UHN Helping Make Toronto a Leader in Healthcare Innovation
Magic mix: Three ingredients that make Toronto a leader in healthcare innovation
By Allan Miranda, Head, JLABS Canada May 23, 2019
Toronto, Ontario, Canada is becoming the next big technology hub for large global tech companies. From Google to Facebook to Uber, this city has attracted the world’s biggest tech companies to set up shop. In turn, this has attracted many new startups, including those in health care who are starting to call Toronto their home.
Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS (JLABS @ Toronto) is one of Canada’s premier healthcare incubators. We are home to 50+ resident companies that are aiming to make advancements and developing new technologies across several areas within the medical device, health tech, pharmaceutical, and consumer health sectors. Investors, companies, academics and industry professionals from around the world converge upon the city to learn about the newest trends and developments in the healthcare space.
While many cities around the world are on the cutting edge of innovation, I feel that Toronto is right on the verge of something great, and I am excited and humbled to be a part of it through JLABS. Here are three reasons why I think Toronto is leading the pack in healthcare innovation:
Toronto is a true center for innovation in artificial intelligence (AI), with the city seeing significant focus and investment in research in this area. Whether you are talking about consortiums such as the Vector Institute, the Creative Destruction Lab program with their AI stream, hospitals like SickKids announcing their new chair in artificial intelligence, or start-ups like JLABS @ Toronto resident Deep Genomics, who are combining world-leading expertise in machine-learning and genome biology – all these players in the ecosystem are aiming to transform medicine. Investment and application of AI to real healthcare problems is putting Toronto on the map. Investment by corporate entities in this space like Google Alphabet, RBC, and Samsung, provides further validation that Toronto is leading the charge in the AI boom.
From Banting & Bests’ discovery of insulin at what is now UHN, to UHN's Dr. Tak Mak’s foundational T-Cell work, Toronto has always been at the vanguard of discovery research. Through the efforts of organizations such as FACIT, Techna, CCRM, MaRS Innovation, and MaRS Discovery District, we see an incredible focus on the commercialization of this groundbreaking technology. With the University of Toronto’s ONRamp, the next wave of student entrepreneurs is receiving resources and training that will hopefully allow them to look at entrepreneurship as a viable career option. Skilled entrepreneurs coupled with commercialization infrastructure and world-class discovery research are why Johnson & Johnson Innovation chose Toronto as a JLABS location; we are here to help with the next step for these entrepreneurs. Beyond infrastructure, JLABS @ Toronto provides access to educational programming, internal and external funding options and through our JPAL program we pair JLABS resident companies with internal experts from across the Johnson & Johnson family of companies, who have the R&D and commercialization knowledge, to help these companies reach their next milestone and get their technologies closer to market.
Toronto, like many large cities, is a melting pot. However, what sets Toronto apart is that we have worked hard to reduce the barriers to inclusion. Every day I see companies with diverse teams of employees focused on bringing their innovation to life. Having such a variety of backgrounds and gender allows companies to think differently about problems and to truly think about their innovation from numerous perspectives. At JLABS @ Toronto, we put a point of focus on diversity, in both the programming and environment we create. We believe that with inclusivity, we might be able to develop better companies and better solutions.
Undeniably, Toronto is having a “moment” – we’re in the spotlight for the advancements the city’s scientists have made in the healthcare sector, and we are attracting top talent, innovators, startups, and global leaders in tech from around the world.