Biotech city gets new mayor

Biotech city gets new mayor

Attracts half of all industrial investment in Laval

By Robert Frank

Laval’s life science hub, which last year alone attracted more than a quarter-billion dollars in investment to Quebec’s third-largest city, now has a new head.

On April 24, Laval Technopole president Pierre Desroches announced that Jean-Marc Juteau has taken over the job of running the Laval’s biotech city.

Juteau brings a doctorate and two decades of private-sector entrepreneurial experience to the post, as well as three years at McGill University’s technology transfer office.

“The biotech city is very important to Laval because it accounts for 50 percent of all the industrial investment on the island,” Juteau told The Suburban in an interview. “Besides attracting $255 million in investment during 2012, it generated 282 new jobs, an increase of nine percent from 2011.”

“We host 80 life science companies—including 11 head offices—which employ some 5,000 people,” he enthused.

Juteau said that the biotech cluster is the fruit of a deliberate strategy to create a centre of excellence in Laval that stems from groundbreaking research decades ago that permitted Biotech Pharma to develop the blockbuster AIDS drug known as 3TC.

“This huge success was the starting point and created a virtuous circle, where the one breakthrough leads to another,” he observed.

“We have fully integrated biotechnology companies and academic partners such as the Armand Frappier Institute, which has been conducting stellar microbiology and cellular biology research for more than 60 years,” Juteau explained. “In addition, the Centre québécois d’innovation en biotechnologie (CQIB) a private non-profit organization, helps provide small startup companies with laboratories and office space.”

“The industrial park itself houses firms from small companies to pharmaceutical giants like Sanofi, and GlaxoSmithKline,” he continued. “A company called Klox Technologies is developing non-invasive biophotonic treatments and another called Thrasos is working on treating kidney diseases.”

However, he stressed that Laval’s biotechnology firms are making breakthroughs well beyond the drug industry.

“Many companies are working in other fields, like Anatis Bioprotection, for example, which is developing natural alternatives to chemical pesticides, by using natural enemies to control pests,” he underscored. “So when we say biotechnology, we’re really are talking about a broad range of firms working in the life sciences.”

Despite the biotech city’s disproportionate attraction of wealth to Laval’s economy, Juteau sees ample room for more growth.

“We still have space in our technopark west of highway 15 reserved for life sciences and technology firms,” he said. “Together with the CQIB startup incubator, academic stimulus from the Armand Frappier Institute and a great location close to highways, airport and buses that shuttle all day long to-and-from the nearby metro station, it’s a very attractive place for people to work.”

Similar, slightly smaller biotech clusters are found at the Génopole in Paris (76 companies) and the Boston Cluster in the Worcester-Framington region of Massachusetts (60 companies).

“Laval’s biotech city is a really important international life science cluster,” said its new director Jean-Marc Juteau, founder of the Laval biotech firm REPLIcor, whose hepatitis B treatment is currently undergoing clinical trials. 

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