Guest Writer: TO Health! Executive Director -Ella Korets-Smith

Boston: The City of Healthcare Innovation Champions

Boston is widely regarded as the worlds leading health science cluster and when visiting the region its easy to see why.

Their bustling biotech ecosystem is build on a foundation of world class research, anchored by large enterprise presence and an ever growing contingent of locally funded start-ups. Those like myself who are active in the health sciences sector know that coming to Boston will necessarily result in strong networking opportunities for leading edge innovators and an active investor driven community.

As part of our efforts to establish the Toronto region as a Top 5 global health cluster, TO Health! is working with various groups in Boston to explore opportunities to reinforce the bridge between our cities while taking stock of how they’ve chartered their course to notoriety over the years.

Rising Tides

One of the organizations that we’re continuing to build a strong relationship is the not-for-profit organization Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio) that represent and provides services and support to the Boston cluster. MassBio is committed to advancing Massachusetts’ leadership position in life sciences in an effort to grow the industry, add value to the healthcare system and impact patient lives (www.massbio.org).

What’s interesting to note is that although substantial as a cluster, Boston is realizing that their growth potential is inextricably linked to the growth of the sector as a whole. With that insight in mind, MassBio’s has realigned their goal to include a facilitation effort to grow the global industry. One of the regions they’re actively looking at supporting is our very own Toronto region. There is a lot of interest from our neighbours to the south to build off our recognized strengths in research, regenerative medicine, medical device products and digital health domains.

With all that being said, its important for Toronto companies to proactively engage with various entities in Boston and take advantage of programs, activities and events that could benefit their organization.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share some of the insight gathered from events we attended that can be serve as launching point for Toronto companies to engage and discover the multitude of opportunities at hand.

Insights from Events in Boston

MassBio’s Roche Diagnostics Day

The Roche Diagnostics management team from Basel came down to Boston to open a Partnership Hub. Roche Diagnostics now has a representative in Boston who will serve as the connection between companies on the East coast (including Toronto) and the technology scouting teams at their headquarters in Basel. From the presentations by the team, it became clear that there is a lot of interest from Roche in novel targets and biomarkers as well as new platforms with unique medical utility. The Roche team stressed that the diagnostics business is quite different than therapeutics one where margins are narrower and returns are smaller. Interested Startup ventures & entrepreneurs are encouraged to be realistic about their timelines towards financial returns and focus on working with the appropriate partners at the right time to get guidance on where to go next.

RESI Boston

MaRS/TO Health! were invited to participate as an one of 30 exhibitors at RESI Boston this year. The conference was held at Westin Copley Place, with ~800 people attending. The RESI conference boasts a significant attendance from investors and serves as both a meeting place for early stage companies with investors as well as a networking opportunity between investors. This is a very powerful combination and a niche filled by Life Science Nation (LSN), organizers of RESI.

Incredibly, nearly 1300 one-on-one investor meetings held on the day.

The agenda for the conference had a number of great panels and speakers as well as the usual Innovation Challenge competition. The inaugural RESI on MaRS, held in June this year, brought 575 people to Toronto and 768 one-on-one meetings were held therein.

BioPharm America 2016Partnerships are often the precursor to funding and as such, this conference is an important venue for Toronto region companies. The conference focuses on partnering opportunities with large pharma groups around the world. TO Health! was a Supporter of the conference, offering groups in the region a $200 discount on admission if they used our special discount code.During the conference we met with a variety of countries and cluster groups like ours to start building bridges and networks with other clusters.

TO Health! engaged with potentials partners in Japan, Singapore, Scotland, France and the US.We’re working hard to establish and build these global relationships that can help bridge activities, programs and dialogue with these and other cluster organizations.

CTA and CENE

The Canadian Trade Accelerator (CTA) program has recently announced its fall cohort of companies (http://www.thecene.org/cta) . Working with the Canadian Entrepreneurs of New England (CENE), this program helps Canadian companies get connected into the Boston cluster, build out their companies through mentorship or find customers and clients in the US. The CENE is composed of accomplished Canadian executives, entrepreneurs and investors. Charter Members help to advance Canadian entrepreneurship by mentoring promising companies and guiding them towards resources and partnerships in the industry. (www.thecene.org) .

Both the CTA and CENE are a resource for Canadian companies to tap into and TO Health! is considering programs that would further utilize this resource for the benefit of the region.