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While Calgary is widely known as a leader within the energy sector, it is also emerging as a lead innovator in the life sciences sector.

Currently over 88 life sciences companies call Calgary home. Calgary’s life sciences sector is experiencing exponential growth in capital investment with $400 million raised in 2016. Research and development in the life sciences sector is also on the rise and it is believed that the sector grew by 49 per cent in health, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals in 2018.

Calgary life sciences companies work with Alberta Health Services’ integrated healthcare system that is Canada’s first and largest province-wide healthcare system. The system serves 4.3 million patients and is one of the most comprehensive and culturally diverse data sets in the world.

Calgary is also host to world class assets including the International Microbiome Centre, one of the largest germ free facilities in the world; the new Calgary Cancer Centre, the largest cancer centre in Canada and the second largest in North America; and Ward of the 21st Century, the only hospital “living lab” in Canada. Additionally, the University of Calgary’s new Life Sciences Innovation Hub, set to open in July 2019, will provide state-of-the-art research facilities, expertise, and startup services to help companies deliver commercially-viable products and services to market.

Here are three additional innovations happening now in Calgary’s life sciences industry:

1. Autoimmune disease research

Calgary-based company, Parvus Therapeutics is on the forefront of developing and commercializing new treatments for autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease after signing a $1 billion deal with Genentech, a San Francisco-based biotechnology company.

In collaborating with Genentech, Parvus Therapeutics plans to continue with the development of the investigational treatment, called Navacims, that will work to prevent an individual’s immune system from mistakenly attacking healthy cells in the body, which can result in one of more than 80 autoimmune diseases affecting millions of Canadians.

2. Medical technologies

Orpyx, a Calgary-based company, is looking to become a world leader in innovating and developing wearable technologies that provide an improved quality of life for people living with diabetes.

People living with diabetes may experience nerve damage and a loss of sensation in their feet as a long-term complication of having high blood sugar levels. Orpyx’s SurroSense Rx system is a wearable sensor platform that empowers people living with diabetes to maintain mobility and helps prevent foot ulcers and limb loss.

3. Cannabis research

The Government of Canada selected the University of Calgary to conduct three cannabis research projects as part of a $24.5 million initiative from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and partners. The funding includes support for 26 projects across the country that will explore the potential harms and therapeutic uses of cannabis, and policy evaluation research.

The three cannabis research projects to be conducted at the University of Calgary focus on developing harm reduction messages targeting youth from marginalized communities, researching the use of cannabis for the prevention of chronic migraines and headaches, and exploring treatment options for hyperemesis syndrome, a disorder where patients experience severe reactions to cannabis use.

As the city persists in supporting and embracing innovation, Calgary’s life sciences sector will continue to grow and thrive.


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