What does hard work look like?

Innovative medicines aren’t only important during a global pandemic. In fact, millions of Canadians are relying on them to live comfortably every day. That’s why Canada’s innovative pharmaceutical companies are dedicated to developing medicines and vaccines that tackle the health challenges of today and tomorrow.

What it takes to deliver innovative medicines

$2.6 Billion per drug Developing innovative medicines and vaccines is expensive. Our members invest billions in research and development each year.
10 to 15 Years It doesn’t happen overnight. From discovery through clinical trials and manufacturing, it often takes more than a decade for a drug to reach patients.
10,000 Compounds Of the 5,000–10,000 compounds that are screened, only 5 will make it to clinical trials. If the trials don’t show promise, researchers go back to the drawing board.
24/7 Collaboration Pharmaceutical companies and global researchers are collaborating around the clock to find new treatments and vaccines for COVID-19.

From research to remedy

When it comes to innovative medicines, hope often starts years before a patient is diagnosed. Compounds are typically discovered decades in advance, along with the research and development required to bring them to life. Learn more about the evolution of pharmaceuticals from drug development to treatment through real patient stories.

Shannon Gaudette • Melanoma survivor

In 2005, Shannon Gaudette was diagnosed with melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. Innovative medicines played a major role in her recovery process with the help of an innovative immunotherapy drug. Learn how the first cytokine compound went from research to seeing real life results in Shannon’s story.

Stories of innovation and hope

From molecule to medicine

There’s a lot of misinformation about the pharmaceutical industry. Learn more about the process of what it takes to produce innovative medicines, from development to clinical trials, and patient treatment.

Drug development

Canada’s innovative pharmaceutical companies invest up to $2 billion every year into the research and development of innovative medicines and vaccines. Why? Because we know that Canada has some of the best researchers and scientists in the world (like when we discovered insulin, and more recently, cancer stem cell targeting). Our investments support local economies and offer Canadian doctors’ access to new innovative therapies.  

Clinical trials

Clinical trials don’t happen overnight. It often takes over a decade for a new drug to reach patients. The entire process requires three phases, including thousands of researchers, scientists, doctors, and patient volunteers. During preclinical research, between 5,000 – 10,000 compounds are isolated for potential new medicines – only 5 of which will make it to clinical trials. If the clinical trials aren’t successful, researchers go back to the drawing board to start again.  

Collaboration and partnerships

Canada is home to some of the best researchers, scientists, and research infrastructure in the world. Our pharmaceutical companies have partnered with universities and research centres across the country to discover new treatments, and advance medical innovation. Our companies collaborate with institutions like the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, the NEOMED Institute, MaRS Innovation and The Centre for Drug Research and Development.

Testing and treatment

Innovative medicines and pharmaceuticals are more than just vaccines. Our members work tirelessly toward the discovery and development of new drugs that can help Canadians live longer, healthier lives. From multiple sclerosis to diabetes, our pharmaceutical companies are dedicated to treating or curing today’s serious illnesses. Currently, there are over 500 new products in development in Canada, including cancer therapy treatments, infectious diseases, and vaccines.  

A hundred years of hard work

Canada’s innovative pharmaceutical companies have never shied away from hard work. The industry has positively contributed to the health and well-being of Canadians for over a century.


Discovery of insulin

Banting and Best prove insulin is the hormone involved in glucose metabolism, leading to a means of treating diabetes.


Polio vaccine

Canadian research, methods and innovation are critical to the development and mass production of the Salk polio vaccine.


Smallpox vaccine

Connaught Laboratories’ freeze-dried smallpox vaccine becomes the standard for global smallpox eradication program.


Macular degeneration treatment

Quadra Logic Technology develops photodynamic drug Visudyne™ to treat age-related macular degeneration worldwide.


HIV prevention vaccine

Dr. Chil-Yong Kang and his researcher team at the University of Western Ontario develop a preventive vaccine for HIV.


Cancer stem cell targeting

Dr. John Dick and Princess Margaret Hospital team use a small-molecule inhibitor to block the BMI-1 pathway and halt cancer growth.

Innovative Medicines Canada

Innovative Medicines Canada is a national association representing 47 innovative pharmaceutical companies – from small Canadian start-ups to established global organizations – that discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines and vaccines. Our vision is to help all Canadians live longer, healthier lives.

Learn more at innovativemedicines.ca

A commitment to ethics

Mutual trust is key to collaboration. Innovative Medicines Canada and its members have set a high standard for ethical, transparent and open practices that respect the relationships between our member company employees, the life sciences sector, healthcare professionals and the Canadian public.

Learn about our Code of Ethical Practices

Focused on the pandemic

The innovative pharmaceutical industry is dedicated to the discovery, development and delivery of life-saving medicines and treatments. Our members are working around the clock with industry, government, research and healthcare stakeholders to help treat and eradicate COVID-19.

Visit our COVID-19 resource centre