Alex Muggah headshot
Alex Muggah
Director - Synapse Life Science Consortium
Part of the Hamilton’s Emerging Life Sciences Sector

Life Science Product Evaluation Capabilities in Hamilton

Takeaways

  1. With access to a wide network of world-class hospitals, Hamilton’s life science businesses can easily test and evaluate their products.
  2. Hamilton’s perfect size allows it to easily facilitate collaborations between key stakeholders while still being highly attractive to talent and families.
  3. Hamilton’s major academic institutions have a strong focus on the life sciences, producing graduates who have gone through specialized programs designed for the sector.

Action

Hamilton’s ability to facilitate product testing and evaluation is unmatched by anywhere else, giving its companies a leading edge. This direct access to clinical trials and collaborations with other key stakeholders allow companies here to enjoy success early on, readying them for the global market.


What is the Synapse Life Science Consortium and how does it fit into Hamilton’s life science ecosystem?

Synapse’s mission is to create an ecosystem to attract investment and develop health innovation for global export, with a focus on supporting the infrastructure, institutions, and organizations here in the Hamilton region. Synapse acts as a strategic broker, helping to facilitate relationships and connections to help catalyze the commercialization of health innovation. We do that through a series of methods, including direct connections and facilitating collaborations and cooperative programs, as well as running initiatives designed to support companies as they go through their commercialization journey, helping to take technology and innovation out of the lab and into the market.


What are Hamilton’s competitive advantages for attracting foreign investment in the life sciences sector? 

Hamilton has a significant number of strengths and capabilities that would make it an attractive destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) and companies looking to find a launchpad into the Canadian market. Hamilton has significant expertise in clinical trials and evaluations, as well as digital health, medical devices, and radiopharmaceuticals. This builds on a strong foundation of applied research capabilities housed within our universities and hospitals. We work with hundreds of companies every year to test and evaluate products in the market. Our expertise in this space is demonstrated by organizations like the Population Health Research Institute, which conducts clinical trials in 98 countries around the world, some of which have hundreds of thousands of participants.

In the area of radiopharmaceuticals, we have McMaster University’s Nuclear Reactor and in collaboration with the Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization (CPDC), we have spun out companies like Fusion Pharmaceuticals, which was the second-largest biotech initial public offering (IPO) in Canadian history. Our expertise in digital health is represented by organizations like CentRE for dAta science and digiTal hEalth (CREATE) and mHealth & eHealth Development and Innovation Centre (MEDIC), which are helping companies think through the challenges of system integration interoperability as well as the application of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to areas such as remote monitoring, self-care, digital analysis of imaging, and other applications.

“Hamilton is small enough that we can act nimbly in developing collaborative relationships between academia or researchers and industry counterparts.”

Hamilton is a Goldilocks-sized city. We have the capabilities and capacity, infrastructure, expertise, talent, and access to clinical data and patient populations that you would expect to find in any large, global city. Hamilton is small enough that we can act nimbly in developing collaborative relationships between academia or researchers and industry counterparts.

Hamilton promotes a collaborative spirit that allows all companies here to tap into the world-class infrastructure and research capabilities that they need in order to be able to bring products to market and be successful in a highly competitive global environment.


Which area of the life sciences is Hamilton best positioned to lead in? 

One of Hamilton’s greatest strengths and reasons why it is a competitive environment for companies is our capacity around product evaluation and trials. We have significant capabilities to test and evaluate a whole host of products, services, and technologies both in a laboratory and clinical setting. The capability for product evaluations and trials allows companies to secure regulatory approval and first customers in order to launch a product successfully in Canada or in global markets. We see this capability as something that companies would be able to easily access and tap into and we are excited about the prospect of building on relationships with all of the major pharmaceuticals and hundreds of companies that have come to Hamilton to test and evaluate their products. 

