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Rory Francis

CEO, BioAlliance

Bioscience innovation is rapidly growing in Prince Edward Island. PEI BioAlliance is launching two new programs to support the momentum.


According to an independent economic impact assessment of the bioscience sector in Prince Edward Island, revenue, employment, and investment have doubled since 2012. This is due in part to the PEI BioAlliance, a not-for-profit organization that works to develop the province’s bioscience cluster. “Average wages in the bioscience sector are 40% higher than those in other sectors,” says Rory Francis, CEO of PEI BioAlliance. “It’s really a thriving industry in the province and we see nothing but more of the same to come in terms of momentum and opportunity.”

In his 15-year tenure at the helm of PEI BioAlliance, Francis has learned that sustained collaboration is the heart of the industry. “Given the regulatory environment around the sector, it takes at least three to five years to bring a bioscience product or service to market,” he says. “It takes long-term relationships between collaborators to make that leap.”

Building those relationships is a key part of PEI BioAlliance’s Emergence Incubator program for early-stage bioscience firms, which is in its seventh year of operation. Now, Emergence will be joined by two new initiatives in the bioscience cluster: the Bioscience Manufacturing Incubator and the Canadian Alliance for Skills and Training in Life Sciences (CASTL).

Access to markets, collaborators, and capital is incredibly valuable for early-stage companies. As a cluster, we have contacts throughout the world that can assist in all these areas.

Rory Francis, PEI BioAlliance CEO
Emergence Incubator logo

Jump from concept to product with the Emergence Incubator

The Emergence Incubator, a virtual program accessible across Canada, helps early-stage companies develop processes to effectively commercialize their product or service. It rests on three pillars: mentorship, funding, and connection. Emergence clients enjoy access to an elite group of bioscience industry veterans who critically assess the company, identify gaps in their business plan, help them develop regulatory and marketing strategies, and open the door to a broad network of global connections.

 “Access to markets, collaborators, and capital is incredibly valuable for early-stage companies,” says Francis. “As a cluster, we have contacts throughout the world that can assist in all these areas.”

Rendering of the Bioscience Manufacturing Incubator facility
Image courtesy of PEI BioAlliance.

Scale up with the Bioscience Manufacturing Incubator

For Atlantic Canadian companies ready to move past R&D into larger-scale manufacturing, the Bioscience Manufacturing Incubator — which broke ground in mid-September — can serve as a valuable bridge to commercialization. The 20,000-square-foot facility, divided into individual research and manufacturing suites of about 3,000 square feet, is a direct response to the rapid development of PEI’s bioscience cluster and its growing need for dedicated facilities.

The suites will offer clients office, laboratory and warehousing space along with manufacturing facilities which will allow them to scale up production while meeting regulatory requirements.

Female scientist working in a CASTL facility
Photo courtesy of PEI BioAlliance.

Addressing Canada’s life sciences human resources challenge with CASTL

The bioscience sector has enormous potential, but without access to an adequate pool of talent, Canada won’t benefit from this opportunity. That’s why PEI BioAlliance launched CASTL — the Canadian Alliance for Skills and Training in Life Sciences — in partnership with industry partners, universities, and colleges across Atlantic Canada. CASTL offers academic and technical skill development, work placements, and employee upskilling, all with the ultimate aim of developing a highly competitive bioscience workforce. It features multiple areas of specialization including bioprocessing, natural products chemistry, biotechnology and animal health.

“If we’re going to continue to be competitive and build the life sciences sector, we need to address a high-priority growth constraint: access to skilled and trained individuals,” says Francis. “It’s a national challenge, and CASTL is a coordinated effort to do something about it.”

In an age of increasing concern about climate, human, and animal health, all signs point to the increasing importance of the life sciences sector to addressing global challenges. Organizations like PEI BioAlliance are essential for developing strategies that sustain a healthy, robust bioscience ecosystem for the benefit of all Canadians.

CASTL logo
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