P.E.I. bioscience industry building more space to grow
Sector has been resilient to effects of COVID-19, says P.E.I. BioAlliance
A new 20,000-square-foot bio-manufacturing facility is being built in Charlottetown's West Royalty Industrial Park to support the burgeoning bioscience sector on P.E.I.
Rory Francis, CEO of P.E.I. BioAlliance, says the sector has "essentially doubled" over the last five years to become one of the top industries on the Island.
"We can't just say 'agriculture, fisheries and tourism' anymore," he said.
The bioscience sector includes more than 60 companies, 2,000 employees and $250 million in sales a year on P.E.I., Francis said.
COVID-19 has not slowed down the industry, he added. Some of the companies have been working on products and solutions related to COVID-19, such as hand sanitizers, protective gear, ventilators for hospitals and antibody-based testing equipment ingredients for diagnostic kits.
'Markets haven't changed'
"This sector is very resilient, over 90 per cent of the employees in the sector continued to work safely through the whole pandemic so far," Francis said.
"The markets haven't changed. The companies made provisions for their employees to work safely."
The new bio-manufacturing building is expected to be complete early in 2021.
It will have six leasable suites, all of which have tenants waiting, Francis said.
"The bio-manufacturing incubator is a response to really the growth of the bio sector in P.E.I. over the last several years, and the fact that we have a shortage of space to support companies that are growing from an R and D [research and development] phase going into commercial manufacturing."
'Highly regulated space'
Francis said the design of the building takes into the account the products that will be manufactured, which will range from food and feed ingredients to probiotics, aquatic health products, veterinary products and natural health products.
"This is a highly regulated space in the sense that every company that will be there will be producing a health product of some sort."
The total construction cost of the building will be determined through a competitive bid process.
Funding will come from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the P.E.I. government. The operating costs of the facility will be covered through tenant leases, Francis said.
More from CBC P.E.I.
With files from Angela Walker