Alberta's life sciences innovators to get boost from new health-tech business incubator

TEC Edmonton/Merck Canada to offer specialized expertise on UAlberta's Enterprise Square campus.

TEC Edmonton and pharmaceutical giant Merck Canada are partnering up to create a business incubator connecting burgeoning Alberta-based health technology companies with health business experts.

"It is so important because young innovators or young companies frequently have what they believe are great ideas but don't have connections to the market, they don't know for sure if their ideas are going to be relevant," said Chris Lumb, CEO of TEC Edmonton, a business accelerator that is the result of partnerhsip between the U of A and the City of Edmonton. "By being connected to a company like Merck, a multi-national with broad reach and outstanding expertise, they know they are working on something that matters and will have commercial significance."

The TEC Edmonton Merck Accelerator, which will be ready for occupancy early next year at the U of A's Enterprise Square campus in the heart of downtown Edmonton, is the first major project to come out of the Alberta Merck Innovation (AMI) in Health Fund, a $3.7 million fund developed by Merck Canada, the University Hospital Foundation and the Government of Alberta's Ministry of Economic Development and Trade.

"World-renowned life-sciences experts want to help our researchers and entrepreneurs create new products and businesses based on Alberta discoveries," said Deron Bilous, Minister of Economic Development and Trade. "That means healthier lives for people around the world-and new jobs and a more diversified economy here at home."

UAlberta president David Turpin said in order for the university to serve the public good, the knowledge and innovation developed must be translated into practical applications that "protect, preserve and improve our lives.

"When health innovations enter the market sooner, a few very important things happen-we improve patient outcomes, we reduce the burden on the health care system and we strengthen Alberta's research ecosystem," said Turpin. "The TEC Edmonton Merck Accelerator will leverage and build upon Alberta's combined health research capacity and leadership, and strengthen Edmonton's place as a thriving hub of health research."

In addition to helping Alberta-based companies grow, the accelerator is also expected to entice health technology startups from outside the province to relocate to Alberta to access the expertise available at the accelerator.

The TEC Edmonton Merck Accelerator will also help build up the specialized laboratory incubations spaces that relevant and high-potential young life sciences-related startups need to succeed.

"This potential collaboration between industry, philanthropists and the public sector would elevate the province's life-sciences industry to new heights and allow us to more effectively respond to promising new discoveries," said Chirfi Guindo, president and managing director of Merck Canada.