Could Canada become a global health research hub?

Medipure Pharmaceuticals CEO Boris Weiss says Canada could become a global biopharma and health research hub but but needs to invest in manpower

Credit: Courtesy of Medipure Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Medipure Pharmaceuticals chief scientific officer Nihar Pandey and CEO Boris Weiss


What’s missing is manpower, says pharmaceuticals CEO

Conducting clinical and pharmaceutical development trials is an estimated US$127-billion-a-year industry globally, and Canada should get in on it, says Boris Weiss, CEO of Medipure Pharmaceuticals Inc. The company recently opened a 3,750-square-foot research lab on the BCIT campus in Burnaby, with plans to add another 2,850 square feet later this year.

Headquartered in North Vancouver, Medipure is a biopharmaceuticals incubator founded in 2014 to develop economical non-addictive prescription medications derived from specific cannabinoid molecules. The company currently has two lines of drug formulations (MP-10X for neuropathic pain management and MP-20X to treat anxiety and mood disorders) in clinical trials, with a third (MP-30X, targeting dermatitis and psoriasis) starting trials in late March.

The clinical trials are being conducted in Finland and India because it takes days or weeks to get approval in those countries, compared to between 10 and 12 months in Canada. Weiss expects the first phase of the trials to be completed in India at the end of the first quarter, whereas Medipure probably won’t start Canadian trials for another few months despite having submitted all the applications at the same time.

Weiss, who thinks Health Canada is an excellent regulator, suspects the problem here is lack of manpower to process applications. Any pharmaceutical company in the Western world would love to do a trial in Canada or the U.S., and the sole hindrance is approval to get started, he remarks. “Canada is trying to do this health corridor in Surrey,” Weiss notes. “You can have all the pretty buildings you want, but if your approvals take six months, why would the company come here and do it?”

Weiss believes Canada has the opportunity to be a leader in clinical trials research, but in his view, efforts locally and across the country to establish a health research hub require quicker approval times by Health Canada. Provincial government investment in manpower and possible oversight plus support for Health Canada through provincial health ministries might accelerate the processing of clinical trial applications, he suggests.

“You’ve got the manpower and enormous knowledge base here, so what’s stopping you from investing in your resource?” he asks. Governments invest in industries from oil and gas to lumber, so they should do the same with human resources, he argues. “You talk about irreplaceable assets,” Weiss says. “When that asset is gone, it’s gone.”