Established in 1608, picturesque Québec City is not only the capital of Canada's Quebec province but also the oldest city in the country. Then, as now, this thriving Francophone river town of a half-million people serves as a key eastern entry point into North America. In addition to its numerous logistical and geographical assets, Québec City is renowned among Canadian metros for its multifaceted life sciences community, supported by 6,000 researchers and associates plus 400 R&D labs, groups, consortiums, institutes, and centers.
In the health sector alone, the region's 120 firms post annual revenues of C$1.3 billion and have an average 20 percent annual growth rate. Biotech and life sciences firms are integral parts of key sub-sectors that include biopharmaceuticals, bio-diagnostic tools, medical equipment manufacturing, nutraceuticals, and telemedicine. However, Quebec City really shines in the research arena. Dozens of companies here are at forefront of discoveries in immunology, infectious diseases, genomics, cardiology, neurosciences, oncology, and functional foods.
For more than 20 years the local Québec Metro High-Tech Park - Québec's largest private high-tech park - has nurtured the dreams of pioneering organizations thanks to an extremely R&D-friendly environment. It now boasts the largest concentration of life sciences businesses in the region - and some of the most innovative organizations in the world. A few are leaders in the battles to lessen the impact of pandemics caused by new and old human scourges
Park resident Medicago, for example, produces pandemic and seasonal influenza vaccines using tobacco plants. This biotech firm's revolutionary genetic sequence process is much quicker, cheaper, and more effective than the traditional egg-based process. It can produce a vaccine in less than three weeks - a timeframe light years ahead of the three- to four-month production schedule of an egg-based manufacturer. More good news: Since Medicago doesn't use genetic material, its drugs are safe, non-infectious, and morally neutral.
Currently the firm's vaccine for the deadly H5N1 avian flu (Indonesian strain) is going into human trials this fall and will be available in a few years. A Medicago vaccine for the H1N1 swine flu is expected to be available in 2012. However, that date could be pushed forward by governments grappling with a deadly global pandemic situation.
Workers at the new 65,000-square-foot manufacturing facility of another park resident, BD Diagnostics-GeneOhm, make state-of-the-art diagnostic tests providing quick, reliable results (in two to three hours) concerning the presence of infectious disease organisms and cancers. BD Diagnostics is a division of Becton, Dickinson and Company, a New Jersey-based global medical technology company that also develops vaccines and other new drugs as part of its extensive line of diverse products.
Quebec City's Laval University offers over 350 programs (undergraduate and graduate levels) to 36,000 students. Established in 1663, the school is ranked among Canada's top 10 universities in terms of research funding and routinely partners with life sciences companies in groundbreaking R&D. Its Program for the Advancement of Innovation and Research (launched January 2008) is an ambitious yet realistic initiative designed to create 100 new research chairs using $100 million in private/public monies that are expected to be raised by 2013. Half of the chairs will embrace advanced technologies in the areas of health sciences and engineering.
Laval is also home to some of the world's top researchers in human health. A number of them have helped create vaccines for new deadly strains of influenza, and are now working on a swine flu vaccine as well.