The panel was split into two different discussions — biotech and device/digital Health — with each group addressing how their ventures are building, scaling and hiring, and tackling adoption challenges today, and what that means to the Canadian and the global healthcare ecosystem.
Starting with the biotech panel, Michael opened the discussion about challenges in scaling a business across three areas: recruiting for Phase 3 trials, finding lab space, and identifying talent of experienced teams to lead start-ups. So, what are the solutions? Executives must implement processes and procedures to grow talent along with their companies. In addition to addressing the labor shortage, we should not be afraid to take advantage of the new remote workforce. Use technology tools such as Zoom and other online communication forums to recruit talent in different regions of the world.
The pandemic also taught us resiliency and the art of the possible — where timelines from discovery to clinical trial shrunk and we saw unprecedented public/private partnerships. New processes can help make advancements sustainable for the future. Companies are learning how to adjust risk tolerance as they make decisions along their growth path.
The second panel, comprising leaders in digital health and devices, addressed how the Canadian healthcare ecosystem is booming. Not only are vendors more willing to embrace innovators and bring them to market, but we’re seeing more movement on the policy side, with the Ontario Privacy Law, for example. There is an appetite for companies to engage with healthcare operators, including Medchart, where we are applying the power of patient authorization for services, apps, and systems to access data for business beyond care.
Similar to the biotech panel, we discussed how funding has been greatly accelerated during the pandemic, but noted that companies should be sure to have money from the right types of people. When asked about Medchart’s move to the U.S., I shared with the group how quickly we are scaling and growing at our headquarters in Dallas, Texas, and that this growth over the last five years has been primarily based on the development of standardized agreements between healthcare and business entities.
One of the panelists discussed a fantastic initiative that is helping to strengthen collaboration between regions in Canada — the recent extension of the CAN Health Network project in Ontario, which brings the total support to a hefty $6.75 million and 25 companies to bring healthcare solutions to market. Working with the Atlantic innovation ecosystem, CAN Health identifies promising Atlantic companies to partner on commercialization projects through an open and transparent procurement process to bring innovative solutions that are developed in Atlantic Canada to scale across Canada and abroad.
The group also talked about hiring skilled talent — specifically tips for developing, recruiting, and retaining good people. We all agreed there are amazing scientists and engineers coming out of universities who want to tackle problems and do work on what matters to help the community and society.
Funding is always a hot discussion for start-ups, and we closed out the panel with an insight that resonated well. The question from company boards is not “Do we need to spend?” but rather, “If you had more money, could you go faster?” This is changing the paradigm for how companies need to scale and be successful.
It was a fruitful and lively discussion, which I look forward to continuing both through our work at Medchart and with other tech leaders and innovators. I want to thank my fellow panelists, whom I learned a great deal from. It was inspiring and a great way to collaborate.
Biotech panelists included: Michael Morack, CFO, Medicago; Mark Taylor, Director, UHN; Véronique Lecault, COO, AbCellera; and Gilly Regev, CEO, SaNOtize. And the device and digital health panelists with me: Jennifer Sheils, CIO, Horizon Health Network; Gregory Ogorek, COO, eSight; and Mike Wilson, CEO, DrugBank.