s here

Sanofi invests $1B in vaccine development

With support from the provincial, federal and municipal governments, pharmaceutical giant Sanofi invested $1 billion in their historic Connaught site in Toronto, Ontario. This investment enables the company to bulk manufacture Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine—a flu vaccine approved for people 65 years and older. The facility will include industrial-scale formulation, filling and packaging—a key requirement for pandemic preparedness.

Sanofi is renewing our longstanding commitment to making [Ontario], Canada central in our effort to protect and improve human health across the globe.

David Loew,
Executive Vice-President Vaccines (Former),

Roche chose Ontario for AI-based medical research

In 2020, Roche announced it was creating a new Ontario-based AI centre of excellence in partnership with Canada’s leading AI research institutes: Toronto-based Vector Institute, the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute and Montreal’s Mila. Through collaboration, the centre’s goal will be to drive AI advances as they transform and optimize health care services in Canada and around the world.

Roche further put its trust in Ontario by also announcing a new $500-million investment in a global pharma technical operations site at its Mississauga headquarters—a region renowned for its life sciences leadership.

I think the biggest asset Ontario provides to companies like us is its deep talent pool. We have been very impressed with the quality of people we have hired locally for the site, and I think this reflects the fact that the province does wonderful research.

Ronnie Miller,
President & CEO, Roche Canada

Collaborative ecosystem aids success

The open environment supporting collaboration between business and research in Ontario is the envy of innovators and entrepreneurs elsewhere. Here, life sciences firms can take advantage of more than a dozen research partnership programs and grants, including the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC’s) Idea-to-Innovation Grant, and other industry programs:

Learn more about other incentive programs and services offered by Ontario.

An R&D powerhouse

Ontario is keenly interested in the growth and prosperity of pharma firms here—so it initiates and feeds programs designed to increase success, including tax credits, research funding and expertise.

A reputation for excellence

Ontario is known for its contributions in key research areas like cancer, neuroscience, stem cells, gene therapy and clinical trials. Major advances in potential treatments for diseases ranging from diabetes to cystic fibrosis to leukemia and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease have all originated here thanks to a combination of private and public investment in innovation. Some of Canada’s biggest life sciences R&D spenders have their Canadian headquarters in Ontario, including Sanofi, GSK, and AstraZeneca Canada.

R&D return on investment

Ontario’s comprehensive support for research and development builds capacity.

  • Talent—Our research-intensive hospitals and institutions employ 22,000 researchers and invest $1.73 billion in research and development.
  • Room to growThe MaRS Discovery District alone offers 1.5 million square feet of innovation space at the heart of the country’s largest research cluster in Toronto. And, Ontario is making site selection even easier with its Investment Ready: Certified Site program.

Keeping business costs low

Lower business costs are better for business

And what’s good for business is good for Ontario. We know that lower costs mean:

  • more businesses are establishing themselves or expanding here
  • increasingly dynamic and collaborative industry clusters
  • more revenue to support your firm’s growth and reinvest in R&D
  • a stable and thriving pharma sector that attracts successful newcomers

That’s why Canada offers low pharmaceutical production, biomedical R&D and clinical trials administration costs.

Also worth noting for their impact on the bottom line: health care costs in Ontario can be half what they are in the U.S.

A clinical trials destination

Ontario’s significant cost advantage over the U.S., diverse patient sets and a fast and streamlined ethics review process explain why over 3,500 clinical trials are taking place here at any given time.

Clinical trials in Ontario: Low costs and proven expertise

All major teaching hospitals affiliated with surrounding universities in Ontario are involved in ground-breaking trials on local, national and international levels.

The world’s top 10 pharmaceutical companies conduct clinical trials in Ontario: Johnson & Johnson, Roche, Novartis, Merck, Pfizer, Bayer, AbbVie, GSK, Bristol-Myers Squibb et Sanofi. There are good reasons for this:

  • In Hamilton, McMaster University’s Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) has key capabilities in coordinating global clinical trials and has conducted studies that have enrolled almost one million people worldwide.
  • The HUB Health Research Solutions, at St. Michael’s Hospital, provides services in the design and execution of clinical trials research studies as well as expertise in health economics, knowledge translation, and qualitative research.
  • Findings by the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC), a public-private partnership supporting the discovery of new medicines through open access research, have already triggered twelve clinical trials.

Ontario advantages like these help explain why more than 3,500 clinical trials are underway here.

The bottom line is that our cost advantages, diverse population and reduced administrative burden make it easier for pharma companies to conduct clinical trials here. This means your therapeutics and drug development will be market-ready faster, which is good for your bottom line.

Clinical Trials Ontario (CTO) is an independent not-for-profit organization established by the Government of Ontario with a mandate to provide an approach to conducting multi-centre clinical trials in the province while maintaining the highest ethical standards for participant protection.

CTO has established the CTO Streamlined Research Ethics Review System, which will improve the speed and reduce the costs of Ontario’s multi-centre clinical research by harmonizing processes and reducing the time and effort required to initiate research across multiple sites in Ontario.

CTO is achieving its mandate through three strategic pillars:

  1. Improving speed and reducing costs of multi-centre clinical trials by streamlining the research ethics approval process to a single review in Ontario and harmonizing other administrative processes and platforms.
  2. Attracting clinical trial investments to Ontario based on CTO’s success in streamlining activities and by leveraging strategic partnerships with investigators, industry, and government to access to global decision-makers.
  3. Improving participant recruitment and retention through education and by engaging participants and the public in recognizing the benefits of clinical trials.

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