Clinical trials unit will save lives, support innovation
October 18, 2023
VANCOUVER – People in B.C. will soon benefit from increased access to cutting-edge, life-saving medical therapies with a new clinical trials unit (CTU) that will allow life sciences companies and researchers to test their discoveries within the province. The province is investing $4.2 million to create a six-bed unit for Phase 1 clinical trials at Mount Saint Joseph Hospital in Vancouver, which is operated by Providence Health Care, to be operational in late 2024. It will be the only non-cancer Phase 1 CTU in Western Canada.
“Canada is a destination of choice for clinical trials, capturing 4% of the global clinical-trial market,” said Fiona Dalton (pictured), president and chief executive officer, Providence Health Care. “However, Canada and B.C. lack Phase I capacity, resulting in companies having to go abroad to conduct these crucial early trials, which determine whether to continue or terminate development of potential therapeutics. This leads to a substantial loss of economic activity, training opportunities and patient benefits for Canada. We’re delighted that the B.C. government has recognized the economic and societal benefits that early-phase clinical trials bring and is investing in addressing this capacity gap.”
Biotech companies and research institutes will soon have opportunities to conduct Phase 1 clinical trials within B.C. This will benefit B.C.-based patients by allowing participation in trials for new therapeutics they otherwise would not be able to access. This will open doors for B.C.’s biotech companies to create more high-quality jobs and keep crucial intellectual property in the province.
“Strengthening B.C.’s early-stage clinical trials ecosystem will advance life-saving medicines for patients by fostering collaboration between researchers, clinicians and industry experts,” said Anne Stevens, vice-president of business development, AbCellera. “This project will also help position B.C. as a leading destination for clinical trials, which will attract investments and partnerships from global biopharmaceutical companies.”
The province is also providing $2.4 million to the University of British Columbia (UBC) to support the establishment of an endowed research chair focused on accelerating the province’s capacity to design and conduct trials of next-generation therapeutics. The new chair will provide academic leadership for the CTU and lead an integrated research and education program in clinical pharmacology at UBC. The chair will also work to establish a new residency training program in clinical pharmacology that will strengthen the talent pipeline of clinical researchers and clinical trial investigators in the province.
Providence aims to include a purpose-built Phase 1 to 3 clinical trials unit in its plans for the envisioned clinical support and research centre (CSRC) directly adjacent to the new St. Paul’s Hospital at the Jim Pattison Medical Campus. The CSRC will be strategically designed as a dynamic life-sciences ecosystem, proactively driving research and development, strategic partnerships with industry and talent retention.
Michael Smith Health Research BC, the province’s health-research agency, will seek opportunities to leverage and support these initiatives as they contribute to a world-class destination for clinical trials. The agency will contribute an additional $1.2 million.
Expanding B.C.’s clinical trial capacity and capabilities is part of the StrongerBC Economic Plan’s Life Sciences and Biomanufacturing Strategy. The strategy outlines key actions developed in close consultation with industry and academia to position British Columbia as a global hub for life sciences and biomanufacturing, and as a leading centre for commercial-scale biopharmaceutical and medical manufacturing.