Economy Features

Unknown quantity


Manitoba’s bioscience industry quietly moves the economy forward

Did you know that the largest export from Manitoba doesn’t come from agriculture or mining? The province’s biggest export is medicaments and in 2022, we exported $2.7 billion of them. The bioscience industry is the fourth largest in the province, pouring $5.2 billion into the provincial GDP. 

Despite this mammoth contribution to our economy, the bioscience industry isn’t well-known to people outside it. We caught up with the Bioscience Association of Manitoba (BAM) to get some insight into this important economic driver and what everyone needs to know.

The basics
Manitoba’s bioscience industry brims with organizations working toward solutions to global health, agricultural, food and economic issues. According to BAM, there are 720 companies working in the space that generated $9.9 billion in revenues in 2022.

Kim Kline is the president of BAM, and she sees firsthand how the sector she represents contributes not only to the province’s economic success but also advances research and ideas the world needs—but not always getting a lot of recognition “I think the biggest issue is that people don’t always know what bioscience is. It’s the science of all living things and from that comes an incredibly diverse industry that works on everything from health to agriculture to clean tech and each of those have even more subsectors.”

Kline also sees that prairie humility may be a factor in the sector’s lack of recognition. “The companies here doing the work are so brilliant and purpose-driven about their work that sharing their stories isn’t on their radar. That is where we come in, to help the world see what Manitoba has to offer.”

Bioscience Association Manitoba (BAM) uses this graphic to classify the bioscience industry

Show us the money
Despite its strength, the bioscience sector is not without its challenges. Like many other industries, biosciences struggle with good access to capital. Because of the complex, research-driven nature of biosciences, investors need to be patient and recognize that a “longer runway” than normal is needed when it comes to money. “While the length of time for a return is longer in biosciences, the return is often lucrative,” says Kline. “Investors can do well in the sector.”

The Manitoba Technology Accelerator (MTA) also sees the need for more money. “Access to capital has historically been a primary challenge in this sector. However with MTA’s new Angel pool and the Manitoba First Fund providing up to $100M of new venture capital, we are optimistic Manitoba’s bioscience companies will have more options to secure capital and fuel even faster growth,” says Marshall Ring, MTA’s CEO.

Kline also has hope that the Manitoba government’s venture capital fund will open more doors to money. “We’d also love to see a bioscience fund emerge, too.”

The road ahead
While more money is always wanted, the future for biosciences in Manitoba is a bright one. Second only to Ontario in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing and with 720 companies working in the space, there is a lot to be proud of and much more to come. 

Cubresa Inc. works in brain imaging and develops clinical and preclinical PET inserts for MRI James Schellenberg, founder and CEO at Cubresa Inc., is optimistic.

“Winnipeg’s strong bioscience talent pool has been a key to Cubresa’s success to-date. The company is fortunate to have staff with extensive medical device expertise. This, along with new talent graduating from Manitoba’s universities, allow the company to look forward to long-term growth and expansion right here in Winnipeg.”

The right place
“Ag biotech is the fastest growing and largest of the biosciences here, and well-positioned in one of Canada’s major agricultural areas. There are some incredible innovators on the cusp of amazing things in vaccines and robotics,” says Kline. 

“We’re at the right place at the right time and more people are ‘getting off the plane’ instead of flying over us. It’s an exciting time for biosciences and we’re excited to see what happens next.”


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