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TORONTO, ON (August 10, 2015) — Toronto-based law firm Aird & Berlis LLP (A&B) has become the sponsoring legal partner to the University of Toronto Early-Stage Technology Program (UTEST).
UTEST is a 12-month incubation and acceleration program co-managed by the University of Toronto (U of T) and MaRS Innovation that allows selected U of T-affiliated early-stage startup companies to incorporate, use office space, receive mentorship and access $30,000 in funding, with opportunities for follow-on funding from MaRS Innovation.
In 2014, UTEST was named one of Canada’s most promising start-up accelerators in an online series by BetaKit, a digital publication that covers Canadian technology.
“We are thrilled to partner with A&B and leverage their legal expertise for our startups and emerging companies,” said Kurtis Scissions, who co-directs UTEST with MI’s Mike Betts. “To date, 17 companies, including Granata Decision Systems, Whirlscape, Crowdmark, eQOL and TrendMD, have successfully graduated from our program. We look forward to adding A&B’s Startups Team of lawyers to our mentorship group for the UTEST program, beginning in 2015.”
MaRS Innovation and its member institutions are is profiled in International Innovation‘s July issue (#191) in a feature interview with Dr. Rafi Hofstein, MI’s president and CEO, written by Rosemary Peters.
The article is posted on the publication’s website and viewable through a digital interface (pages 80 and 81).
Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Hofstein’s comments:
“Canada’s academic research community is internationally highly competitive, but it has been argued that its scientific commercial success tags behind other countries such as the U.S. and the U.K. While this remains a matter of debate, I do agree that we need to continually encourage additional sources of seed capital to join is so as to allow for accelerated advancement of early-stage technologies. Industry needs to become much more engaged in advancing early-stage (and promising!) technologies emerging from the academic sector, which are usually young and in significant attention, navigation, management expertise and seed capital provisions. These are areas of rising importance in Canada, as many innovations fall into the ‘valley of death’ due to a lack of proper funding, or they leave the country and flourish in the U.S. where funding is more abundant.
Ministry of Research & Innovation joins founding partners University of Toronto and Janssen Inc., and new partners Evotec AG, MaRS Innovation and Ontario Centres of Excellence, to advance treatments for neurological disorders and develop early-stage biotech companies
TORONTO and PHILADELPHIA (June 16, 2015)— Toronto’s neuroscience efforts to find new drugs to treat and manage brain disorders — specifically, mood disorders and Alzheimer’s disease — took another step forward as the Government of Ontario’s Ministry of Research and Innovation announced a $1 million contribution to the Neuroscience Catalyst consortium, bringing the total raised for the open innovation fund to $3.7 million. Reza Moridi, Minister of Research and Innovation and Minister of Training Colleges and Universities, announced the contribution at the 2015 BIO International conference in Philadelphia during the opening of the Ontario pavilion.
This release was covered by Pharma TV and in TechVibes, BioSpace and Biotechnology Focus, and was referenced on the Canadian Science Policy Centre‘s and the Alzheimer Society of Toronto’s respective websites.
“We are pleased to support this collaborative innovation model which will accelerate the development of better treatment options for people with neurological disorders,” said Minister Moridi. “Partnerships between universities, academic hospitals, research institutes, industries and government are key to positioning Ontario as a global leader in Life Sciences.”
Founded by the University of Toronto (U of T) in partnership with Janssen Inc. and facilitated by Johnson & Johnson Innovation, the Neuroscience Catalyst consortium is using the Toronto research community’s well-established strengths in neuroscience to identify promising early-stage molecules and technologies through an open innovation model. The consortium aims to combine expertise to enable and accelerate the translation of basic sciences through to start-up companies and investor partnerships.
“We all want the next generation of solutions that are so desperately needed by patients and their families,” said Professor Ruth Ross, director of the Centre for Collaborative Drug Research at U of T. “In Canada, mood disorders such as depressive disorder and bipolar disorder affect about 10 per cent of the population. Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 745,000 Canadians. The need is urgent and this unique open collaborative partnership will allow us to rapidly develop new treatments.”
Other partners joining the project include MaRS Innovation, which introduced the partners to the Ministry of Research & Innovation and led the early conversation; Evotec, a global, high-quality provider in the drug discovery field; and Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), which is administering the funding.
Biotechnology Focus, a compendium of the Canadian life sciences industry, has published a guest column by Dr. Raphael Hofstein, MaRS Innovation’s president & CEO, and Elizabeth Monier-Williams, director of marketing and communications.
