Revolutionary medical innovations being unleashed in Canada MaRS discovery district

7 Jan 2018

Health investors are paying attention to Canada, particularly to Toronto’s hot market.

This week, leading Canadian health startups will be the ones to watch during J.P. Morgan’s healthcare conference in San Francisco. More than two dozen health firms in MaRS’ network, from fields including artificial intelligence (AI), digital health and robotics, will be in Silicon Valley for the week of conferences and events.

Revolutionary medical innovations being unleashed in Canada MaRS discovery district

Health investors are paying attention to Canada, particularly to Toronto’s hot market. According to Thomson Reuters, venture capitalists (VCs) invested over $1.1 billion in Canadian life-science companies in 2016, the most on record in a single year and double the amount of VC funding in 2015. There were also a record number of deals in 2017, particularly in AI and healthcare.

“Investors are beginning to take note of Toronto as an under-tapped market for health startups,” says Salim Teja, president of MaRS Ventures Services. “VCs and large health corporates globally are drawn to our capacities in science and healthcare delivery. We have a strong network of hospitals and research institutes in a highly concentrated area. Toronto is on par with leading health clusters and innovation hubs globally.”

MaRS is the world’s largest urban innovation hub, with 1.5 million sq ft dedicated to supporting multidisciplinary discoveries in the heart of Canada’s biggest city, next to the University of Toronto and dozens of research hospitals.

“VCs look to invest in transformative innovations that can significantly improve the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease,” says Brad Bolzon, managing director and chairman of the investment team at Versant Ventures. “In Canada, we’ve seen world-class science translated into startups that hold the promise of developing truly differentiated products for patients.”

Each year, hundreds of investors from around the world are drawn to Toronto for MaRS’ annual health startup showcase. This year’s Toronto Health Innovation Week, running 9-13 April, is expected to be the largest health investor gathering in Canada.

Here are some of the Canadian health companies descending on San Francisco during J.P. Morgan’s annual health conference.

Artificial intelligence in healthcare

Toronto-based health ventures are leveraging big data to transform medicine with new tools for doctors, patients and consumers. Diverse talent, leading research hospitals and innovation platforms like MaRS and the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, along with vast troves of health data, are supporting Toronto’s emergence as a world-leading market for AI and health innovation. The following companies are combining machine learning and life science to develop new therapies, diagnostics and preventative treatments.

  • Atomwise invented the use of deep learning for rational drug design, and is working with leading pharmaceutical and agrochemical organizations on dozens of diseases.
  • Cyclica has developed a cloud-based AI-assisted platform used by pharma to screen small-molecule drugs against all known human protein structures in an effort to navigate the drug-discovery pipeline more efficiently.
  • WinterLight Labs ’ AI technology can quickly and accurately break down speech and language patterns to help detect and monitor cognitive and mental diseases like Alzheimer’s.
  • Swift Medical delivers an advanced mobile wound care management app for healthcare enterprise, completely streamlining clinical and administrative workflows from capture to claim.
  • “2017 was a breakout year for Toronto, cementing its reputation as a global epicenter for AI innovation, particularly in life sciences,” says Naheed Kurji, president and CEO of Cyclica. “The field of artificial intelligence was pioneered by Toronto-based researchers, and their efforts have spurred much of the remarkable innovation we are seeing in the city today. The international venture capital ecosystem is taking note—2018 will be an exciting year.”

    Therapeutics, devices and robotics

    From the foundations of artificial intelligence and machine learning to the discovery of insulin and stemcells, Toronto has a history of medical and scientific breakthroughs. Today, sixteen of the world’s top 25 medical device makers call Toronto home. This includes Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic and GE Healthcare , as well as more than half of Canada’s estimated 1,100 medical device companies. The following innovators are developing products and therapies that will make a difference around the world.

  • BlueRock Therapeutics is pioneering cell therapies that replace dead, damaged, or dysfunctional cells to restore critical natural functions in the body. The company is initially targeting severe brain and heart conditions, two areas of critical unmet medical need.
  • Northern Biologics is developing a portfolio of antibody‐based therapeutics based on relevant targets in the tumor microenvironment.
  • eSight creates electronic glasses that enable the legally blind to actually see.
  • Induce Biologics develops bioimplants to regenerate bones in a more cost-effective and less harmful way than traditional solutions.
  • Medella Health develops novel sensors, using machine learning to monitor health biomarkers for medical devices ranging from smart contact lenses to point-of-care solutions.
  • Digital health and mobile medicine

    Toronto is also a leading hub for digital health with innovators using technologies such as digital sensors and mobile medicine to empower patients and healthcare professionals. Here are a few of the companies with digital solutions that connect medical professionals, patients, records and research.

  • Mavencare is a technology enabled homecare company dedicated to supporting seniors and their families to promote aging in place. The company operates in Toronto, New York City and Boston.
  • Memotext offers a phone messaging service that sends reminders to patients about their medications and is adaptive to their individual behaviors to provide timely notifications that improve outcomes.
  • Mozzaz delivers mobile solutions for “high-need, high-cost” complex care patients and the teams that support them. Personalized, interactive care plans enable patients to engage in their care and stay connected to care teams for support.
  • Pulse Infoframe makes medical research more collaborative. Its platform allows pharmaceutical and medical device companies, researchers and patients to share key data insights, helping to advance the understanding and treatment of cancer and rare diseases.
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