By Ron Stang, WindsorOntarioNews.com – April 8 2016
First there was the auto industry, then the casino business, and the next wave of economic diversification is expected to be health sciences.
That’s the hope of several groups – including universities, hospitals, small business, and development agencies – seeking to create a so-called Cross Border Health Corridor.
Drawing on the strength of an already large pool of skilled labour in engineering and manufacturing, and widespread academic research, “We want to diversify into life sciences” and a whole new industry, says Deborah Livneh (pictured), who’s heading up the project and is Entrepreneur-in-Residence at WEtech Alliance.
Those collaborating on the venture, who have already met several times as groups to map out strategies that would extend from southwestern Ontario (including London and Hamilton) to Ann Arbor, Mich., believe as many as 2000 direct and indirect jobs could be created here over the next eight years.
Livneh says a business plan shows “that we’re going to create a huge economic impact” – $200 million in economic activity.
“Right now there’s a fantastic atmosphere of collaboration,” she said.
Essentially the network would link institutions and businesses for medical equipment and device manufacturing, clinical trials and nutraceutical (foods for medicinal purposes) development.
The base is already there.
There are more than 50 manufacturers in the growing life sciences field and thousands of trained graduates in Windsor and Detroit annually.
The University of Windsor, St. Clair College, Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, Windsor Regional Hospital, Henry Ford Health System and the Detroit Medical Center are already on board.
As a future home for biotech and life sciences the network touts the low cost real estate advantage in Windsor-Essex: $3.19 per sq. ft. compared to $3.59 in Chicago and $5.01 in Toronto.
Labour costs are also less, especially compared to Chicago.
Already there exists high quality medical device and equipment manufacturing using precision tools, manufacturing to tight tolerances with numerous materials, eight pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturers, 13 measuring, medical and control device manufacturers, and 25 medical equipment and supplies manufacturers.
Other positive factors (in Canada and the US) are eight renowned life sciences research universities, cutting edge cancer research using natural products at University of Windsor, lower regulatory barriers for clinical trials, higher physician practice volumes in Canada than stateside, and proximity to a large and diverse population – ideal for clinical trials.
The first meeting to establish the network took place two years ago with WEtech, the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation, the area’s two post-secondary institutions and area hospitals.
Last year a “Hacking Health” event took place at Detroit’s TechTown with 200 participants designing software and heath care apps.
Another one takes place next month in Windsor.
The sessions “reduce the barriers between health care providers and hi-tech people,” Livneh, herself a co-founder of a medical technology company and plant manager of medical equipment firm Gyrus-ACMI Canada.
A memorandum of understanding has also been signed between WEtech and Toronto-based MaRS network, which puts together entrepreneurs in the life sciences field with venture capitalists, all the while encouraging innovative research.
Livneh said bioscience is expanding on all fronts with breakthrough technologies used in hospitals and increasingly for people taking control of their own health through portable test equipment and computer apps.
“There are a lot of changes taking pace,” she said.
“So there are a lot of opportunities for innovation.”
This article originally appeared on WindsorOntarioNews.com. Re-posted with permission.