The value of Canada's biotechnology sector will grow by an annual average of 9.4% over the next 18 years and will reach C$144 billion by 2030, equal to just under 4% of Canadian Gross Domestic Product (GDP), say new forecasts.

Over the next 20 years, Canada will be well-positioned to support a maturing biotechnology industry, and the significance of the sector will extend beyond the value of economic goods and serves to cover job creation, enhanced human health, reduced environmental damage and greater production capacity, says the study, which was carried out for the nonprofit corporation Genomics Canada by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards (CSLS).

Much of Canada's biotechnology sector is centred on medicine and health care, in the form of biopharmaceuticals, diagnostics and new treatments including personalised medicine, tailored to meet individual needs, says the report.

In 2005, the value added of biotechnology activities in Canada was C$15 billion, or 1.19% of GDP, and during that year the number of innovative biotech firms in the nation totaled 532 (up from 358 in 1999), reporting revenues of C$4.2 billion and employing 13,450 staff. Medical biotech firms accounted for 58.3% of the total - and the bulk of employment, R&D spending and revenues - followed by agricultural companies (20.1%) and industrial firms (18.6%). Across the sector overall, three-quarters of innovative biotech firms had fewer than 50 employees and were located in Quebec, Ontario or British Columbia.

Between 1999 and 2005, revenues of biotechnology companies in Canada grew 13.7% each year. "This rapid growth likely continued from 2005 to 2011 and is expected to persist in the future, given the economic opportunities that advances in biotechnology research are opening up," says CSLS executive director Andrew Sharpe. 

During 205-2015, revenues for biotech-based medicines and health care firms in the private sector are expected to rise by an annual average of 15%, compared to an average of 19.2% a year during 1999-2005, and their annual rate of rise during 2015-2030 will average 13%. says the study.

"We are seeing how the genome sciences have emerged to become a driving force on the economic landscape," comments Genome Canada's president, Pierre Meulien. "We expect biotechnology to help provide the means of economic growth and the ability to help Canada adapt to the challenges of a complex, troubled world," he adds.