API: Accelerating Alberta's Life Sciences

Alberta’s 200+ life sciences organizations are part of a thriving sector responsible for close to $2.0 billion in revenue and around 25,000 jobs this year. Alberta is on the cusp of becoming a global leader in the life sciences sector, and is well positioned to experience exponential growth in this area.

To act on and catalyze this opportunity, the Canadian Critical Drug Initiative (CCDI) was established by API in partnership with the University of Alberta. The CCDI will create an integrated research, commercialization, and manufacturing hub in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, leveraging the strengths of the Petrochemical Cluster of Alberta’s Industrial Heartland.

DJI 0027 ERP CCDI site
Central to the CCDI is a research park (pictured) with a new manufacturing core facility (blue).

The CCDI will significantly support the Government of Alberta in achieving its mandate to grow and diversify Alberta’s economy, train and attract talent, and ensure Albertans have improved access to world-class health care when and where they need it.

Grow and Diversify Alberta's Economy

Alberta is the nation’s leader in petrochemical production. With robust infrastructure, a skilled workforce, and cutting-edge technologies in the petrochemical industry, our province drives Canada’s economy and paves the way for diversification and innovation.

Petrochemicals serve as the fundamental building blocks for life sciences and pharmaceutical products. It’s estimated that approximately 3% of petroleum production is used in pharmaceutical manufacturing, and nearly 99% of pharmaceutical feedstocks and reagents are sourced from petrochemicals.

Alberta has a unique opportunity to leverage its existing strengths and diversify the petrochemical industry, resulting in economic growth, job creation, and a stronger health system. This entails directing resources and investments toward the creation of critical drugs and other pharmaceutical products which are rooted in the petrochemical sector.

Pyramid chart

The CCDI will diversify Alberta’s economic landscape, and capitalize on our existing strengths in the petrochemical industry to propel our life sciences sector to new heights and secure a promising future for our province.

Train & Attract Talent to Alberta

Over the years, most local life science innovators have been forced to move their intellectual property (IP) outside of Alberta to conduct drug development, clinical trials, and beyond under Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). This results in lost IP, talent, and investment.

Central to the CCDI is a research park (pictured) with a new manufacturing core facility (proposed site in blue) that will enable significant benefit and cost reductions for the health system, as well as seed and accelerate the growth of local companies across the supply chain. The existing Biotechnology Business Development Centre (BBDC) within the research park will be upgraded as part of the CCDI to support more local scale-ups that also attract, train, and hire local talent.

The CCDI will also serve as a large non-cash incentive for companies to locate in Alberta and leverage its platform capacity for final stages of production. Additionally, graduates from post-secondary institutions will gain more hands-on experience, better equipping them to join companies in the growing sector.

Fortify Alberta's Healthcare System

At time of writing, there are 29 tier 3 drug shortages in Canada. Tier 3 drugs have the greatest impact on the health care system, and shortages can be detrimental to the domestic supply chain. 

For example:

  • Nitroglycerin has been in shortage since March 2023. This vasodilatory drug is utilized for the relief of angina, coronary artery disease, and other health care issues. 
  • Propofol, an intravenous anesthetic sedation drug, had least 6 separate shortages throughout 2020, which had direct and negative impacts on surgeries, wait times, and overall hospitalizations. 
  • In late 2022, children’s pain and fever medications were in shortage across Canada. This started with a shortage of acetaminophen in Spring 2022, which triggered an ibuprofen shortage a few months later.
bottom view of multicultural surgeons operating patient in opera

The CCDI will be able to produce drugs like nitroglycerin, propofol, and acetaminophen, and very likely prevent the shortage of these and other drugs in Canada. The new manufacturing facility will be tied into the health system, removing some of the risk of price-gouging single-sourced importers that currently supply our hospitals. This will also reduce the risk of shortages by having key drugs producible in scalable volumes.

CCDI: Investing in Alberta's Future

The CCDI will create a significant boost to Alberta’s economy: catalyzing investment attraction, job creation, and manufacturing capabilities. Collectively, these will address supply chain issues and keep our life sciences innovation and talent local to our economy.

At it’s full potential, the CCDI will equip Alberta to: 

  • Fully build out and equip a new 50,000 ft2 manufacturing facility that will produce critical drugs,
  • Upgrade the 72,000 ft2 Biotechnology Business Development Centre (BBDC) to incubate more local companies in the scale-up stage,
  • Produce critical hospital drugs that are high-risk due to market challenges, creating a secure supply of drugs critical to Canadians’ health, and a facility that can be mobilized in the event of a crisis,
  • Propel innovations from researchers across Alberta that will provide life-saving drugs,
  • Create more than 350 jobs, and
  • Increase API’s ability to support more companies through all phases of drug development, from early drug discovery to clinical trials to manufacturing.

Who is API?

API is Alberta’s largest not-for-profit life sciences organization. Based in Edmonton with a satellite location in Calgary, API works across the province to build and support the life sciences sector. 

Since launching in 2018, API has:

  • Grown to over 70 staff members
  • Worked on over 75 industry projects for companies
  • Incubated spin-off companies with valuations over $500 million
  • Trained dozens of industry trainees
  • Meaningfully supported over 43 SMEs/spinoffs/scale-ups

For more information, please contact: letsconnect@appliedpharma.ca