Karen Mossman Headshot
Karen Mossman
Vice President, Research - McMaster University
Part of the Hamilton’s Emerging Life Sciences Sector

Collaboration in Hamilton’s Life Science Sector

Takeaways

  1. Hamilton’s size enables it to facilitate all kinds of collaborations between key players in the life sciences, from universities to hospital networks.
  2. Hamilton is strategically located with close proximity to the US, but also to other key university cities in Ontario, enabling key partnerships.
  3. The McMaster Innovation Park in Hamilton facilitates collaborations and partnerships between innovative companies in the life sciences.

Action

Innovative researchers and companies have been able to capitalize on Hamilton’s size and location to turn the city into a global hub for the life sciences. With impressive hospital networks, research-intensive universities, and a burgeoning private sector, Hamilton is set to produce some key innovations for the sector.


How would you characterize the Canadian life sciences sector, and how do you see it evolving?  

As a direct result of investment in people, research, and infrastructure through a variety of different funding and partnership programs, Canada is better positioned than it ever has been to take its place on the world stage as a global leader in the health sciences. Canada has built a national capacity in both basic research and applied research, which has practical or commercial objectives. We have the requisite partnership and incentive programs in place to allow academic institutions and researchers to work alongside industry to ensure our research outcomes are placed in the hands of those who can best put it to use. That allows Canada to drive innovation, train the next generation, and advance our global leadership position.


What are Hamilton’s strengths in the life sciences sector?

Hamilton is home to world-class and fully integrated education, research, and healthcare institutions. This is what provides businesses with immediate access to talent and state-of-the-art infrastructure. That integration piece is facilitated by the size of Hamilton. It is in its own Goldilocks environment. Hamilton is big enough for critical mass and yet, small enough that it really is a community that allows for those interactions to take place. It is home to the country’s most research-intensive university, McMaster University, and one of the strongest hospital networks in the country, which is also a global leader in clinical trials.

“The McMaster Innovation Park gives researchers a natural pathway to commercialization and the necessary infrastructure to spin out their research.”

We have created a really great innovation ecosystem centred at McMaster Innovation Park (MIP), the core of one of Ontario’s fastest-growing life sciences hubs. The McMaster Innovation Park gives researchers a natural pathway to commercialization and the necessary infrastructure to spin out their research to create startups and scale-ups. This also facilitates international companies entering the Canadian and North American markets. 

It will be the headquarters of Canada’s Global Nexus for Pandemics and Biological Threats. This further connects MIP to universities, research institutes, public health agencies, government at all levels, industry labs, and not-for-profits. This will really be a game-changer in our ability to attract and retain industry and all of the talent associated with that.

It is not just the size of Hamilton but also its location that is key to our success. Hamilton is at the heart of a globally-renowned health innovation corridor that stretches from Toronto to Buffalo. We are a gateway to the United States and global markets. We have land, rail, air, and water infrastructure, so Hamilton is the perfect size and has the perfect location.


Who are the main players in Hamilton’s life sciences ecosystem and how do they collaborate?

It is not an accident that Hamilton is a leader in life sciences research. There has been a deliberate focus on that collective strength and a strategic plan for action. This does not only involve McMaster University but also colleges such as Mohawk College, research institutes at our hospitals, the City of Hamilton itself, and MIP. The collective strength of all the stakeholders in Hamilton’s life sciences ecosystem makes for an environment that welcomes, explores, and advances new technologies. We are really fortunate that within Hamilton, we have McMaster, Mohawk College, and other research institutes, but within about an hour’s drive of us are a number of other leading universities and colleges that we collaborate with: Waterloo, Toronto, Western, Guelph. Collaborations with universities in other jurisdictions allow for the creation of world-class academic and research programs that ensure we are graduating highly qualified people that are immediately prepared for the workforce.

“In the life sciences, collaborative efforts are what really allow us to have an impact.”

It is a very complementary system too. The collaboration between just Mohawk College, McMaster, and the University of Guelph has provided a fulsome continuum between real hands-on practical approaches, a health science perspective from McMaster, and an animal health perspective from Guelph. When you think about life sciences in a one-health approach, it becomes clear that in the life sciences, collaborative efforts are what really allow us to have an impact not just within Hamilton but also within Southern Ontario.

What is the availability of executive talent in Hamilton’s life sciences sector? 

In addition to providing that expertise from McMaster’s Business School, we have developed a growing need to be multidisciplinary within Hamilton’s life sciences sector. We train our students not just to have expertise in one area but to have expertise, for example, in the life sciences, health sciences, and research, but also the business, commercialization, and management side. We have been working on programs that are shared between the Faculty of Health Science and the Department of Biochemistry and our business school so that we can train our students not just in the life and health sciences but also in aspects of entrepreneurship, management, and commercialization.


How does the relationship between Hamilton’s academic institutions and the private sector impact foreign investment in the space? 

Partnerships are in McMaster’s DNA. It is what we do and we do it really well locally, nationally, and globally. We continue to outpace all of our peers across the country in our ability to attract corporate funding because of our reputation as a trusted and reliable partner. We have deep expertise in the McMaster Industry Liaison Office where our seasoned business development professionals really focus on creating and identifying opportunities for industry collaborations. They have extensive knowledge on funding and incentive programs to advance innovative research and development partnerships.

The heart of this for both the university and city is McMaster Innovation Park. It is the core of Ontario’s fastest-growing life sciences hub. It is where we have our spinoff companies such as Fusion Pharmaceuticals, Triumvira Immunologics, and Century Therapeutics Canada. These companies and many others not only get their start there, but they are committed to staying and being part of the McMaster community and the city’s robust life sciences sector.


What would you pitch to foreign investors in the life sciences to consider Hamilton as their next investment destination? 

Hamilton is the go-to place for growing life sciences companies. It is loaded with opportunities, talent, and infrastructure. Hamilton is home to unmatched hospital networks, world-leading academic institutions, and a solid and ever-growing base of private sector life sciences companies, both large and small, in Canada’s premier research university and innovation park, McMaster Innovation Park. It is creative, fun, diverse, and multicultural and that gives the city a competitive edge with access to global markets and a highly educated workforce. It is a great place to live, work, and play, and it is why I have been here for 20 years.

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Karen Mossman Headshot
Karen Mossman
Vice President, Research - McMaster University

Bio: Karen Mossman is the Vice-President of Research for McMaster University. She is also a professor in pathology and molecular medicine, and prior to joining the Office of the Vice-President, Research, she was the chair of biochemistry and biomedical sciences at the university. Altogether, she has had a two-decade-long career at McMaster. She is also a Fellow at the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences

Organization Profile: McMaster University is a public research university in Hamilton, Ontario. It is a member of the U15, a group of research-intensive universities in Canada. In 2018, Research Infosource named McMaster as the most research-intensive university in the country with an average sponsored research income of C$434,700 per faculty member in 2017, the highest average in the country.