Job Title: Program Director, TEC Edmonton Health Accelerator, Executive-in-Residence, TEC Edmonton
Why He’s Top 40: He helps fledgling biotechs take off in Alberta.
Guilty Pleasure: “[My wife and I] do the grocery shopping every Sunday and often end up going for pizza right next door – without the kids.”
When Jason Ding worked in private industry, brokering deals between health start-ups and multinational corporations, he sometimes overheard Alberta described as a “flyover zone” between Toronto and Vancouver.
He bristled as this was both untrue – Alberta produced plenty of worthwhile health technology, like drugs and diagnostic tools – and deeply worrying. After the global economic crisis, the province’s biotech sector desperately needed international investment. “We need their engagement here,” he says. “We really need [industry] to look at what we’ve got.”
Now, Ding is helping revitalize Alberta’s emerging biotech industry. In 2011, he was headhunted by TEC Edmonton – a technology commercialization joint venture by the University of Alberta and City of Edmonton – to create a new program in support of startups.
A five-year pilot project, the TEC Edmonton Health Accelerator helps start-ups with nearly everything they need to get off the ground – like securing patents, navigating regulatory approvals and raising capital. Since 2014, it has worked with over 200 startups and researchers, led to the creation of seven new companies, 31 patents and 11 licensing or distribution deals. Ding has also used his connections to bring tech scouts from Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Boehringer-Ingelheim and Sanofi-Genzyme to town.
Ding is optimistic that these efforts will get more industry players to touch down in Alberta: “Technology in Alberta is punching above its weight and [investors and technology scouts] enjoy coming here to see what we have.”