Reaching New Scientific Heights in Toronto

Tapping into local expertise set the stage for industry collaboration at this life sciences meeting in Canada.

To hold the world’s largest gathering on lung cancer and thoracic malignancies, the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) needed a meeting destination with the capacity to host thousands of clinicians, scientists, and advocates, as well as an environment to foster collaboration and exploration. For the IASLC 19th World Conference on Lung Cancer (WCLC) in 2018, Toronto hit all the marks.

Located at the western edge of the Québec-Ontario Life Sciences Corridor, Toronto is easily accessible and well-connected, drawing in visitors from around the world, notes Mathias Posch, president and partner of International Conference Services and president of the International Association of Professional Conference Organizers. And while those factors alone are a benefit, the city’s influence in the life sciences sector is especially notable.

Toronto is home to dozens of research institutes, pharmaceutical and biomedical companies, and numerous incubators and accelerators, many of which helped make the 2018 WCLC a success. Their contributions led to record attendance numbers for the meeting and a long-term boost to the IASLC.

“The association still benefits from that reputation that was produced in Toronto,” Posch says.

Toronto’s life sciences expertise was at the forefront of the 2018 WCLC, with the conference’s honorary chair and co-presidents all hailing from the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre at the University of Toronto. Representation from the institute, which is renowned for its cutting-edge cancer care and research, was one example of the incredible life sciences talent in Toronto with a global impact on health and wellness. To have access to such expertise can not only lead to increased attendance, but also greater recognition and influence for events.

“To have that showcase of the city was remarkable,” Posch says. The experts from Princess Margaret Cancer Centre “were all in a different area of treatment and they were all the best in the field.”

A benefit of hosting a conference in a leading life sciences centre such as Toronto is the opportunity to leverage local expertise and incorporate it into the programming, through keynote speakers, poster presentations, sponsorship and more. The local organizing committee ensured that Toronto’s life sciences knowledge was incorporated into multiple facets of the conference. Members worked alongside the IASLC to present major studies that were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Introducing such groundbreaking research is a goal that many associations strive for at their meetings, Posch notes.

Just as lung and thoracic cancers encompass a great deal of cross-disciplinary science, the WCLC represented the depth and breadth of Toronto’s knowledge base. From oncology to neurology to hematology, there is a leading expert who can speak to virtually any health issue in Toronto, Posch says.

“We always can refer to a couple people that are world-leading scientists in that field or world-leading doctors, and that’s really, really remarkable for one city,” he says.

The legacy that a conference leaves behind is as important as the event itself, and creating a lasting impact depends on creating strong local partnerships.Toronto’s life sciences community showed up for delegates beyond traditional conference sessions at the WCLC. The IASLC Foundation Walk was supported by the local charitable organization Lung Cancer Canada, while regional industry sponsors in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology funded educational symposia and workshops. Connecting with these local leaders set the stage for collaboration in future research and development.

More recently, Toronto welcomed global C-suite executives for Innovate Canada 2019, a four-day event highlighting the Canadian life sciences ecosystem. In partnership with Tourism Toronto and eight Canadian centres of excellence in the life sciences, Innovate Canada granted guests access to industry experts, living labs, businesses, and other unique insider experiences while exploring Toronto’s medtech and pharmaceutical ecosystem. The event coincided with the inaugural Collision Conference, which included a HealthConf track featuring life sciences in the region.

Toronto may be one of the biggest names in the life sciences sector, but its countless resources and expertise are all well within reach. For conference planners seeking the kind of world-class talent that will set their events apart, Toronto makes it possible.

This article is brought to you by Business Events Canada. Learn more about planning your next life science event in Toronto, or reach out directly to receive our knowledge maps, designed to help you determine which life science destination is the best fit for your meeting.

(Handout photo)