Join us every month as The Agency connects you to some of the most exciting people and companies putting Calgary on the map as a global centre of innovation.
In this month’s Tech Connections article, we take a look at Biohubx – a not-for-profit dedicated to igniting the life science ecosystem in Alberta by supporting health ventures’ journey to commercialization.
It took 20 minutes to drive from The Agency’s offices in Inglewood to the city’s Northwest community of Royal Oak, to meet this month’s Tech Connections feature, Biohubx. Not too far from the hustle and bustle of a university campus or downtown Calgary, the not-for-profit organization creates the right conditions for life sciences and health tech companies to commercialize so that innovative, life-saving solutions can be made available in Canada and around the world.
The speed and degree of innovation in the North American life sciences sector are increasing. Not only is there growing demand for expedited diagnosis and more efficient care/treatment, but global innovation is also on the rise. No longer does innovation in the sector belong solely to big pharma; there is now space for individual scientists and entrepreneurs with vision and expertise to provide solutions for big problems.
That said, bringing a life sciences innovation to market is exceptionally challenging — it demands not only expertise, but also financing, testing and regulatory certification. Biohubx alleviates some of these pressures by providing mentorship, quality and regulatory expertise, and access to essential facilities to help companies step confidently towards commercialization.
Biohubx was founded in 2020 by a group of Calgary entrepreneurs and scientists who saw the high potential in Alberta’s life sciences sector. This would also help diversify the province’s economy. Thanks to over $1.4 million in funding from PrairiesCan, today Biohubx de-risks the taking of discoveries from bench to marketplace. Elisa Park Kim, Biohubx’s Director of Business Development, says “Canada excels in producing high quality intellectual property (IP), but the commercialization process is less robust, especially at the stage of scale-up, which is why a lot of IP has left the country. We want to grow these ideas in Alberta by creating the right conditions for them to succeed.”
HUB 1 is the first facility established by Biohubx through its partnership with DynaLIFE Medical Labs. The almost 10,000 square foot space offers Biohubx tenants access to private and shared lab space equipped with critical equipment required for testing and development. Park Kim says that this saves companies a lot of money and time, giving them confidence to take risks and pushing them towards commercialization much more quickly.
HUB 1 is seeing a lot of interest from companies that have graduated from accelerators or university research parks and have a product or discovery that they’re ready to bring to market. There is no funding level requirement; tenants just need to be mature enough to pay rent, which Park Kim says will help the hub become self-sustaining. Current occupants of the hub include Syantra Inc., NanoTess, KM Quality Consulting, Nimble Science and DynaLIFE Medical Labs. Their common lab can also be accessed by community innovators interested in developing or validating ideas in a biosafety level 2 (human health, moderate risk) setting, which is a rare resource.
Aside from highly coveted wet lab access, Biohubx offers support with quality management services and provides procedures, documentation, and expert consultation to obtain required certification and regulatory approvals from such bodies as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, Health Canada, and International Organization for Standardization.
Biohubx’s two core values are: “Be the Champion of Others,” which they do through their mentorship, services, and support, and “Be Global.” Biohubx cultivates extensive international networks to help connect Canadian enterprises to the global market, and also uses those networks to draw international life sciences enterprises to Alberta.
Their North American Soft Landing Program offers global innovators a low-commitment, soft-landing entry to the North American market. “We want international companies to come to Calgary, help contribute to the sector and expand from here to the rest of North America,” says Park Kim. At the first level of engagement, the Virtual Office package gives companies a corporate address, business development support and curated workshops. The program can also connect companies so they can perform clinical trials in Alberta. According to Park Kim, Alberta being the first Canadian province with an integrated health system is a huge draw for international companies; here, they can access a system that serves the province’s more than four million patients.
Biohubx’s HUB 1 was expected to take three years to fill up, but after four months, they started accumulating a wait list. Plans are already underway to expand, with HUB 2 on track to open in Calgary in the next couple of years. HUB 2 will be five times bigger than HUB 1, expand into specializations and increase Biohubx’s program offerings.
For more information on Biohubx, and its tenants, visit biohubx.com.