Vancouver Sun

B.C. biotech industry needs 16,000 workers, forum hears


A biotechnol­ogy forum hosted by Stuart McNish and Conversati­ons that Matter on Tuesday heard 16,000 additional workers are needed for Metro Vancouver's biotech industry by 2030.

The forum includes Suzanne Gill, president and CEO of Genome B.C.; Andrew Booth, chief financial officer at AbCellera (a Vancouver biotechnol­ogy company that helped produce the first antibody drug approved to treat COVID -19); Allen Eaves, president and CEO of Stemcell Technologi­es; Brenda Bailey, B.C. minister of jobs, economic developmen­t and innovation; Darryl Knight, president of Providence Research and Wendy Hurlburt, president and CEO of Life Sciences B.C.

Bailey said the province's recently released life sciences and biomanufac­turing strategy found the local biotech industry and its 18,0000 workers were “punching above” their weight. Based on growth projection­s, it's estimated the sector needs another 16,000 workers over the next six years.

She said the provincial and federal government­s had funded a national biotech training centre and that government wanted to do more to attract biotech workers and retain local scientists.

Eaves suggested opening another school of medicine in B.C. to attract researcher­s, with those workers ultimately fuelling research crucial to the local biotech centre.

The forum compared B.C. to Ireland, which has been working on its biotech since the 1970s and is now a major internatio­nal drug maker. Ireland has far fewer companies than B.C.'s 1,200, but employs more workers and has a much larger economic footprint.

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