Alberta’s pharmaceutical and life sciences industry is growing, and the Canadian Critical Drug Initiative, led by Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation in partnership with the University of Alberta’s Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute, will play a crucial role in securing a domestic supply of essential medicines. Growth of this industry is an important part of a diversified economy that creates jobs and builds more opportunities for spinoff industries.

The Canadian Critical Drug Initiative will create a new facility to produce new and critical medicines, the first of its kind in Western Canada. This 40,000-square-foot facility will be built in Edmonton with the capacity to produce 70 million doses annually.

In 2022, Alberta’s government provided Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation (API) with $5.6 million as an initial investment toward this project. API was able to leverage that funding to secure $80.5 million in additional funding from the Government of Canada for the Canadian Critical Drug Initiative.

“Alberta has a vibrant and thriving research, development and manufacturing ecosystem to develop and produce a domestic supply of essential pharmaceuticals with potential to reach global markets. I am proud of the Alberta government’s support of these efforts with commitments of $20 million to the Li Ka Shing Institute and $5.6 million to Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation in connection with this announcement from the federal government. Together we can ensure that Alberta will be a competitive life sciences hub on the global stage.”

Nate Glubish, Minister of Technology and Innovation

The Canadian Critical Drug Initiative will also help build Alberta’s life sciences talent pipeline with a new research and development program to train technicians and scientists in collaboration with universities across the country.

The funding is expected to support the growth of at least 60 early-stage life sciences and biomanufacturing companies, the creation of more than 350 high-quality jobs and the training of 175 skilled workers.

A portion of this funding will also go toward upgrading infrastructure at Applied Pharmaceutical’s existing 72,000-square-foot research and development space in Edmonton to help more early-stage companies commercialize their products.

“This investment, through PrairiesCan, will provide Canadian firms with the resources and support they need to grow our country’s expertise in the life sciences sector and increase Canada’s competitiveness in global markets. This launch of the Canadian Critical Drug Initiative will help enable Canadian innovators to strengthen our local supply chain for critical medicines while supporting the expansion of early-stage companies and creating good jobs workers can rely on.”

Dan Vandal, Minister responsible for Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan)

“Innovation in our health care sector is crucial as we work to strengthen the system so it can meet the health care needs of Albertans – now and in the future. Having more domestic supply of crucial medicine will be a tremendous benefit as we manage health challenges that may lie ahead. I want to thank everyone involved with this project for supporting our health care system.”

Jason Copping, Minister of Health

Funding to the Canadian Critical Drug Initiative complements existing provincial investments, including $20 million provided to the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute to accelerate development of pharmaceutical treatments and increase the competitiveness of the sector.

The Canadian Critical Drug Initiative will also support clinical trials and commercial development of new medical treatments that improve the quality of life of Canadians while increasing Canada’s capacity to develop and manufacture critical medicines and growing Alberta’s pharmaceutical and life sciences sector.

“This extraordinary investment in the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute is one of the most significant in the university’s history and builds on our success in biomedical research. We are grateful for the continued support from the Government of Alberta. The Canadian Critical Drug Initiative sets the standard for how partnerships between multiple levels of government, industry and universities can advance research and improve health outcomes for all, and we’re excited to be a part of it.”

Bill Flanagan, president and vice-chancellor, University of Alberta

“This support from the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta is an absolute game-changer. This integration of research, commercialization and manufacturing means API can support innovators and companies through the entire drug development process, particularly during clinical trials. There is significant opportunity in the life sciences sector to grow and diversify our economy, create rewarding jobs and strengthen Canada’s global competitiveness for drug manufacturing.”

Andrew MacIsaac, CEO, Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation

Quick facts

  • Alberta has more than 200 life sciences companies – 60 per cent of which are in the medical technology and devices, health biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors.

  • The pharmaceutical and life sciences industry is a trillion-dollar industry. In 2022, the worldwide revenue for the pharmaceutical and therapeutics sector was US$1.48 trillion with 2023 revenues projected to be US$1.57 trillion.

  • One of the most successful therapeutics to come out of Alberta is the Lamivudine or Heptovir medicine.

    • In 1990, University of Alberta researchers Lorne Tyrrell and Morris Robins discovered potent hepatitis B antiviral agents. This discovery led to one of Canada's largest university-industry research collaborations – with GlaxoSmithKline – leading to the development of the world's first oral hepatitis B antiviral therapy in 1998.

    • The antiviral is used in more than 200 countries to treat hepatitis B and is effective as a preventative and treatment against HIV-AIDS.