IN VIVO- Montreal’s Life Science Cluster
Montreal’s what? My thoughts exactly. But an informative and interesting one hour presentation last September 21st clarified it for me and one hundred of my industry colleagues. Chaired by André Marcheterre, the newly-retired president of Merck Frosst, the small group of speakers included, Camille Gagnon, president of Innovitech, Michel LeBlanc, Vice-President Grappe des sciences de la vie Montreal International and Martin LeBlanc, executive vice-president of Caprion Pharmaceuticals and co-founder of IN VIVO.
Mr. Marcheterre began by first explaining what a ‘cluster’ is: a group linked by commonalities that count proximity, connections and synergy as its founding pillars. In the case of Montreal’s IN VIVO, it is a collection of pharma companies both big and small, biotech, medical devices and instruments, CROs and hospitals. The cluster combines municipal, provincial, federal governments and the private sector who work together as equal partners in a delicate ecosystem to promote life sciences in Montreal.
And how does Montreal’s IN VIVO compare to other life science clusters around the world? According to Mr. Camille Gagnon, Montreal currently rests at number eight in North America, behind San Francisco, Boston, Minnesota and, surprising to many in the room, Florida, which boasts the fastest growing cluster of all right now. Although Montreal may not have the sunny weather to attract talent, we do have teaching hospitals and four universities which increase our value as a high interest research life science locale. But are we really leveraging our city’s assets to not only retain our talent but attract more of it? We do need to be more competitive worldwide because, as Mr Gagnon stated, “At the end of the day, clusters are people, not buildings.”
How do we keep the momentum going? Mr. Michel Leblanc points out that building up all aspects of the cluster are important. A solid core of innovative pharma multinationals at the forefront of research and development, all the way to large companies investing in the commercialization of products are a must (as opposed to only manufacturing products).
We have it all in Montreal- big and small pharma, R&D institutions, universities, hospitals and treatment institutions. We’ve had a poor history of using our local assets, and that’s a shame because with four universities there is a strong tie to the private sector just begging to be leveraged. In the past, government run clusters have failed; the private sector is the real driver.
What’s around the corner for Montreal? Where do we go next? Mr. Martin Leblanc tackled these questions. IN VIVO is a vibrant life sciences cluster, well established and functional. We have an active representation from all the clusters sections and it has a recognized role. Now IN VIVO must adopt an autonomous, self-governing structure with a focus on strategy. It must be more tailored to the needs of the private sector with membership and increased participation from industry leaders.
For more information click on www.montreal-invivo.com
By Carrie Dandy