Ottawa’s innovative life sciences ecosystem: a backdrop to global business events

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Ottawa’s innovative life sciences ecosystem: a backdrop to global business events

World-class R&D, leadership in cardiology, oncology and MedTech helps attract international business events organisers keen on tapping into Canadian ingenuity to attract and engage audiences to their global events.

Canada’s capital has emerged as a thriving centre of discovery, development and commercialisation in the country’s expansive life sciences ecosystem. A key innovation hub within the Quebec—Ontario Life Sciences Corridor, Ottawa, with its world-leading medical discoveries in cardiology, oncology, biopharmaceuticals, e-health and medical devices, attracts scientific and educational business events dedicated to the advancement of health from across the globe.

Parliament Hill, Ottawa River

“Ottawa has key advantages in becoming a leader in life sciences,” says Lesley Mackay, Vice-President, Meetings and Major Events with Ottawa Tourism, who points out that five of Canada’s top hospital research institutes are located within the capital region, along with Canada’s National Research Council and “no fewer than 35 Canada Research Chairs”.

That’s only the beginning of what the intellectual capital planners can tap into when meeting in Ottawa. The city’s universities and hospital research Institutes employ over 6,400 researchers, clinicians, post-doctoral fellows and support staff. Home to two national life science Networks of Excellence, Ottawa is also home to the Stem Cell Network, Canada’s premier research organisation which supports stem cell and regenerative medicine research, training, and outreach across Canada. Biotherapeutics for Cancer Treatment (BioCanRx), a pan-Canadian network of cancer stakeholders, academic institutions, NGOs and industry partners collaborating to accelerate the development of immune oncology therapies is also based in the Ottawa region.

Shaw Centre Trillium Ballroom view of Parliament

Beyond the city’s acclaimed academic and research institutes is a well-rounded ecosystem of multinational, mid-size and start-up enterprises which is redefining the future of healthcare in Canada and beyond. Medtech giants, Abbott POC and Siemens Healthineers, “have a strong presence within Ottawa,” says Mackay, but it’s made-in-Canada MedTech that has the potential to support Canada’s national response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Spartan Cube, by Ottawa’s Spartan Bioscience, is the world’s smallest DNA analyser — the size of a coffee cup. It can not only accurately self-diagnose a range of infections from strep throat to venereal diseases, but the organisation is seeking approval from Health Canada to use Spartan Cube as a rapid testing tool for Covid-19. Meanwhile, Ottawa biotech firm Clearwater’s leading-edge medical devices Clearscope, Modica app, Shoebox, and V-Strobe provide medical professionals the ability to securely capture, manage and share high quality patient information, streamlining medical efficiencies.

As technology and behavioural science advance, the focus is progressively shifting to disease prevention. Consumer wearables now have medical-grade sensors, and telemedicine, remote monitoring, and virtual trials are reducing complexity for patients. Ottawa’s Sensors and Analytics for Monitoring Mobility and Memory hub is a joint initiative of Ottawa’s Carleton University, the Bruyère Research Institute and AGE-WELL, a pan-Canadian network of public, private and academic groups working to harness artificial intelligence and big data, and eHealth, mobile and smart home technologies to help seniors maintain their independence, health and quality of life. Advancements in precision medicine, like the kind taking place in Ottawa, also makes healthcare personal. Just look to Ottawa and the Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa researchers, where the first made-in-Canada CAR-T cell therapy uses a patient’s own genetically engineered immune cells to attack their cancer. 

Canada Science and Technology Museum, entrance

“Central to Ottawa’s excellence in life sciences are the numerous events scheduled to take place here in the coming years,” says Mackay, who notes the city will welcome the Society for Hip Arthroscopy (ISHA 2021) the Stemcell Network Conference (2021), the International Congress on Infant Studies (2022), and the International Society for Paediatric Oncology (SIOP, 2023). “With access to such a wealth of knowledge you can’t deny that Ottawa is a resource-packed host location for life sciences events.”

Director of Client Accounts at Kenes Group, and organiser of SIOP 2023, Perry Gil-Ryan agrees: “The destination plays a major role when people are choosing which conference to attend, so we’re excited about coming to Ottawa to take advantage of the scientific expertise.”

When in-person meetings resume, labs, research facilities and manufacturing spaces will present important and unique opportunities for technical tours, the exchange of knowledge and opportunities for future collaboration. Ottawa’s convention centre, the Shaw Centre, an array of national museums dedicated to history, art, nature, science and technology, aviation and space (among others), the National Arts Centre and Ottawa’s other contemporary and historic venues and landmarks offer a diverse range of meeting and networking facilities for conference organisers to choose from. Better yet, says Mackay, they’re all located within the city’s compact, walkable downtown district, which also features the scenic Rideau Canal, “A favourite for delegates seeking a fresh air break before, after, or in between their conference sessions.”

In Canada, life sciences leaders will find support from federal, provincial and municipal governments, as well as academia and innovation investors and one of the world’s easiest visa regimes. Simplifying the business process is the pool of destination and sector experts provided by Destination Canada’s Business Events team. Their specific knowledge of this vast land makes Destination Canada Business Events team an organiser’s first stop for tailoring the right package for their event, whatever the size. To learn about assets and opportunities and (arrange research trips and site inspections) go to

Conference & Meetings World is published for the international conference and meetings industry. It tackles the issues facing organisers of international events. The editorial is independent, fresh and news driven, with a global reach.

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