October 2016 marked the one-year anniversary of Ipsen Biopharmaceuticals Canada Inc. opening its Canadian headquarters in Mississauga, Ontario. It was a year that saw a series of notable achievements and milestones in support of its ambitious goals.

The company is an affiliate of the Ipsen global biopharmaceutical group. With corporate headquarters in Paris, France, Ipsen sells more than 20 drugs in 115 countries, and has a direct commercial presence in more than 30 countries. It specializes in niche drugs to treat diseases in neurology, endocrinology and urology-oncology. Their sales exceeded €1.4 billion in 2015.

Choosing Ontario was "mainly about the ecosystem"

Lyndal Walker, country manager for Ipsen in Canada, says the company chose Ontario for some carefully considered reasons—mainly, that the province has:

  • strong research-based pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industries
  • leading hospitals with globally recognized clinical research capabilities
  • an international airport with connectivity that is unsurpassed in Canada
Lyndal Walker, country manager, Ipsen Canada
"There are more than 350 health care companies in Mississauga alone," says Walker. "When you consider the ability to recruit talent, to work with key opinion leaders and hospitals, it's important to have access to those people across Canada and in the province of Ontario. We really are impressed with the ecosystem here—it's the strongest in Canada. We see the opportunities, and the commitment by other companies to continue to strengthen that ecosystem."

Ontario's one window approach

Walker was also impressed by how much government encouragement Ipsen received to get started. "Some U.S.-based consultants have outdated information about what it's like to set up in Ontario—the perception is that it can be difficult," says Walker. "But if you work with people in Canada who know the current environment, you'll get credible information around the opportunities. That's where Ipsen did a great job—connecting with provincial and even municipal levels of government, getting our questions answered, understanding what we had to do to succeed."

Twin milestones

Ipsen enjoyed two landmark moments in 2015, opening its Mississauga location around the same time it received its Health Canada approval of Somatuline® Autogel® for the treatment of neuroendocrine tumours, a form of cancer. Somatuline had previously been approved for the treatment of acromegaly, a rare disease caused by an excess of growth hormone.

The company recently received the go-ahead from Health Canada to launch its second drug product in Canada—Dysport Therapeutic™, indicated to treat adult upper limb spasticity as well as cervical dystonia. That product launch is planned for the first quarter of 2017. The company has a number of other products in its drug development pipeline.

An unsurpassed level of talent

After working tirelessly to recruit and hire more than 30 people in Ipsen's first year, Walker has only positive things to say about the level of talent she found in Ontario.

"These are people with graduate or postgraduate degrees, many of whom are multi-year experience in the sector. To hire them in a very short period of time, we had to be aggressive about getting into the channels where they were residing and recruit them," she says. "I consider it to be a great success that we have a fully Canadian employee base."

Ipsen's first—and so far, only—international employee came onboard in October 2016.

Good things ahead

Ipsen Canada is currently putting its efforts into drug development, clinical trials and marketing. Using its parent company's global expertise and leadership, the company aims to commercialize specialty products in endocrinology, oncology, and neuroscience.

"It's been a year of very strong growth, both in terms of Ipsen's commercial position and its research and development efforts,” says Walker who expects Ipsen to grow to 60 employees over the next two years in Canada.

In terms of Ontario's continued support for Ipsen, Walker sees only good things ahead.

"There are a number of initiatives underway to help our industry engage with all government levels across Canada in a comprehensive, meaningful way and we will be part of that conversation" she says. "I think the next few years will be very positive for Ipsen here."

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