Clinical trials environment in Canada

Canada captures 4% of global clinical trials, fourth in number of clinical trials sites, and is the G7 leader in clinical trial productivity (number of trials/population). Canada is globally recognized for the quality and expertise of its research clinicians, many of whom are globally recognized for major medical discoveries and innovations, and its ability to conduct clinical research in complex therapeutic areas with diverse population bases.

Strong investments in Canadian clinical trials can be attributed to Canada's world-leading higher education system; its publicly-funded health care system known for quality; its internationally recognized networks and health charities dedicated to clinical trials in areas including cancer, cardiovascular, rheumatology.

Canada's competitiveness in clinical trials is also supported by strong government support in public research infrastructure including over $1 billion investment by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in health research funding; as well as a world-class contract research sector with extensive capabilities in phase I-IV clinical trials. Canada's extensive network of academic health institutions and research centres, which support clinical research includes 17 medical schools, approximately 40 groupings of academic healthcare organizations and about 15,000 researchers. CIHR has funded more than 400 COVID-19-related research projects totalling $250 million since March 2020 to develop diagnostics, treatments, public health measures and communication strategies

The Government of Canada has also committed funding through the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF), to support research and development, clinical trials, and the manufacturing of vaccines and therapeutic drugs to fight COVID-19. SIF investments in clinical trials include

  • In 2021, Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) invested $13.44 million in Immune Biosolutions to develop and biomanufacture its promising immunotherapy to treat covid-19 and its variants. This funding will allow the immunotherapy currently in pre-clinical studies to progress to Phase II clinical trials.
  • In 2021, SIF invested $14 million in Edesa Biotech as they take their promising treatment for COVID-19 through clinical trials and subsequent approvals.
  • In 2020, SIF invested $6.7 million in Arch Biopartners to support a treatment for the worst cases of COVID19. The funding is intended to advance the Phase II of their clinical trials.
  • n 2020, SIF invested $173 million in Medicago Inc. to advance their virus-like particle vaccine to treat COVID-19, developed on the company’s unique plant-based production platform, through clinical trials.
  • In 2020, SIF invested $56 million in Variation Biotechnologies Inc. (VBI) to support the development of the company’s coronavirus program, VBI-2900, through Phase 2 clinical trials.

All major global pharmaceutical companies conduct a large portion of their clinical trials in Canada. For some of these companies, Canada is the number two or three location globally for clinical trials. In fact, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry has the second largest Canadian business expenditures in R&D (BERD) expenditures intensity in 2020. As a result of Canada's world class clinical trials environment, leading multi-national pharmaceutical companies have made significant investments in Canadian clinical trial health research. Examples of recent investments at both the academic and industry level include:

  • In 2011, Roche Canada invested $190 million to establish a North American clinical trials coordinating centre and development site (one of six world-wide) in Mississauga, Ontario.
  • In 2014, Servier Canada invested $17 million to established a centre of excellence in clinical development in Laval, Quebec.
  • AstraZeneca Canada was recently designated a global Clinical Hub for oncology and immuno-oncology clinical studies.

In order to improve the competitiveness of Canada's clinical trial environment, Canada continues to work to enhance the conditions for clinical trial in Canada. Major initiatives and supports for clinical trials include:

  • $250 million over three years, starting in 2021-22, to increase clinical research capacity through a new CIHR Clinical Trials Fund.
  • In January 20, 2021, Canada committed to invest $6 million in the Canadian Network of COVID-19 Clinical Trials Network, which will expand existing national and international clinical trial networks to coordinate research on tools that prevent, detect, manage and treat COVID-19.
  • National and regional efforts to make Research Ethics Boards more efficient, including through the development of a national standard in this area.
  • The June 4, 2015 launch of the Canadian Clinical Trials Asset Map which aims to market Canada as a leading destination for clinical trials in the global marketplace by providing a comprehensive picture of Canada’s clinical research assets.

Leading globally recognized academic research centres and institutes include:

  • Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute (Vancouver, British Columbia)
  • Providence Health Care Research Institute (Vancouver, British Columbia)
  • University of Alberta Hospital (Edmonton, Alberta)
  • The Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto, Ontario)
  • Population Health Research Institute (Hamilton, Ontario)
  • McGill University Health Centre (Montreal, Quebec)
  • BIOTIC (Biomedical Translational Imaging Centre (Halifax, Nova Scotia)