A Charlottetown-based biotech firm will be given a helping hand with its $144 million expansion plans through millions of dollars of new funding from the federal government.
During his visit to P.E.I. on a blustery Monday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government would be contributing $37.5 million to BioVectra Inc. to allow the company to embark on a five-year expansion of its operations in Charlottetown and Windsor, N.S.
The funding will support the creation of 150 new jobs – 40 in Charlottetown and 110 in Windsor.
The prime minister said the funding would help retain biotech workers in the region.
"The reality is, lots of young people are leaving the Island to look for jobs in other parts of the country,” Trudeau said.
"To make sure people can stay in the communities they love, people need well-paying jobs they can count on."
BioVectra president Oliver Technow, speaking at a news conference, said the funding would help “make BioVectra a powerhouse in the biologics space”.
"What has been built here, with tremendous vision and commitment and pride, has put us in a position to compete on the highest global level," Technow said.
Last November, BioVectra was recognized as Canada’s biotech company of the year, winning a BIOTECanada Gold Leaf Award. The company is the largest biotech firm in Atlantic Canada, and currently employs 325 employees.
Premier Wade MacLauchlan called BioVectra “an incredible growth story”.
"It's a great story. It's a story about growth, it's a story about competitive advantage, based on excellence, based on knowledge," MacLauchlan said.
Technow said the Charlottetown expansion will support its active pharmaceutical ingredients production. The Windsor expansion will support its biologics capabilities.
Biologic drugs are either produced from living organisms or contain components of them.
"More than half of the top 10 products in the global pharmaceutical world were based on biologics,” Technow said.
“All the data we have indicates this will continue to be the prime focus of research and development."
Biologic drugs could be used to treat cancer and multiple sclerosis, Technow said.
The company also plans to create an additional 25 jobs each year over the next five years for students studying at UPEI, Holland College and other Maritime post-secondary institutions.
Technow said the decision to invest in job training was part of the company’s commitment to the region.
"We want to make sure that young people have a career here, that they can stay here in Atlantic Canada," Technow said.