August 31, 2023
BC’s life sciences ecosystem is a strong economic engine for our province, with genomics at its core. Not only have genomic technologies emerged as powerful tools with wide ranging applications revolutionizing sectors such as healthcare, agriculture and forestry, but these technologies have also played a significant role in driving BC’s economic growth. According to Life Sciences BC, the province is home to Canada’s fastest growing life sciences sector, with more than 2,000 active companies employing 20,000 British Columbians and generating $5.4 billion in annual revenue .
Today, many BC organizations employ our world class scientists to help transform evidence from genomic research into life saving and health giving products and services. Genomic technologies have been instrumental in revolutionizing cancer treatments, preventing adverse drug reactions, providing a fundamental shift in the diagnosis of rare diseases and facilitating precision therapies for an individual’s unique genetic profile.
Genomics has also been an important tool for ensuring food security, adapting to changing climates, enhancing conservation and biodiversity efforts and re-imagining approaches to biological engineering which have a significant role in the development of bioproducts. For example, using genomics, in combination with chemical and physical means, researchers are developing biological catalysts that can convert mill waste into high value bioproducts for making platform chemicals, bioremediation agents and other end products.
Genome BC’s investments in projects and platforms stimulate economic growth within BC. This yields not only employment opportunities and an increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but also tax revenues for all levels of government. In addition, the positive impacts of Genome BC’s investments are amplified as additional funds are leveraged from other sources — a direct correlation to our initial investment in projects and associated platforms.
These expenditures create economic impacts at direct, indirect and induced levels. Direct impacts arise from the initial spending on operating and project related activities, while indirect and induced impacts arise from linkages that exist with suppliers and service providers, as well as through the ripple effects of their spending within the economy. It is estimated that by the end of March 2026, Genome BC will have contributed $5B to BC’s GDP and enabled 51K jobs since its inception in 2000.
As ‘omic technologies mature, businesses and entrepreneurs within the life sciences sector find new ways to improve existing products or create new applications, solving societal challenges. The emerging satellite economies from these advancements encompass a range of supporting industries, stimulating job creation, encouraging innovation and contributing to economic growth. Genome BC has worked hard to help build capacity within our province by investing in people and businesses to develop, attract and retain world class talent and intellectual property.
Genome BC’s support for the translation of research innovations into commercial success has helped promising BC based companies to grow while generating returns that benefit all British Columbians. Early support for companies such as AbCellera and Precision NanoSystems aided them in achieving substantial growth, contributing to BC’s economy and our preparedness for future public health emergencies. Genome BC’s investments in Aspect Biosystems supported their commercialization initiatives. Based on the recent announcement of their partnership with Novo Nordisk, Aspect Biosystems will receive US$75M in initial payments and up to US$2.6B in future milestone payments, demonstrating the potential to see yet another powerhouse company in our life sciences ecosystem. These success stories underscore the importance of our investment in the life sciences industry and our role in fostering a globally competitive and attractive life sciences sector in BC.
Since 2015, Genome BC has supported several startup accelerators and incubator programs with major universities through our Entrepreneurship Partnership Program. We now fund six accelerators across the life sciences, with innovations addressing human health and cleantech. In 2022/23, Genome BC funding for these BC based incubators and accelerators resulted in the advancement of 21 startup companies and training support for 144 entrepreneurs, reaching a total of 1,360 trainees since the program began.
Genome BC’s Industry Innovation (I2) Program was launched to provide sustainable support for the commercialization of innovative life science technologies. This program offers early stage capital of up to $1.5M per company, which is matched by other public or private funding sources. The capital is provided in the form of debt, equity, and royalties, with a requirement for initiatives to demonstrate a clear pathway to commercialization. Once selected, Genome BC works closely with the chosen companies to establish this pathway and connect them with key industry players. The program aims to help companies reach significant milestones by linking a portion of the funding to their successful execution.
As of March 31, 2023, the total value of investment in companies funded through the I2 Program had reached $16.3M in 14 ventures. Since the program was created in October 2015, it has yielded $41M in matching funds and $158M in revenues and financings from investees. Companies that have been supported through the I2 Program now have 281 employees, a net increase of 99 jobs from when Genome BC first invested in these BC based companies.
 Life Sciences BC, 2018-2021 data, lifesciencesbc.ca, 06-07-23; Vancouver Board of Trade Report B.C. Life Sciences Update 2021: Building on a foundation of innovation.
 Genome BC Economic Impact Analysis Executive Summary, MNP LLP, 2023.
This article appears in Genome BC’s 2022/23 Annual Report. View the whole report here.