We have conducted hundreds of applied research projects over the last few years, helping companies to develop novel technologies and test them in real-life settings. One example is a homegrown technology that was developed at McMaster University. It is a laparoscopic support tool that allows surgeons to scope out in real-time the surgical area that they are looking to act upon. In the event that they move outside of that surgical area, where they might be touching on tissue that is not affected or on a vital organ, the support tool provides feedback to the surgeon, thereby reducing the incidences of errors mid-surgery. This is also an exceptionally useful tool for training and teaching purposes. The company is called Mariner Endosurgery. They developed this product here in Hamilton and were able to test it in a clinical setting at Hamilton Health Sciences.

A significant strength that we are exceptionally excited about in Hamilton is our capabilities around radiopharmaceuticals. In the last 10 years, the CPDC has acted as the locus for a whole host of innovative research and applied technology development in this space. In addition to companies like Fusion Pharmaceuticals, who have developed alpha particles that can target tumor cells with guided missile-like precision, we are also excited about investing in significant manufacturing capabilities in this space with new developments in plan for the McMaster Innovation Park in the coming years.

In addition to Fusion Pharmaceuticals, we also have companies like NuGeneris Specialty Pharmaceuticals, who are looking to develop and build upon our manufacturing capacity in radiopharmaceuticals to serve companies and markets all around the world. 


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

Hamilton sits at the nexus of Southern Ontario’s vibrant life science ecosystem. We are within an hour’s drive of more than 6 million individuals who have Bachelor’s degrees or higher. As a result, we are able to pull in talent from that entire catchment area through the very sophisticated transportation infrastructure that exists in our region.

“Hamilton is home to more than 5,000 scientists and researchers and is host to McMaster University”

In addition, Hamilton is home to more than 5,000 scientists and researchers and is host to McMaster University, which produces hundreds of PhDs and thousands of undergraduates in this space every year, many of which go on to join companies all across Ontario, Canada, and around the world. This talent is something that is actively nurtured and supported through connections like internships and co-ops with companies so that they can identify, hone, develop, and eventually hire the next generation of talent that they require. 

There are two programs that are worth noting—one is McMaster’s Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization Program, which provides training at the nexus of engineering, business, and healthcare so that students can get a sense of all the different aspects and nuances needed to start and support a life science company. In addition, we also have the Master’s in eHealth, which is Canada’s first and only Master’s level program in digital health capabilities, helping to train individuals on system integration and other issues confronting companies that are trying to integrate technology and digital health applications into their solutions.

Finally, I would say that Hamilton is also a fantastic place to grow and raise a family. We have significant space and a beautiful cultural environment. We have all the trappings that one would expect to find in a large city such as arts festivals and theatre to a thriving restaurant district. All of this allows people to come and find an affordable place to raise a family.


What would you pitch to foreign investors in the life sciences as to why they should choose Hamilton?

Hamilton sits at the fulcrum of Southern Ontario’s vibrant life sciences ecosystem, becoming a launchpad for companies to access Canadian and global markets. We are a nimble ecosystem, moving at the speed of business to support companies who are looking to access our world-class infrastructure, expertise, and talent. Hamilton has everything you require to develop a globally competitive life sciences company and we are excited about supporting your venture. We welcome your arrival here in this community.

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Alex Muggah headshot
Alex Muggah
Director - Synapse Life Science Consortium

Bio: Alex Muggah is the Director of the Synapse Life Science Consortium. Before joining the consortium, he was the Director of Reporting at the Massachusetts Health Connector. Prior to that, he was a Manager at Deloitte Consulting where he worked specifically in Strategy and Operations. He was also a Research Associate at the Harvard Business School Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness and a Trade Policy Officer at Global Affairs Canada

Organization Profile: The Synapse Life Science Consortium is the formal regional organization for the life sciences cluster in the Greater Hamilton region. As a not-for-profit focused on creating an ecosystem to attract investment for the commercialization of life science innovation, the consortium now represents 25,000 employees since its founding in 2016.