Bullish on Ontario's life sciences sector, Canadian founder of Intercept Pharmaceuticals opens new office in Toronto area

Fourteen years ago, Intercept Pharmaceuticals CEO and Toronto native Dr. Mark Pruzanski was struggling to make ends meet. Having just started an innovative pharmaceutical company from his living room, Pruzanski had less than five dollars left in his chequing account. A decade and a half later, Pruzanski leads Intercept, a rapidly-growing company focused on the development and commercialization of specific chemistry to target liver and metabolic diseases with an unmet therapeutic need.

From lean start-up to $3-billion biotech firm, regeneration a key theme for company

Under Pruzanski's leadership, Intercept is a company focused on the idea of regeneration. Their treatments focus on the restorative power of the liver, but this theme doesn't end there; Intercept has made regeneration the centre of their corporate culture. Across the world, they have built operations that focus on harnessing innovation to meet the needs of liver patients.

Leaders in treatments for progressive non-viral liver diseases

Beginning in 2002, the company developed obeticholic acid (OCA), a synthetic bile acid with a novel mechanism of action that helps amplify the regenerative capacity of the liver. Available in the United States and recently recommended for approval in the European Union, OCA has been submitted to Health Canada as a priority-review New Drug Submission for the treatment of Primary Biliary Cholangitis (PBC), a progressive, non-alcoholic liver disease that primarily affects middle-aged women. A decision is expected in 2017.

Toronto has potential to rival the best in the U.S.

"I have often said there is no reason why Toronto can't have a biotech hub that is on par with the best in the U.S. All of the raw materials are here,” Pruzanski told CBC News. “I am optimistic," he continued. "I think Canada, increasingly, is going to be a major player in the biotech industry."

Disclaimer: this video links to a third party source. This video is not hosted by the Government of Ontario and there may not be a French version or transcripts available.

'Bringing Intercept Home'

In September, Intercept celebrated the launch of their Canadian corporate office. Based in Mississauga, the Greater Toronto Area's thriving life sciences community, Intercept has a team of sixteen employees focused on bringing treatments for liver diseases to Canadian patients.

"Establishing a Canadian affiliate has been an important priority for our organization. Canada has a favorable regulatory environment and a wealth of thought-leaders who continue to play a significant role in advancing clinical research in liver disease, and PBC in particular" said Canadian General Manager Brian Canestraro. As Intercept planned for growth, Mark and his team have kept Canada in their sights as they developed OCA and progressed through the regulatory processes with the FDA and EMA.

"As we looked to expand, Ontario was a natural fit." Canestraro cited Pruzanski's roots, Mississauga's booming life sciences sector, the wealth of clinical leadership in Toronto and Ontario's innovation agenda as key reasons to locate within the province. "It was truly an easy decision. We're extremely happy to be a part of Ontario's life sciences community."

Learn more about Canada's largest centre of life sciences activity


November 4, 2016

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