Government of Canada invests in new open science drug discovery network

News release

Conscience-led network aims to expedite the drug research and development process and enhance Canada’s future pandemic preparedness     

October 5, 2023 – Toronto, Ontario

The Government of Canada is firmly committed to supporting the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and approaches to accelerate drug discovery and develop new drugs and effective treatments for Canadians.

Today, Ryan Turnbull, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, on behalf of the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced an investment of $49 million through the Strategic Innovation Fund for the creation of the Conscience Open Science Drug Discovery Network. This collaborative pan-Canadian network aims to address gaps in the development of potential drugs and therapeutics, particularly in areas of traditional market failures such as antivirals for pandemic preparedness, medicines for antimicrobial resistance and medicines for rare and pediatric diseases. Conscience, a non-profit, is advancing an open-science model where researchers, industry partners and other stakeholders collaborate by distributing and sharing results, with the goal of identifying promising drug candidates. In addition, applying artificial intelligence (AI) aims to expedite the drug development process, accelerating research by reducing duplication of efforts, thereby improving timeframes in the selection of viable candidates for clinical trials.

By streamlining the drug research and development process through AI, the network will ensure Canada remains agile to meet Canadians’ health needs and prepare for future pandemics and emergencies. This project aligns with Canada’s Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy as it will ultimately increase Canada’s competitive advantage and capacity for drug discovery.

Conscience is expected to work with 27 key partners representing non-profits, academia and industry, including Canadian AI organizations and the pharmaceutical industry. The network expects to advance new AI-based drug discovery algorithms, support leading data resources to train effective AI, and seed start-ups and drug discovery companies focusing on antiviral, antibacterial, rare or pediatric disease drugs. This investment will support over 100 projects, support the creation of 10 new businesses, and generate $150 million in private investment. In addition, it is expected that the establishment of the network will create a minimum of 80 new highly skilled positions and support student placements.


“Today’s investment will accelerate therapeutics research and development efforts by leveraging Canadian strengths in artificial intelligence and employing open science principles to drive efficiencies in building Canadian innovation capacity and delivering the medicines that Canadians need. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how important it is to maintain and grow a vibrant and innovative life sciences ecosystem. This is why our government is proud to support the Conscience-led network as part of our continued commitment to building a strong and resilient sector that will protect Canadians’ health and safety for generations to come.”
– The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

“I’m proud to announce this critical project that will connect a vast community of experts to accelerate the identification of promising drug candidates, support pandemic preparedness and boost Canada’s biomedical sector by building on its talented resources and creating rewarding jobs.” 
– Ryan Turnbull, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry and Member of Parliament for Whitby

Quick facts

  • Conscience, previously known as the Viral Medicines Initiative, is a Toronto-based not-for-profit started in 2020 to establish the open science drug discovery network. 

  • The Government of Canada Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy presents a long-term vision to protect Canadians against future pandemics and other health emergencies and to grow an innovative, competitive domestic life sciences sector.

  • Budget 2021 provided a total of $2.2 billion over seven years toward growing a vibrant domestic life sciences sector and securing pandemic preparedness. This funding includes foundational investments to help build Canada’s talent pipeline and research systems as well as foster the growth of Canadian life sciences firms.

Associated links


Audrey Champoux
Press Secretary and Senior Communications Advisor
Office of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

Media Relations
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

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