Calgary is home to a new hub for life sciences companies looking to scale up and become commercial enterprises.
DynaLife Medical Laboratories and Biohubx have partnered to open Biospace 1, a facility that will house companies working on advances in health, wellness and biomedical innovation under one roof.
"The fact is that deliberate, focused support is needed to nurture the life sciences ecosystem," said Kristina Rinker, who is one of the Biohubx founding partners and the co-founder and CSO of Syantra Inc. "We have the opportunity to see fantastic growth of these industry sectors in Alberta."
In 2020, Biohubx was founded by a group of Calgary entrepreneurs and scientists. The not-for-profit organization's goal is to take businesses past the stage of startups and incubators to pool resources in a time when new life science companies can be most vulnerable.
Biospace 1, located in Royal Vista in the city's northwest, offers its tenants support, offices and shared clinical laboratory space.
Currently in the space, DynaLife serves as the anchor tenant. Other companies include:
Syantra Incorporated — a Calgary-based company that has developed a blood test for breast cancer detection.
Tap Labs — a laboratory that provides same-day COVID-19 PCR testing, as well as other at-home blood and specimen collection services.
NanoTess — an outfit that solves health challenges using nanotechnology with a focus on chronic wounds.
As Syantra Inc. went through regulatory requirements, testing and growth, president and CEO Bob Shepherd said the company didn't need to build a space of its own.
"We found that there were lots of other companies in the ecosystem with a very similar need," Shepherd said. "To focus our capital on our core business, to plan for growth, knowing that our facilities through the vital hub space are going to be covered for the next while."
That's how Biohubx was born.
Federal funding bolsters hub
"We've seen lots of examples of companies from the University of Calgary that have gone to the U.S. or other places in Canada," said Shepherd. [Biohubx] creates a place where companies in Calgary can stay in Calgary as we reach scaling and growth. There's no reason why we can't do that here."
The federal Western Economic Diversification Canada fund will provide $1.4 million to the Biospace 1 facility, which Terry Duguid, parliamentary secretary to the minister of economic development, said will help 45 Alberta firms directly.
"Ultimately, this initiative will help fill a critical need in Alberta's health and medical innovation ecosystem by providing technology, certification and access to accredited facilities for local companies," Duguid said. "We also anticipate that this project will serve as a magnet to attract new companies to Alberta."
This type of investment, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said, is what's needed to help Calgary's new and diversified economy. He said Calgary needs to be a worldwide destination of choice for entrepreneurs looking to solve the world's most critical and pressing problems.
"This is exactly what we need to continue our development of a global life sciences hub for innovation and economic development right here in Calgary," Nenshi said.