The article explores the way research focused on discovery and commercialization are often viewed or positioned as competitors within the funding ecosystem and the need to align their goals:
The time of Canada’s French and English solitudes may be past, as Governor General Michaëlle Jean notably stated when she took office in 2005, but the solitudes of thought concerning how Canada supports basic and commercial research persist.
This thinking is most easily spotted after the government announces a federal budget, triggering a flurry of opinion pieces debating the breakdown for the $2.7 billion Canada spends on research.
Most recently, Jim Balsillie, co-founder of Research in Motion (now BlackBerry Ltd.), wrote for the Globe & Mail about the Canadian need to understand that “geopolitics is at the heart of commercializing ideas,” and create better policies to protect Canadian ideas, including “better
incentives for researchers to spur commercialization,” such as during an academic’s consideration for tenure. Yet, like any business endeavor whose success depends on people, there’s more involved in changing Canada’s approach to commercialization than just policy.
The people must want to change, too.
TORONTO, Jan. 12, 2015 — MaRS Innovation, the commercialization agent for Ontario’s 15 leading academic institutions, today announced that it has formed a research collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Innovation, LLC and its Canadian affiliate, Janssen Inc., to advance three technologies focused on cardiac, diabetes and depression, respectively.
This announcement was covered in Lab Product News.
“These three projects reflect the quality of innovation present in Toronto’s research community for our industry partners, and Toronto’s progress in addressing healthcare issues of international concern,” said Dr. Raphael Hofstein, president and CEO of MaRS Innovation. “Johnson & Johnson Innovation is a long-term strategic partner of MaRS Innovation and of our members; our collaboration reflects the benefits to accessing our members’ deal flow through MaRS Innovation. Through these deals and other scientific exchanges, we see increased interest in Toronto’s innovation and entrepreneurship community.”
The projects’ principal investigators are researchers from the University Health Network (UHN), the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the University of Toronto. This announcement follows Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s December 2013 commitment to collaborate on early-stage drug development projects.
Biotechnology Focus, a compendium of the Canadian life sciences industry, has published a guest column by MaRS Innovation President & CEO, Dr. Raphael Hofstein.
The article explores the role life sciences assets, financing and talented management–the three Ms–must play in revitalizing Canada’s biotechnology sector:
At the close of the 20th century, Canada was perceived as a key contributor to the success of the global biotech voyage.
You know what happened next: the mechanisms to fund early ventures collapsed together with the collapse of the Canadian venture capital industry Finding suitable investment for early-stage technologies became incredibly challenging. Facing a dearth of opportunity, talented management sailed for other harbors.
It’s satisfying that on the eve of the 2014 BIO Convention, some indicators suggest to me that we are witnessing a rebound. But to accelerate our pace while holding this bearing, Canada needs to address certain strategic elements.
At MaRS Innovation, we call them the three Ms: merchandize, management and money.
The University of Toronto Early-Stage Technology (UTEST) program helps U of T students, recent grads or professors to take their ideas to market.
Successful applicants get mentoring, funding and work space over a 12-month period as they advance their ideas. The program is co-managed by MaRS Innovation and the University of Toronto.
In a U of T “Spotlight on Startups” news article, Brianna Goldberg spoke with Mike Betts and Kurtis Scissons, UTEST co-directors, on what makes for a great applicant.
Here’s an excerpt:
What are you looking for in an exceptional UTEST application?
Evidence of a strong and committed team. It’s critical to have standout technology and a great market opportunity but at the end of the day it’s the team that makes these businesses work—it’s about having a balance of amazing technical talent and business leadership and execution skills. When we come across an application that has a really awesome team, it stands out. – Mike Betts, UTEST co-director
What’s one common mistake you see in applications for UTEST that might cause them to be rejected?
Commitment. We want entrepreneurs that are fully committed to the program and to their new companies. UTEST is a serious program for serious entrepreneurs who want support to create a sustainable successful company. The application must exude your confidence in your idea and the effort the entrepreneur(s) will commit to see it successful. – Kurtis Scissons, UTEST co-director
What advice would you give to those considering applying to UTEST?
1. Build a balanced team. Understand the strengths of your team members and ensure that gaps can be addressed either through internal change or be open to external hires.
2. Be passionate about your idea but also understand it will be a rollercoaster of emotions. –Scissons
Betts and Scissons are accepting applications for UTEST’s third cohort until April 17. Current students, current faculty and recent graduates of U of T are welcome to apply.