One of the most interesting things I have learned so far is that biotechnology is big business in Canada. I should say that I always knew it wasn't small business... but I really had no clue until I started this position that in Canada, biotechnology is worth over $84 billion annually or 6.5% of our GDP.
However, I will have to say that I often find a number like that really doesn't have any meaning unless you put it in perspective. So here it is: our bio-based economy is worth more than the automotive industry and is just about equal with oil and gas (according to 2008 numbers). That's pretty impressive when you think about it. In fact, I bet if you asked 100 people in the street to name our top industry sectors, biotech wouldn't be in the list and both oil and cars would be.
Perhaps even more impressive are some of Canada's accomplishments in the field of biotechnology. Some of these I knew but most I have to admit I didn't:
- In 1922, Banting and Best discover insulin.
- In 1974, Stefansson and Downey developed an early form of canola (the first biotech crop)
- In 2003, we were the first to sequence the SARS genome.
The biotechnology industry industry sure has lots of challenges ahead of it. For one, many foreign countries are pouring money into biotech as they see it as the way of the future. The best course I took in my MBA program was on intellectual property and I know from that course that we need to ensure that we have both a well funded and well managed strategy for developing intellectual property. Plus, there are many image issues that apply when talking about biotech and those will only intensify as more genetically modified products pass regulatory approval.
But the purpose of this post is more to share something I have learned about an industry that I think is really fascinating and dynamic. It's also an industry that is more important to our daily lives than we care to think about. I'm looking forward to learning more, that's for sure!