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Why are emerging health technologies
so important to the future of Canada’s
healthcare system?
First, they provide solutions to major problems
faced by patients, clinicians and healthcare
systems. For example, better ways to diagnose
and treat illness, and solutions that help health-
care systems use their existing assets in smarter
ways. Second, is their economic impact as we
transition from the industrial age to the inno-
vation age. When our own health systems buy
Canadian health technologies, we help validate
the company, enabling it to begin exporting to
global markets that also need these solutions.
The result? A boost to the economy through
export revenues and an increased income tax
base garnered from the local, high-paying
knowledge economy jobs that are generated as
health tech companies scale internationally.
What kind of support is critical for the
success of health startups?
The journey from idea to global adoption is
fraught with challenges and risks. It takes an entire
ecosystem to grow a health startup from initial
Emerging Health Technologies
Can Enhance Canada’s Prosperity
By Dr. Zayna Khayat,
Senior Advisor,
Health System
Innovation, MaRS
Discovery District
concept through to international sales. First, there
is scientific and clinical risk, and the challenge of
securing enough capital to fuel the technology’s
development. Then, there is market risk as fiscally
constrained health systems struggle to pay for new
technologies that might not deliver benefits until
months or years after their purchase. To succeed,
a startup needs many kinds of support – ranging
from business strategy and clinical expertise to
regulatory expertise and risk capital.
Which area could see the biggest gains from
innovative health technologies?
Cancer control has great potential for break-
through changes because there is still so much
unmet need and it is one of only a few diseases in
Canada that is organized into a contiguous sys-
tem. That is, resources are allocated holistically,
spanning prevention through to palliative care.
Because these elements are already connected,
the transformation of any aspect of cancer could
ripple into upstream and downstream benefits
in the patient pathway. Ontario’s Alpha Cancer
Technologies is one of many emerging Canadian
health startups that are translating our public and
private research investments into useful products
and services to prevent, diagnose, treat and man-
age cancer. Within cancer, two areas with high
promise are personalized medicine and advanced
predictive algorithms that exploit big data to pre-
vent people from getting cancer in the first place.
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