Biotechnology is the application of science and technology to living organisms. It uses techniques such as DNA/RNA applications; protein and peptides/enzymes, cell and tissue culture and engineering; gene and RNA vectors; bioinformatics; nanobiotechnology; process biotechnologies; and sub-cellular processes.
The biotechnology industry—the bio-economy—includes the research, development, manufacturing and commercialization of technologies and products in many areas: agriculture, aquaculture, bioenergy, bioinformatics, bioproducts, biosciences, environment, food processing, forestry, genomics, human health, industrial applications, life sciences, medical devices, natural resources, nanotechnology, nutraceuticals, and pharmaceuticals.
Canada is a world leader in biotechnology. It has an excellent research network of hospitals, universities, government laboratories, and private companies. The sector is growing and is an important platform of Canada’s economy.
Working in Biotechnology
There is a wide variety of career opportunities in the bio-economy. Biotechnology is used in many industries, and most biotechnology companies self-identify as being cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary.
Most biotechnology companies in Canada are small to medium-sized, with fewer than 50 full-time employees. Companies may be involved in various stages of development of products, such as research and development, clinical/field trials and regulatory trials, production/manufacturing, and commercialization/marketing.
The industry has occupations in:
- Research, development and technology: technicians, engineers, researchers
- Quality assurance and regulatory affairs: regulatory affairs specialists, consultants, safety officers
- Intellectual property: intellectual property and technology licensing officers, patent agents
- Manufacturing and distribution: directors of laboratory operations and facilities, product development officers, plant managers, manufacturing chemists
- Sales, marketing, communications and customer service: product managers, sales managers, marketing associates, scientific writers
- Human resources, finance and management: general manager, operations manager, financial officers, managers of investor relations.
Skills & Training
The industry requires individuals with scientific knowledge, as well as those with skills in leadership, business, project management, and communication. As most biotechnology organizations are small, staff often work in more than one role. Some larger organizations require more specialization.
There are many biotechnology and life science post-secondary programs in community colleges, polytechnics and universities across Canada.
BioTalent Canada is creating a BioSkills Recognition Program for internationally educated professionals and new entrants into the sector. This program will assess their skills and connect them with employers in an efficient and reliable fashion.