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Contract manufacturer bolsters Ontario’s life sciences supply chain and drives global leadership in cell and gene therapy

Since the 1963 discovery of stem cells by two University of Toronto researchers, Drs. Ernest McCulloch and James Till, Ontario has been at the forefront of regenerative medicine discovery and development.

Photo of Michael May
Michael May, CCRM President and Chief Executive Officer, will also serve as Chair of OmniaBio Inc., a new subsidiary of CCRM.

Dr. Peter Zandstra C.M., Chief Scientific Officer, and Dr. Michael May, President and Chief Executive Officer of CCRM, recognized a need to translate this pipeline of discovery into products, leading to the founding of the organization in 2011.

“Working with our partners, we established a capital-efficient and collaborative commercialization model to make that happen,” says May. “Today, CCRM has a global client base, and our team supports the commercialization of regenerative medicine-based technologies and cell and gene therapies with strategic funding, dedicated infrastructure and specialized business and scientific expertise.”

Six-fold biomanufacturing expansion

Those commercialization capabilities took a giant leap forward in March 2022 with the announcement of the launch of OmniaBio Inc., a biomanufacturing operation that extended from CCRM.

OmniaBio will be the anchor tenant in a new biomanufacturing campus being built in Hamilton’s McMaster Innovation Park.

Image of the OmniaBio building
Architectural rendering of the OmniaBio facility at Hamilton’s McMaster Innovation Park.

As a contract development and manufacturing organization—known in the industry as a CDMO—OmniaBio will support a broad range of cell and gene therapy companies by providing process development and clinical/commercial production services in compliance with global health standards. OmniaBio’s technical and manufacturing focus will be gene-modified and cell-based therapeutics and viral vectors for pivotal Phase III in-human clinical trials and commercial-stage manufacturing.

The facility is set to be Canada’s largest CDMO specializing in cell and gene therapies. “OmniaBio Inc. will be a game-changer for Ontario and Canada,” says May. “It will provide missing infrastructure and expertise to allow Canadian cell and gene companies to remain here while also attracting foreign companies. Cell and gene therapy is Canada’s opportunity to be a global leader in the life sciences.”

Stronger supply chain

Ontario has more than 40 companies working in cell and gene therapy technologies, with a further 32 across Canada. OmniaBio will enable these companies to commercialize their products at home, whereas a previous lack of domestic manufacturing capacity had often required working with CDMOs in the U.S. and internationally. This reversal will help keep intellectual property, technical know-how, talent and skilled jobs in Ontario.

OmniaBio will benefit from on-site workforce training capabilities delivered by the Canadian Advanced Therapies Training Institute (CATTI)—a partnership between CCRM and Montreal-based CellCAN.

OmniaBio will also create a multiplier effect for Ontario’s life sciences sector. “There’s a global shortfall in cell and gene therapy manufacturing capacity, which OmniaBio will be ideally positioned to help meet,” says May. “Having access to a leading-edge commercialization partner is a major consideration as international life sciences firms and their suppliers plan their global investments. This will be a major boost to Ontario’s life sciences value proposition.”

Industry-leading medicine

Cell and gene therapies are at the forefront of medical innovation and have the potential not just to treat but also to cure many forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes.

Most conventional therapies require treatments to be taken by pill, injection or infusion on a regular basis, and usually, the effect of the treatment stops once the medication is stopped. Medications are typically identical for all patients, having been developed to benefit large groups of people.

Cell and gene therapies can be tailored to the specific patient to deliver therapeutic benefits not seen from traditional medicines. They also have the potential to lead to long-term, even permanent, health benefits following a single treatment versus a lifetime of treatments from traditional medicines.

Support from Invest Ontario

Invest Ontario is loaning up to $40 million to OmniaBio, contributing to an overall project investment of over $580 million, creating 250 jobs by 2031. The agency’s mandate is to attract and secure business investments that create jobs and generate financial returns for the province.

“Invest Ontario was established to provide the expertise and flexibility needed to execute customized deals that can have a transformative impact on Ontario’s economy and key industry sectors,” says Trevor Dauphinee, CEO of Invest Ontario. “The OmniaBio investment is indicative of such an opportunity, and our team was pleased to collaborate with our project partners to facilitate this pivotal life sciences project.”

Photo of the announcement event
OmniaBio announcement event at McMaster Innovation Park (March 31, 2022).

Invest Ontario will also be providing non-financial support to OmniaBio, including helping the company meet its future talent needs and promoting opportunities to enhance local skills development partnerships.

Life Sciences Strategy bolsters Ontario’s biotech value proposition

The OmniaBio investment supports Ontario’s new Life Sciences Strategy, which will advance the province’s leadership as a North American life sciences hub offering a collaborative ecosystem for the development, commercialization and adoption of innovative health products and services.

Ontario is home to a cluster of multinational and homegrown life sciences companies, top-ranked institutions, researchers and developers.

  • Ontario’s life sciences sector is the largest in Canada (representing more than 50% of related economic activity) and comprises about 1,900 firms employing around 66,000 people.
  • Ontario’s 44 public universities and colleges produce 63,500 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates each year, accounting for 47.7% of Canadian STEM graduates.
  • Ontario’s R&D tax credits are among the most generous of the OECD countries: the after-tax cost of a $100 R&D expenditure is reduced to $55 for large manufacturers and $47 for SME manufacturers. Canadian-controlled private companies conducting R&D at eligible Ontario research institutes can reduce the $100 R&D expenditure to $32.

Looking ahead to the future

“Ontario’s world-class life sciences supply chain and established strengths in regenerative medicine will place the province at the forefront of medicine for the next 50 years,” says May. “The teams at CCRM and OmniaBio look forward to working with our industry partners as we embark on this exciting and important journey.”

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