- Companies in Prince Edward Island are able to rely on a highly integrated network of companies and support organizations to get started or grow.
- The bioscience sector in Prince Edward Island has benefitted from the participation of global experts in the creation of cutting-edge innovations.
- Companies in Prince Edward Island enjoy access to a great talent pool, thanks to networks that have ensured the proper skilling of employees through collaborations with academia.
With so much of a company’s success being reliant on access to the right networks, as a smaller location, Prince Edward Island is able to offer opportunities for connections that bigger cities cannot. The right connections can help set up a company for access to great talent, partnerships, and markets.
What does BioTraceIT do?
BioTraceIT is an interesting company; we measure pain. Chronic pain affects a third of North America’s population and 20% of the global population, so it is a big problem.
I am very grateful and proud of what the team has accomplished because BioTraceIT can measure pain through wearable technology that applies sensors on the skin. Those sensors detect the electrical signals given off by actual neural pain processing. That neural processing allows us to directly understand an individual’s pain experience. We can see if you have an acute pain response.
In the case of veterinary care, when a veterinarian palpitates a particular area, we can see those changes in actual number values, making it completely objective. We can also see if you were feeling chronically painful and how that changed over time in relation to a drug, treatment regimen, surgery, rehab, or physiotherapy. It is something that we are pleased to be able to share with the healthcare community.
How would you describe Charlottetown’s biosciences sector?
PEI BioAlliance and the biotech sector is a thriving community. It consists of an amazing group of talented individuals who know the market, are technically proficient, and have a very deep level of experience in multiple fields coming at what they do with heart.
When you are a new company looking to grow, the support that you receive is paramount. We have worked with government agencies such as the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) and Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), and individuals such as Marlene Walker from IRAP and Jennifer White from ACOA.
“In PEI, people go out of their way to learn about your projects and figure out how they integrate with the greater picture of Canada’s economy.”
In PEI, people go out of their way to learn about your projects and figure out how they integrate with the greater picture of Canada’s economy. They look into why funding should be made available, which benefits the company and project you are working on as well as Canada as a whole by helping to grow local economies.
That brings me to the next group of people: mentors. We have people who are leaders and visionaries like Rory Francis, as well as individuals who integrate with organizations such as CANHealth and CanExport. These organizations are another major player that has helped us by connecting us to programs, which also connect us to other groups. We are looking to work with CANHealth and we have individuals within different academic institutions throughout Canada who we can work with through that program. As a result, we benefit because we can do more work to show how our product is worthwhile.
Furthermore, because PainTrace can provide so much insight into healthcare, the individuals working with us also learn something new about healthcare, treatment, pain reaction, and chronic pain states, which they would not have been able to without an objective measurement. We would not be able to promote our product or share knowledge with other companies if we were not connected.
How does Charlottetown compare to other international locations as a bioscience hub?
The reality is that it is what I touched on a second ago: family. It is an intimate setting where you get to know the individuals you are working with and gain relationships with them. In a larger setting such as Toronto, that is not necessarily as possible. People can get very busy in Prince Edward Island as well, but the key is that there is a mentality of being a part of each other’s lives. If you engage in that, you not only gain friendships but also get to work with people who have deep knowledge and connections.
There are small and big players on Prince Edward Island. One of the largest animal health companies in the world, Elanco, is located on Prince Edward Island. They are a pretty big player and chose to be on Prince Edward Island. There is a reason for that: for companies that want to work with an A-team, that is exactly what Prince Edward Island offers.
“Individuals that have mass global experience are working together with PEI locals in the province.”
People I have worked with and had as mentors here are not just from Prince Edward Island. One of my mentors, Ken Rotundo, who also does work with Mind Genomics, is originally from Manhattan. He is based in New York, but the reality is that he enjoys the individuals here on PEI and working with them. Individuals that have mass global experience are working together with PEI locals in the province.
Everybody on Prince Edward Island realizes that growing the economy and having successful businesses within the PEI bioscience cluster creates jobs, feeds the economy, and creates a more vibrant community. There are more people in PEI with technical positions that pay well and are rewarding, and that creates a community that everybody wants to live in. Everyone wants that diversity and the people of Prince Edward Island know that.
What is the availability of talent in PEI and what is being done to attract and retain talent in the region?
BioTraceI is a very technical business and we deal with the Internet of Things (IoT). Our product is a medical device that connects via Bluetooth to cloud computing systems that use artificial intelligence (AI). The reality is that we need individuals who are software and hardware engineers and who are very technical. We have a great group of people and we are building.
This goes back to having a network and resources. Vivian Beer is our human resources guru and she is constantly having conversations to figure out who we are hiring and what type of talent we need next. She will then go and find that talent to make sure that we are filling the job requisitions we are putting out. Furthermore, she is also part of a strategy to make sure that there is proper training that companies need for their employees to grow and nurture their skillsets. As a company, we are able to input what we think would be a valuable new skillset, and a subject matter expert will be brought in to train on that. That is open access to companies and their employees.
Is PEI’s biosciences sector here to stay?
The sector already has successes. PEI already has global companies that are a part of the bioscience sector with a lot of technology that is forthcoming and able to be globalized. PainTrace is one such product and there are also other diagnostics. New products and partnerships are constantly being launched.
“Even small companies in PEI are partnering with the largest clinical research organizations around the world.“
Somru BioScience, which is a part of the BioAlliance, just announced that they have formed a partnership with the largest clinical research organization (CRO) in India, Veeda Clinical Research. Even small companies in PEI are partnering with the largest clinical research organizations around the world.
This particular sector has the ability to grow and have lasting power because of the people, the knowledge they have, recruiting companies that are capable, and companies that have something innovative with the possibility to grow globally. Their success will in turn bring back more success and become part of the ecosystem.
What would you say to investors in 30 seconds about PEI as an investment destination?
If you are an investor looking to start a company or invest in a company in Prince Edward Island, take into account that you will have access to deep knowledge, an amazing network, individual attention, and funding. You are a big fish in a little pond. It is really easy to get lost in the shuffle of a big ocean or even drown, but if you are in a small pond, you have the chance to grow into a big fish.