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The government of BC is partnering with Providence for a new Clinical Trials Unit at Mount Saint Joseph Hospital. L-R: Anne Stevens, ice-president of Business Development, AbCellera; Gail Murphy, professor and vice-president of research and innovation, University of BC; Brenda Bailey, minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation; Fiona Dalton, president & CEO, Providence Health Care; Joan Phillips, MLA, Vancouver-Mount Pleasant.
Research + Innovation

Providence hospital to become home to first non-cancer Phase 1 clinical trials unit in Western Canada


This article originally appeared in The Daily Scan.

Providence Health Care’s Mount Saint Joseph Hospital will soon become the only non-cancer Phase 1 Clinical Trials Unit in Western Canada, thanks to an investment by the government of British Columbia.

The BC Ministry of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation today announced it is investing $4.2 million to create a six-bed unit at Mount Saint Joseph in Vancouver. The unit will launch late next year.

Phase 1 clinical trials test drugs or treatments for the first time in healthy, human volunteers.

Having this will open doors for BC biotech companies to create more high-quality jobs and keep critical intellectual property in the province.

BC patients will benefit by being able to take part in trials for new life-saving therapeutics they otherwise would not be able to access.

Economic and social benefits to early-phase clinical trials in BC

“Canada is a destination of choice for clinical trials,” says Fiona Dalton, president and CEO of Providence. “However, Canada and BC lack Phase 1 capacity. That means companies have to go abroad to conduct these crucial early trials, which determine whether to continue or terminate development of potential therapeutics.”

“This leads to a substantial loss of economic activity, training opportunities and patient benefits for Canada. We’re delighted that the provincial government has recognized the economic and societal benefits that early-phase clinical trials bring and is investing in addressing this capacity gap.” 

Clinical trials were “life-changing” for Vancouver man

Mike Hamilton, a medical chemist with a Vancouver pharmaceuticals company, was part of a clinical trial for a cystic fibrosis drug.

“It was life-changing,” he says. “Before I took part, my health was declining. I had 77% of lung function. Within a month of taking the drug, my function rebounded to 90%. That drug is now approved for use and many in BC are benefiting from it.”

Hamilton says it is important for British Columbians to have access to leading research and medications. “Today’s announcement of dedicated research space will ensure that BC remains a leader in attracting clinical trials. Being part of a trial has dramatically improved my life.”

The CTU will allow local life sciences companies and researchers to test their discoveries within the province.

“As well as advancing life-saving therapeutics by fostering collaboration between researchers, clinicians and industry experts, strengthening BC’s early-stage trial ecosystem will provide significant economic benefits by attracting investments and partnerships with domestic and international pharmaceutical companies,” says Anne Stevens, vice president, business development, AbCellera, a Vancouver-based life-sciences firm.

Paving the way to better health outcomes

“Growing BC’s capacity for clinical trials is not only going to further scientific advancement, it is going to save lives,” says Adrian Dix, minister of Health. “By investing in the new clinical trials unit, we are paving the way for groundbreaking life sciences innovation that will advance health care in our province for years to come and help more patients in BC achieve better health outcomes.”

Providence aims to include a purpose-built Phase I to III clinical-trials unit in its future plans for the envisioned Clinical Support and Research Centre (CSRC), directly adjacent to the new St. Paul’s Hospital at the Jim Pattison Medical Campus. The CSRC will be strategically designed as a dynamic life sciences ecosystem, proactively driving research and development, strategic partnerships with industry, and talent retention.

Michael Smith Health Research BC, BC’s health research agency, will be seeking opportunities to leverage and support these initiatives as they contribute to a world-class destination for clinical trials. They will be contributing an additional $1.2 million.

This story is based on a BC government news release issued today. Read the full release here.