Pharmaceutical industry: in pursuit of R&D

  • By Sirena Baudin
    • Nov 09, 2022
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The pharmaceutical industry in Canada is one of the most innovative and growing sectors, involving the creation and/or modification of drugs. It is even the 9th largest market in the world. The industry’s players are companies of all sizes, from different sub-industries such as biopharmaceuticals, medical device manufacturing, or animal health.

Research and development networks are recognized worldwide; pharmaceutical companies are among the biggest spenders on research and development, with multinationals being the biggest spenders on production (they invest about 10% of their sales revenues). In Montreal, for example, there are some big names such as Abbott, Bristol, Smith Kline and French, and Pharma-Research. In 2021, Sanofi announced a $925 million investment in its vaccine manufacturing facility in Toronto.

Since the end of the 20th century, there has been a significant increase in R&D spending in the pharmaceutical industry in Canada. Research infosource informs us that “the pharmaceutical industry ranks second only to the Software and Computer Services and Energy/Oil and Gas sectors in terms of R&D intensity”.

There are two sources of funding available to companies: government funds and the private sector. There is a significant difference in the types of work that the two sectors support in Canada.

Since Covid, the pharmaceutical industry has experienced a leap in scientific advances. R&D costs have increased due to complex clinical studies and longer clinical trials resulting in shorter patented products on the market.  However, the dominance of multinationals in Canada in R&D investment has made the country an importer of intellectual property.

Biolyse Pharma Corporation and PnuVax are collaborating on the mass production of a vaccine to combat monkeypox.

The pharmaceutical industry covers many areas of research, for example on probiotics, or improving the health of the elderly with regard to diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer, etc. But pharmacology extends to a much broader level. Here are some examples:

  • Since the legalization of Cannabis in Canada in 2018, the discussion around clinical trials is very present on the territory. The interest would be to be able to test its medicinal properties in a regulated way. The current process is criticized by many researchers who would like a facilitated obtaining of research licenses in order to start studying the use of cannabis in certain situations, for example in terms of safety on humans.
  • Canada is also recognized for its tobacco control efforts through various regulations and actions against tobacco-containing products. The Government of Canada states that “as part of Canada’s Tobacco Control Strategy, we are reinvesting in science and building an evidence base to support all of our actions. A new smoking cessation tool was introduced at the Pharma U trade show in Toronto in April, demonstrating how the interaction between medications and tobacco smoke can have a significant impact on consumers.

The pharmaceutical industry is not only driving R&D but also job growth, with an increase of more than 15% in recent years. Among others, Sanofi is planning to hire more than 100 AI technology employees in 2022 in its Toronto center, a number that is expected to double by 2025.

Although the majority of funding in the pharmaceutical field is for research and development, there are many government programs to support the life sciences industry. For example, we can mention the C3i in the case of large machinery acquisitions, or CanExport in the case of export of activities.

Recently, a call for proposals for organizations offering incubation and acceleration services in life sciences was launched in Quebec, with a deadline of October 28, 2022 ( The contribution can be up to $500,000 per year per organization.

The Business Scalup program is also still open across the provinces and focuses on life sciences.

Although the pharmaceutical industry is a major R&D hub in Canada, there is still much to be done in this field and there are many opportunities for innovation. Government funding is available to help companies develop their clinical trials and thus encourage the expansion of research, as well as the creation of highly qualified jobs.

Sources :


Sirena Baudin
Sirena Baudin

Marketing executive / Office manager

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