Minister Vandal announces federal investment to increase Canada’s capacity to develop and manufacture critical medicines

Over $80.5 million in federal funding for an Edmonton-based initiative will enable early-stage companies to bring new pharmaceutical products to market and develop talent in Alberta’s life sciences sector.

17 March 2023

Drawing of the new CCDI building


Canada is home to leading-edge research and expertise in the health and life sciences sector. The federal government is collaborating with all orders of government, industry, academic institutions, and businesses to strengthen Canada’s biomedical industry and support the competitiveness of Canadian-made pharmaceutical solutions.

Today, the Honourable Dan Vandal, Minister for PrairiesCan, and the Honourable Randy Boissonnault, Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance, announced $80,514,000 over five years to support the Canadian Critical Drug Initiative—an integrated research, development, and manufacturing initiative that will strengthen Alberta’s biomedical sector and increase the domestic production of critical medicines. This project aligns with Canada’s Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy.

“This investment, through the Regional Innovation Ecosystem (RIE) program, provides these 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. Today’s launch ofthe Canadian Critical Drug Initiative will help enable Canadian innovators to strengthen our localsupply chain for critical medicines while supporting the expansion of early-stage companies and creating good jobs.”
– The Honourable Dan Vandal, Minister for PrairiesCan

Honourable Dan Vandal speaking at lectern

“Edmonton is a city on the cutting edge of technology, from its expert workforce to scientific innovations and world class educational institutions. With today’s announcement, we’ll also ensure our city becomes a vital hub for bringing Canadian-made biomedical solutions to global markets. This federal investment in the Canadian Critical Drug Initiative will bolster Edmonton’s great strength in the life sciences sector and help realize the tremendous potential of these early-stage firms to drive economic growth and provide critical drug manufacturing capacity for Canadians.”
– The Honourable Randy Boissonnault, Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance

“Our government continues to take all necessary steps to protect Canadians’ health and safety. This is why the launch of the Canadian Critical Drug Initiative is another step in the right direction for our country’s biomanufacturing and life sciences sector. Aligned with our Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy, this project will transform our ability to produce critical medicines through strengthened research and manufacturing systems that will result in economic and health benefits to Canadians, while protecting them for years to come.”
- The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

Randy Boissonnault and Launa Aspeslet

Honourable Randy Boissonnault and Launa Aspeslet (Board Chair, Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation)


This initiative is led by Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation, a not-for-profit organization that helps innovators commercialize life sciences innovations, in partnership with the University of Alberta. Specific project activities will include:

  • Creating a new, 40,000 square-foot drug manufacturing facility in Edmonton to produce new and critical medicines. The facility will be a first-of-its kind in western Canada and will be capable of producing 70 million doses annually. 
  • Upgrading infrastructure at Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation’s existing 72,000 square-foot research and development facility at the Biotechnology Business Development Centre in Edmonton to support more early-stage companies in commercializing their products.
  • Enhancing research and development programs to train technicians and scientists in developing and producing new medicines. This will be done in collaboration with universities across the country, strengthening Canada’s talent pipeline in the life sciences sector.
  • Supporting clinical trials and commercial development of new medical treatments that improve quality of life for Canadians.

“The Government of Canada’s funding 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.”
- Dr. Andrew MacIsaac, CEO, Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation

Andrew Macisaac


This PrairiesCan 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.

Nate Glubish

“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 API Labs in connection with today’s announcement from the Federal government. Together we can ensure that Alberta will be a competitive life sciences hub on the global stage.”
- Honourable Nate Glubish, Minister of Technology and Innovation, Government of Alberta

Amarjeet Sohi

"This announcement builds on the Edmonton region's long history of supporting medical innovation and our reputation as a world-class hub for the health and life sciences sector. With our highly educated workforce, connected community of experts, and low cost of doing business, we have the key ingredients to support new and upcoming companies."
- Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, City of Edmonton

“This extraordinary federal investment - one of the largest in the university’s history - will build on the University of Alberta’s global leadership in biomedical research, including the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2020. Along with the recent exciting announcement of federal funding in support of the PRAIRIE research hub for pandemic preparedness - with U of A in the lead - today’s announcement will position the U of A and Alberta to play a leading role in strengthening Canada’s healthcare system. The Canadian Critical Drug Initiative sets the standard for how partnerships between government, industry and universities can advance research and improve health outcomes for all”
- Bill Flanagan, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Alberta

Group photo of speakers

Quick facts

  • Currently, only 12 percent of the volume of generic medicines sold in Canada are produced domestically according to the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association.
  • The Canadian Critical Drug Initiative will increase Canada’s production capacity and supply chain to address Canada’s dependency on foreign production of active pharmaceutical ingredients while supporting the commercialization of needed medicines.
  • This initiative will complement existing federal investments in the life sciences sector on the Prairies, including the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization in Saskatoon, and both the Life Sciences Innovation Hub and Alberta Precision Exchange in Calgary.
  • Federal funding for the Canadian Critical Drug Initiative is being provided through the Regional Innovation Ecosystem (RIE) program, administered by PrairiesCan.
  • The RIE program creates, grows and nurtures inclusive regional ecosystems that support what businesses need to innovate from start to finish and an environment where companies can innovate, grow and compete.

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