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March 02, 2009— Ottawa, Ontario

Innovative medical technologies for tomorrow's health care challenges

In the coming decades, the world population will undergo significant demographic changes.

The first shock will come from sheer population growth. According to United Nations figures, the world population — which was 6.7 billion in 2006 — will likely reach 8 billion in 2025 and 9.2 billion by the year 2050. Incredibly, the latter increase is equivalent to adding every individual alive in 1950 to the current world population!

The second tremor will be triggered by population aging. By 2025, one in four Canadians will be 65 years of age or older, up from one in twenty in 1921 and one in eight in 2001. And around the world, the number of persons aged 60 years or over, which was estimated at 688 million in 2006, will grow to a staggering 2 billion individuals by the year 2050. At that point, and for the first time in human history, the population of older persons will be larger than the population of children.

Needless to say, these demographic changes will have a significant impact on the health of the world's population — for example, by increasing the prevalence of chronic diseases associated with old age. Population health trends, in turn, will prove quite a challenge to health care systems around the globe, including ours right here in Canada. 

NRC recognized these challenges when developing the NRC Strategy, and we are well positioned to contribute through innovation. Our scientists are developing non-invasive medical devices and techniques that improve the prospects for prevention, earlier diagnosis, and improved treatment and prognosis of disease. In the last 15 years, NRC researchers have developed S&T solutions for such varied ailments as brain tumours, cardiovascular diseases and breast cancer.

Building on these recent successes, NRC has identified the medical devices industry as a key sector to focus R&D efforts. We are currently developing a strategy to help Canadian companies capture a larger share of the multibillion dollar market for medical devices. Our planning exercise involves representatives from across NRC consulting with industry to determine where we can have the greatest impact for Canada. We expect to have a medical devices strategy in place by the end of this year.

NRC has much to offer medical devices companies through the NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program and our state-of-the-art research facilities. Across NRC, we boast expertise in biosensors, implantable biomaterials and magnetic resonance imaging as well as microfluidics, spectroscopy and surgical robotics. We also offer business and market intelligence services, a wealth of information resources, intellectual property/knowledge management, and support for small and medium-sized enterprises.

This initiative is timely, since the medical technology market is predicted to undergo a substantial worldwide expansion in the coming years. And NRC already has considerable expertise in the commercialization of diagnostic equipment. Two of our most successful spin-offs in that sector, IMRIS and Novadaq, have leveraged over $125 million in investment since their creation through venture capital and public IPO markets, thanks to technologies invented at the NRC Institute for Biodiagnostics in Winnipeg. IMRIS now employs 100 people and has annual sales revenue exceeding $40 million. Novadaq is experiencing significant sales growth and is valued at several hundred million dollars.

These firms are a great example of how NRC is putting science to work for Canada.

Enquiries: Media relations
National Research Council of Canada

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