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 70,100 people and generate over $65.2 billion in revenues annually. The pharmaceutical sector alone is responsible for $45.4 billion of those revenues and employs over 32,400 people.

Ontario’s Pharmaceutical Industry by the Numbers

in revenue
in exports
of Canadian
pharmaceutical goods
Over 32,400
pharma employees
Over 65,000
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 $8.49 billion, or 64.1% 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 nearly $1B in vaccine development

With support from the Province and other levels of government, pharmaceutical giant Sanofi is transforming their historic Connaught site in Toronto, Ontario. This overall $925 million 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,
Former 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.

Clinical trials in Ontario: Low costs and proven expertise

Ontario has over 4,600 active clinical trials in Ontario—the highest number in Canada, and two times more trials per capita compared to the U.S.

Canada has the second lowest cost among G7 nations for managing clinical trials and is ranked #1 in active clinical trials per capita. Ontario is a central hub for health research talent with Canada’s largest concentration of clinical trial sites. This includes 19 of Canada’s top 40 research hospitals. These facilities are leading ground-breaking trials on local, national and international levels. Ontario’s researchers are leading clinical trials for cancers, non-specified pathological conditions, signs and symptoms, nervous system disorders, cardiovascular disease and immunological illnesses.

More than 50% of clinical trials in Ontario are being sponsored by industry. Pharma R&D contributes $8.7B to Ontario’s economy, representing over 50% of the total economic contribution across Canada. The world’s top pharmaceutical companies conduct clinical trials in Ontario, including AbbVie, Astra Zeneca, Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Merck, Pfizer, Roche and Sanofi.

Conduct trials more efficiently in Ontario

Ontario’s 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.

Clinical Trials Ontario (CTO) is a not-for-profit organization established by the Government of Ontario which can help you get trials running sooner and more efficiently while maintaining the highest ethical standards.

Through CTO Stream, you can submit a single research ethics review for all participating sites in a study, with an average approval time of 10 days. CTO QuickSTART can help get trials started faster, with trial activation in just 90 days. And through CTO’s Trial Site Network, get warm introductions to over 200 sites in Ontario. CTO’s work in patient and public engagement is also improving participant recruitment and retention by helping people find trials and make informed decisions while supporting industry with resources to improve the participant experience.