Feb 2017

Finance Minister Bill Morneau

Advisory Council on Economic Growth highlights Canada’s stem cell strength

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Building on Canada’s “world-class regenerative medicine and stem cell therapy development“ could unlock innovation and drive economic growth, according to an Advisory Council on Economic Growth report released Monday.

The Advisory Council, created by Finance Minister Bill Morneau to find ways to unleash Canada’s economic potential, focused on four sectors in which “Canada has a strong endowment, untapped potential and significant global growth prospects.”  The four include:  agriculture and food (agfood); advanced manufacturing; energy and renewables; and health care and life sciences.

“It’s a clear victory for the stem cells to be included in this report,” says James Price, President and CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. “It shows that our message is getting through and that the Government of Canada recognizes the powerful potential of stem cells and regenerative medicine to not just deliver cures for a number of diseases but significantly boost the economy. “

The Foundation champions the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy, a 10-year private-public partnership that aligns the efforts of Canada’s  research scientists, medical professionals, industry partners and philanthropists to move therapies into the clinic, create thousands of high-quality jobs and secure a share of the burgeoning  regenerative medicine global market for Canada.

The Advisory Council favours such private-public partnerships, stressing that “government and business should work together to identify and remove the unnecessary obstacles to economic growth” and noting that such partnerships “would help raise our collective ambition and unleash Canada’s real and inclusive growth potential.”

As well, the report, the second of two the Advisory Council has submitted to Minister Morneau as he prepares the federal budget, suggests Canada “seize opportunities (for example by convening private and public actors and setting a sector wide aspiration).”

The Canadian Stem Cell Strategy “creates a roadmap for government and business to work together to do exactly that,” says Mr. Price. “It would clear hurdles for Canada to commercialize more research, bring more clinical trials on stream, develop more therapies and products, and create more jobs.”

Canada stands among the top nations in stem cells and regenerative medicine. The building block cells were discovered by two Canadians — Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch — in Toronto in the 1960s and subsequent generations of researchers have made some of the most important discoveries in the field worldwide. Clinical trials are underway in Canada using stem cells to treat type 1 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and septic shock, while doctors at The Ottawa Hospital have successfully used stem cells to treat autoimmune disease such as multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and scleroderma.

However, Canada is falling behind in terms of funding, with other jurisdictions, particularly California and Japan, investing billions to find new therapies, develop new products and reap the economic benefits.

Minister Morneau established the Advisory Council in March 2016 to develop advice on policy actions “for strong and sustained long-term economic growth.” The first report, released in October, gave recommendations on investing in infrastructure, attracting foreign investment and enhancing economic immigration.

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