The growing cell therapy and point-of-care diagnostics industries are expected to generate annual global revenues of $10 billion and $27 billion, respectively, by 2021. Recognizing this, Fraunhofer knew the key to success was to develop strategic partnerships that would fuel growth rapidly. This lead to the creation of the McMaster-Fraunhofer Project Centre for Biomedical Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing (BEAM) in Hamilton, Ontario. Moreover, by contributing $4 million toward this initiative, Ontario reinforced its commitment to establish an environment of innovation that fosters strategic partnerships.

Because of Ontario's competitive business costs, research and development (R&D) leadership, and strong culture of innovation, global leaders are clamouring to be a part of this emerging life sciences hub.

The challenge

Changing the future course of medicine and significantly lowering the cost of diagnosing and treating various diseases takes an immense amount of dedication, investment and partnership. The revenue in the cell therapies and point-of-care diagnostics industries will only continue to soar, but to tap into this potential, Fraunhofer needed the ability to easily establish operations and develop key partnerships within a framework of mutual innovation – and thus develop viable and profitable commercialization projects.

BEAM announcement at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario
From left to right, Mo Elbestawi, Vice-President, Research and International Affairs, McMaster University, Robert Pasuta, Hamilton City Councillor, Ted McMeekin, MPP for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, Dr. Eric Hoskins, Former Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment, Patrick Deane, President, McMaster University and Christopher Oelkrug, Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology at the McMaster-Fraunhofer Project Centre for BEAM announcement at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. (Photo: Ron Scheffler)


A researcher performs a test
A researcher performs a test at the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology in Leipzig, Germany.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology (IZI) is a global leader in developing, optimizing and validating unique methods and products for drugs, cell therapy, diagnostics and biobanks. IZI is one of over 80 Fraunhofer institutes, and the Fraunhofer Society has an annual research budget of $2.3 billion and inventions such as the MP3 player to its credit.

The Fraunhofer Society also recently launched the Fraunhofer Project Centre for Composites Research at the University of Western Ontario, a $24-million initiative that will accelerate green automotive research.

McMaster University has a rich history of R&D in the life sciences and bioengineering fields, producing talented, top-notch leaders who are ready for work.

"McMaster is a research powerhouse in life sciences and bioengineering," says Dr. Patrick Deane, president and vice chancellor of McMaster University. "The province's investment will allow us to capitalize on our talent and resources to accelerate the commercialization of our research for the global market."


Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology successfully partnered with McMaster University to form BEAM, and plans are now underway to build a $20-million, state-of-the-art, 40,000-square-foot facility at McMaster Innovation Park. The partnership will generate groundbreaking technologies to systematize production for cell therapies, significantly lowering the cost to treat degenerative diseases such as cancer. It will also develop new point-of-care diagnostics and advanced manufacturing methods to rapidly move these to the marketplace. It will promote partnerships and R&D collaborations that will benefit the medical industry worldwide.

Professor Frank Emmrich, director of the Fraunhofer Project Centre, states that he and his team are more than impressed by the industrial and research capabilities in biotechnology that Ontario has to offer.

"We appreciate the continuous support by the provincial government in realizing the importance of the joint project centre," says Emmrich. "And we are grateful for their support to ensure a beneficial and successful future."

Why Ontario?

Lower business costs

Ontario's low business costs are among the province's greatest business advantages. Its costs are the lowest in the G7 for R&D intensive sectors. Ontario also offers North America's most competitive corporate tax rates. The marginal effective tax rate of 16.6% on new capital investment (provincial and federal) is lower than the U.S. and OECD averages. Plus, combined with federal R&D programs, Ontario's R&D tax program can reduce your after-tax cost of every $100 in R&D spending to between $61 and $37.

The best educated workforce

Ontario has one of the world's best-educated workforces. Nearly two-thirds of the province's workforce has a post-secondary education, which puts it ahead of other countries including the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France and Japan. Each year, Ontario universities produce thousands of talented graduates prepared to fill professional jobs in the life sciences industry. The province's exceptional workforce is a result of its esteemed province-wide, post-secondary system of universities and colleges.

McMaster University researchers hard at work
McMaster University researchers hard at work at one of the university’s labs in Hamilton, Ontario.

A life sciences hotbed

When it comes to Ontario's staying power and potential in the life sciences industry, the facts are beyond impressive. The province is now home to over 1,600 firms, and the industry is armed with well over 51,000 professionally trained workers with degrees in the life sciences. Even more impressive is that the Ontario life sciences industry generates an impressive $37 billion in annual revenues.

The world's top 10 pharmaceutical companies conduct clinical trials here, and more than 50% of the total Canadian life sciences economic activity is in Ontario. Twenty-four academic research hospitals invest more than $1 billion annually in R&D, which directly generates over $3 billion of spin-off economic activity and employment.

Ontario is also home to seven of the country's top 10 research hospitals. In Ontario, you can efficiently establish your business and quickly grow without building from the ground up. Better yet, Ontario's proximity to the U.S. offers access to the world's largest healthcare market.

The development of BEAM is garnering the world's attention; three German biotech companies have already expressed interest in transferring to Ontario. Their goals are to be close to the new facility and to work directly with leading researchers. Their initiative is a persuasive example of the growing interest of firms who see the unique investment opportunities Ontario offers. If Fraunhofer is any example of the immense potential for developing big ideas in Ontario, the life sciences world needs to take notice of this innovative hotbed.


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