With the spread of COVID-19 in Quebec and the relaxation of health measures, it is clear that things are almost back to “normal”: no more masks, no vaccine passports, and almost no more physical distancing. Should a new virus spread to our beautiful county, would we really be prepared for a new pandemic?
Posted at 3:00 PM.
If there is one lesson learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is that investing in the life sciences, specifically in people, infrastructure, medicines and vaccines, is at the core of pandemic preparedness. In addition to helping fight COVID-19, these efforts have highlighted the fact that a strong life sciences sector not only better prepares us for a pandemic, but also increases our economic diversification, to provide us with well-paying, recession-resistant jobs. Us more healthy self-reliance.
Recognizing this strategic importance, the federal government has announced investments of $2.2 billion to increase production, research new drugs, and help life sciences companies grow. For its part, the Quebec government has proposed investing $110 million over the next three years to accelerate the sector’s expansion in the province.
Quebec is full of innovative, ready-to-use biopharmaceutical companies and the centers of biopharmaceutical and medical innovation supported by these programs.
Canadian biotechnology company Edesa Biotech is already a successful example of public-private partnerships. Funding from the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) has helped the company rapidly develop a monoclonal antibody treatment against acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), the leading cause of death in COVID-19 patients. This antibody therapy can be quickly made available to physicians working in intensive care units. Preliminary clinical trials have shown that this experimental treatment has already saved many lives, in an exceptional way among the most affected patients.
So how can we better prepare for the next pandemic? Canada and Quebec have already been able to meet this challenge by investing in the life sciences sector. Now we need a commitment from our governments to support our local universities, which are the source of our human capital and new discoveries, to develop scientific discoveries for new treatments and increase our biofabrication capabilities to meet national and international demand.
I hope policy makers will take the right approach to prepare for a pandemic in the future. It is clear that the COVID-19 virus is not going away soon, nor is our willingness and ability to develop a local biotech-based economy to combat it.