5 Top Canadian Biotechnology Startups To Watch in 2023

5 Canadian Biotechnology Startups To Watch in 2023

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According to research by McKinsey, biotechnology is, unlike many sectors, experiencing a high at the moment. From the first biotech company in 1976 to the boom of investor interest that followed, the industry’s practical applicability and scientific nature has kept it in the public eye. When venture capitalists teamed up with Genentech scientists to produce the first synthetic form of insulin, they opened the door for investors and scientists to join forces and create everything from immunotherapy to genetic design.

Now, the combination of advancing technology and post-pandemic interest has pushed the sector into a new stage. As of 2017, Canada accounted for almost 10% of biotechnology revenues around the globe. In the years since, an influx of US investment transformed the landscape of mainly small Canadian biotechs into a sea of startups and billion-dollar powerhouses alike. 

With so much talent (and growth) in the industry, it’s no surprise that Canada’s biotech landscape is appealing to investors of all kinds.

Here are some of the most interesting biotechnology startups from the Great White North. 

 

Genuine Taste

Genuine taste logo

Year founded: 2022

Toronto-based startup Genuine Taste hopes to offer up all the ‘meatiness’ of animal products in a more sustainable way. After taking a small biopsy of stem cells from a sedated animal, the company’s scientists separate out the fat, add salt and other nutrients, and allow the mixture to multiply. The result is a cultivated fat that can be used to give meatless dishes an authentic “meaty” taste. 

Genuine Taste doesn’t just improve the taste, aroma, and texture of meat alternatives. It also improves animal well-being and reduces greenhouse gas emissions and agricultural waste. Co-founded by engineer Emily Farrar and bio-physicist Dr. Pooya Mamaghani, the company’s patent-pending “scaffolding” technology simulates fat cells’ natural environment. In addition, it allows for faster proliferation and a higher yield than traditional cultivation methods.

The idea has caught the eye of early-stage VC investors at Antler, and Big Idea Ventures, who have both contributed to the $220k the biotech upstart has raised to date.  

 

Immugenia

Immugenia logo

Founded: 2022

Based out of Sherbrooke, Quebec, biotech Immugenia is developing a tool to make cancer relapse-free. Chimeric antigen receptor therapy (CAR) is an existing cancer treatment that relies on taking immune cells from cancer patients and modifying them to recognize and kill cancer cells when re-injected into the patient’s body. 

These treatments have the potential for relapse, as the peripheral immune cells that are typically used can have a limited lifespan. Taking a patient’s stem cells instead allows Immugenia to create a treatment that can last continuously. The treatment expands CAR’s applicability to different types of cancer as well as improves its effectiveness. It’s based on the work of one of Immunogenia’s scientific advisors, Dr. Elie Haddad, a clinical researcher and professor in the field of pediatric immunology. 

Immugenia has received an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding from adMare BioInnovations, ACET Capital, and Sherbrooke Innopole, which it hopes to use to accelerate the development of the company’s treatment.

 

Genomadix

Genomadix logo

Founded: 2021

Whether it’s COVID, water testing, or DNA mutations that affect drug metabolism, 

Kanata, Ontario-based biotech Genomadix offers easy, portable, and fast testing. With the accuracy of a lab in a 4-inch by 4-inch cube, the company can not only deliver results in an hour but it can also be used in remote communities where testing might otherwise not be possible. 

Born in the aftermath of Spartan Biosciences, which was ‘foiled’ in its initial attempts to create PCR testing for COVID, the newly formed Genomadix offers a revamped product and a robust strategy for meeting regulatory requirements. The plan caught the eye of the Mayo Clinic, which announced a corporate funding round in 2022 for an undisclosed amount, in addition to the two years of funding raised by ICW Health Ventures the year prior. 

 

Abdera Therapeutics

Abdera Therapeutics logo

Founded: 2021

On the west coast, Vancouver-based biotech Abdera Therapeutics is making waves with its own innovations for treating cancer. The company’s targeted alpha therapies (TATs) are a new class of drugs designed to selectively destroy tumor cells. Designed for effectiveness in patients with limited treatment options, Abdera’s radioisotope-based technology uses alpha wave radiation. Unlike traditional radiation therapies, TATs can destroy cancerous cells but spare nearby healthy tissue. 

Abdera received $8M from lead investors adMare BioInnovations in mid-2021, which they plan to use on developing antibody-based TATs to counter 9 clinically validated oncology targets

 

Foodimprover

Genuine Taste logo

Founded: 2022

Operating out of Wolfville, Nova Scotia, FoodImprover is a young biotech looking to create the apples of the future. By developing an advanced gene editing platform that can ‘fine tune’ its fruit, FoodImprover hopes to change both the health benefits of produce and its environmental impact. 

It’s not just about new kinds of fruit. According to FoodImprover’s Head of Technology Development, Tommy Davies, the company is targeting the needs of an emerging agricultural market. “Some growers will need more climate-adaptable crops,” he explains. “Other growers will need fruit that can store longer.” 

FoodImprover’s platform caters to both, bringing decades of research (and research orchards) along for the ride. Its team is packed with plant scientists, including CEO Dr. Sean Myles, the research chair in the Faculty of Agriculture at Dalhousie University. After being selected as part of GreenShoots cohort and receiving a $20k grant from investors Bioenterprise Canada Corporation, Innovacorp, and Nova Scotia Innovation Hub, the startup is looking to further expand both its market and its gene-editing toolbox.

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