Strategy Backgrounder

Stem Cell Strategy: A Plan for Canada, Canadians and the World

Stem cells are going to change everything. Right now, Canadian doctors are testing stem cells to heal hearts, repair severed spinal cords and fix arthritic knees. Researchers believe that within the next few years, diabetics will be freed from daily insulin injections by stem cell transplants.

Already, stem cells have cured thousands of patients with leukemia, multiple myeloma and other blood-based cancers via bone marrow transplants. Stopping MS in its tracks is now possible. Finding a cure for Parkinson’s is within reach.

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“Cure” is the key. Stem cells have the capacity to cure disease — not just manage symptoms. This is important because two-thirds of Canada’s $200-billion-plus annual health care bill goes to treating chronic, incurable conditions. With an aging population, that amount will only multiply. Unless we can find a better way.

Stem cells are that better way

A Canadian strength

Canadians discovered stem cells in the 1960s and Canada has played a leading role in the field ever since, ranking among the top three nations in the world. As reported in the Globe & Mail, “If Canada’s game is hockey, its science is stem cells.”

However, other countries — particularly the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan — are investing heavily in their own stem cell sectors. With recent cuts to stem cell funding — with the sunsetting of the Stem Cell Network — Canada is in jeopardy of falling back —  just when the field is on the verge of transforming health care and generating new, high-quality jobs.

The Canadian Stem Cell Strategy is a private sector-led plan to deliver up to 10 new curative therapies within 10 years. Crafted in consultation with 150 scientists, doctors, leaders from health charities, industry experts and philanthropists, the Strategy is backed by an in-depth study by KPMG and has been endorsed by an international panel of experts.

Federal commitment required

The plan calls for $1 billion in private support over the next 10 years. We have secured commitments of more than $500 million to partner with the Government of Canada to implement the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy. Vancouver-based STEMCELL Technologies Inc. has pledged $350 million over 10 years toward R&D — almost one-quarter of the total Strategy investment. Other industry partners, health charities and leading Canadian philanthropists are also prepared to make major contributions upon demonstration of a federal commitment to the plan.

We are calling on the Government of Canada to commit to providing one-third of the total investment.

How will it work?

Investing in the Stem Cell Strategy means investing in a plan to make Canadians’ lives better now and in the future.  It builds on Canada’s strengths. Because of our universal health care system, which Canadians proudly see as a pillar of citizenship, Canada is an enticing location for clinical research, our innovative researchers and highly qualified clinicians are well supported by experienced staff, cutting-edge facilities, a varied patient population, and attractive R&D tax credits.

The Canadian Stem Cell Strategy will:

  • target diseases that are a priority to Canadians;
  • coordinate and harness existing and new stem cell assets (discoveries, infrastructure, technologies, intellectual property and networks) under a dedicated umbrella;
  • align private and public sector investment; and
  • ensure accountability — so that  milestones are met and results are achieved.

Beyond saving lives and transforming health care, the Strategy will help grow the economy and generate jobs in a biotech sector expected to boom over the next 10 years. The Centre for the Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine projects the Strategy will generate in excess of 12,000 high-skill jobs for Canadians via the growth of existing companies and the development of new ones.

At a tipping point

Beyond saving lives and transforming health care, the Strategy will help grow the economy and generate jobs in a biotech sector expected to boom over the next 10 years. The Centre for the Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine projects the Strategy will generate in excess of 12,000 high-skill jobs for Canadians via the growth of existing companies and the development of new ones.

We are at a tipping point. The field of stem cell science is poised to deliver on its promise to treat and cure a wide cross-section of diseases.

The Canadian Stem Cell Strategy sets the course for Canada to lead the way.