Interview with Canadian Ambassador to the Kingdom of Denmark, Emi Furuya about life science, Canada and COVID-19

    Q1) How is Canada handling the Covid-19 crisis?

    There is no doubt that the COVID-19 crisis is affecting Canada, as it is affecting Denmark, and the entire world, in ways that are very hard to predict at the moment. Canada has a per capita infection rate that is very similar to Denmark. While we see different patterns of infection across the country, we have so far avoided a surge in cases that could overwhelm the healthcare system.

    Learning from the outbreak of SARS in 2003, the Government of Canada has moved quickly to coordinate an effective public health response through close cooperation with the provinces and territories (which have constitutional competency in Canada for health services), as well as participating in the international responses through the WHO, UN, G7, G20 and actively engaging in other multilateral groupings focused on trade, economic and financial measures, public health and travel. As a demonstration of our strong commitment and leadership, working with the EU, and Denmark, in this critical sector, Canada’s Prime Minster co-lead the Coronavirus Global Response pledging event May 4.
    With most Canadian workplaces, schools, and public institutions closed or limited to remote working arrangements, supporting businesses and workers across Canada has been a priority. The economic measures introduced by the Government of Canada are similar to the ones we see in Denmark, focused on supporting industry across sectors, targeted support to SMEs, funding to supplement salaries and shortening wait periods to access unemployment insurance, providing loan guarantees, and so on. As the effects of the outbreak hit vulnerable groups in society disproportionally hard, Canada has given specific groups, such as indigenous communities, the elderly, homeless, women exposed to domestic violence, and at risk youth, extra support worth CAD $224 million (DKK 1.1 billion).
    As Denmark begins phased re-opening, and some Canadian provinces move to reopen in the coming days and weeks, Canada is following the developments and experiences from Danish industry and society with interest.

    Canada is making significant investments in life sciences and related to the COVID-19 crisis. We have invested CAD $275M for research and medical countermeasures, and $675M for 2 research projects and one clinical trial focused on reducing the impacts and severity of acute respiratory distress related to Covid-19. On 23 April, Canada announced a further CAD $1 billion national medical research strategy, which focuses on:
    • Advanced research and vaccine development;
    • Clinical trials for effective treatments to expedite the development and availability of vaccines, antibodies, and drugs to prevent and treat COVID 19;
    • Accelerating innovation in detection and diagnosis, therapeutics, and digital health;
    • Developing scientifically-robust epidemiological studies; and,
    • Collaborating with international organizations and industry partners in all areas of R&D to develop rapid and effective responses to infectious disease outbreaks.

    Besides engaging companies and the Canadian R&D-community and leveraging Canada’s strong R&D capacity within the life sciences industry, part of handling COVID-19 in Canada has been to engage medical device companies, PPE or respiratory equipment producers as a way to ensure healthcare capacity. The government of Canada has a series open calls for interested suppliers – domestic and international – of a range of equipment like face masks, ventilators, test kits.
    We would encourage any interested Danish or Swedish companies to review the list of products needed and to register with our Canadian Embassy Trade Commissioner lead for Life Sciences for the Kingdom of Denmark, Jakob Schmidt, on / +4521460405 and for Sweden, Christian Ekstrøm,

    Q2) What are the key objectives of the Canadian Embassy in Copenhagen and what life science related activities are you particularly interested in?

    Life sciences is a priority sector for our Embassy in Copenhagen, building on an excellent tradition in both our countries for R&D and innovation, and also close, strong bilateral ties, collaboration, trade and investments. For my Embassy team and I, it is key to maintain the strong bilateral relationship between Canada and Denmark in life sciences during this global crisis and come out of it stronger together.
    Our Trade Commissioners work actively in three different business streams. We provide services for Canadian companies in their business development effort in Denmark. For Danish companies, we assist with sourcing new suppliers, as well as investments into Canada, connecting them to the local ecosystem in Canada and facilitating contacts in Canada to make sure their partnership, collaboration or investment decisions are supported all the way. Finally, we assist in setting up science and innovation partnerships with universities, foundations, communities and venture capital – either in consortia or bilaterally between organisations. We are always happy to connect with interested parties who want to learn more about Canada and explore avenues of collaboration further.

    We would encourage our Danish, Swedish and other international partners to collaborate with Canadian researchers in COVID-19 research in areas that include vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics, clinical management and health system interventions, as well as social, policy, and public health responses. You can find more information on the funding calls and research opportunities with the Council for Health Research, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council.
    Canadian and Danish life science companies may also consider partnering for the multilateral EUREKA open call for solutions for the COVID-19 Echo Period, which includes Denmark and Canada amongst funders, to find solutions in the short and medium term while the world waits for a COVID-19 vaccine. Funding is focused on, but not limited to, infection technology, sanitation technology, diagnostics, disease tracking, smart technology for patients, safe mobility technologies, and technologies for digital education or workspace.

    Q3) What are Canada´s best selling-points when it comes to life science?

    Perhaps the top selling point in a Danish context is the long-standing connection between Canada and Denmark in diabetes treatment. Insulin was discovered by Canadian researchers at the University of Toronto almost 100 years ago, and among others further developed by Danish researchers and commercialised by what is today Novo Nordisk. This story is particularly strong in Canada as we get close to the 100th year anniversary celebrations of this significant discovery in 2021. Part of the celebrations to mark this anniversary will be an effort to channel funds to accelerate the defeat of diabetes as witnessed in the recently published call by the Canadian Institute of Health Research.

    Canada continues to have a thriving life sciences, R&D and innovation community, and is well positioned to find ways to push the limits of medical innovation for the next 100 years. I would highlight three areas in particular were Denmark could benefit from partnering with Canada:

    • Firstly, Canada ranks 4th in the world for availability of scientists and engineers highly critical to the Life Science industry.
    • Secondly, the life science ecosystems around Canadian Universities have produced innovative start-ups, combining disciplines like AI, digital health, med-tech, biotech, genetics and clinical services emerging around these ecosystems. For Danish partners, it is a benefit that the healthcare and education systems are comparable, publicly funded and very like-minded in terms of innovation-thinking and market standards.
    • Thirdly, and quite fittingly, Canada recently celebrated National Laboratory week, and focusing on the hard work going on in the labs across the country. Clinical trials, test labs and the CRO-service industry is very active across the country, and one of the main reasons the multinational, pharmaceutical companies setup offices in Canada. Canada’s diverse patient population, with roots from around the world, also helps to achieve robust and targeted clinical trial results.

    Any parties interested in more details and contacts in Canada, are encouraged to reach out to my Canadian Embassy colleagues from the Trade Commissioner Service: Michael Willmott, Senior Trade Commissioner, and Life Science Lead,
    We very much look forward to continuing our strong collaboration, and to exploring new partnerships and opportunities, in the life sciences sector in Denmark and Sweden.