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Life sciences in British Columbia

In April 2023, the Government of British Columbia announced its new B.C. Life Sciences and Biomanufacturing Strategy under the StrongerBC Economic Plan, to position B.C. as a global hub for life sciences and biomanufacturing.

Since then, the Province has made several strides in advancing this strategy, including funding health and genome research, investing in new wet lab facilities, announcing the construction of a National Biomanufacturing Training Centre (NBTC), and co-investing alongside the Government of Canada and industry to build new capabilities and infrastructure for drug development and clinical research in B.C.

More recently this month, we had the largest-ever B.C. delegation — led by Life Sciences BC and the Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation — at the BIO International Convention, one of the world’s largest gathering of biotechnology companies. InBC’s CEO, Jill Earthy, attended as part of the B.C. delegation, to share about InBC and how we are investing in life sciences companies with strong connections to B.C.

Why life sciences in B.C.?

British Columbia is home to the fastest growing life sciences sector in Canada, comprised of over 2,200 companies employing over 19,000 individuals and growing. The COVID-19 pandemic boosted the sector — it accelerated innovation, highlighted its importance and earned B.C. international recognition — and this trend is set to continue. In the market, we can observe a steady increase in venture capital investment in life sciences since 2014.

Despite these promising outlooks, early-stage life sciences companies lack access to the investment capital required for them to scale up compared to companies in traditional industries. Several factors play into this, including the sector’s inherently higher risk (but higher return) profile, the deep technical expertise required for investors to make decisions and the longer than average timeline to profitability and return on investment.

Black pharmacist helping elderly woman

InBC’s role in advancing life sciences in B.C.

As a source of local, long-term capital for B.C.-based companies, InBC has a valuable role to play in addressing this gap to support life sciences innovation in the province. InBC was created by the Government of British Columbia to attract, retain and grow companies, to drive innovation, create quality jobs and retain talent and intellectual property.

Access to local funding is essential to companies staying in the province, to ensure the economic and social benefits they generate benefit British Columbians. Our investment into life sciences companies and venture funds will work in tandem with the priorities of the Province, building on the provincial strategy’s momentum. This collective effort will scale our impact and drive greater growth of the sector in B.C.

How will InBC invest in life sciences?

Investing in life sciences aligns with two of InBC’s four impact objectives. InBC had identified the sector as an investment area under our objective to Innovate for the Future. It also overlaps with several verticals under our impact objective to Elevate Inclusive Communities, such as investing in the care economy, health and well-being for diverse communities, and inclusive and accessible products and solutions.

Early-stage life sciences companies are generally pre-revenue and carry a higher degree of risk. While InBC does consider direct investment into life sciences companies, our investments will primarily be in venture funds who specialize in the sector. These fund managers have the technical expertise and industry knowledge to make well informed investment decisions, and to effectively support the scale-up of the companies in their portfolios.

What is life sciences?

Life sciences is a broad field involving the scientific study of living organisms. The sector plays a critical role in advancing our understanding of human health and diseases, and in developing new treatments and cures. The innovations developed by the sector have many real-world applications to health, medicine and pharmaceuticals.

Within the field, we consider the core pillars of the sector as well as emerging areas:

Core Pillars
Emerging Areas
Artificial Intelligence & Machine LearningQuantum Biotechnology

Life sciences companies and funds seeking investment

Are you an innovative life sciences company, or venture fund who invests in life sciences companies, looking for investment to support your scale up? Learn about our investment criteria and impact objectives and consider submitting your information through our website to be reviewed by our investment team.