Collaboration with biotech incubator creates jobs for researchers

Joining forces with Johnson & Johnson Innovation (JLABS @ Toronto), Mitacs has created innovative research opportunities in healthcare for over 50 interns and postdoctoral fellows

For Toronto-based Dose Biosystems, a focus on researching and developing the next generation of probiotics brings a hiring challenge: finding and onboarding highly specialized talent. Coming directly from doctoral programs, new employees encounter an unfamiliar environment that requires new skills and different ways of working.

The company’s solution to this barrier came when they learned about Mitacs during an event hosted by JLABS @ Toronto, a 40,000 square-foot life science innovation centre. Three months later, they had recruited a research intern.

“We’d like to think the people we’re hiring today will grow with us and become leaders in our company, but we shouldn’t expect someone who’s spent the past decade of their life in academia to quickly adapt to industry. This is the opposite of setting someone up to succeed,” says Ted Jin, founder and CEO of Dose Biosystems.

He attributes the success of the partnership with Mitacs to the unique format of the programs offered, where interns and postdoctoral fellows worked on Dose Biosystems’ projects with the supervision of professors at the University of Toronto (U of T) and the University of Guelph.

“It’s a triple win since it’s an industry collaboration for an academic partner, it ensures the employee a smooth transition, and it allows us to evaluate and train them at a unique pace,” says Jin. “As we’ve continuously brought people in through Mitacs, it’s become almost an extension of our hiring strategy.”

Since 2018, the company has transitioned its three Mitacs interns to full-time positions.


Combining Mitacs and Johnson & Johnson Innovation strengths

Access to human and financial resources has long been a challenge for start-ups beginning their operations. But, like Dose Biosystems, other resident companies at JLABS @ Toronto have been able to diversify their businesses, create jobs, and scale up with Mitacs’s support.

“As an incubator, our ‘raison d’être’ is to help companies get from early discovery to commercialization, and one of the things they struggle with is resources. So, we create connections through our Resource & Investor Hubs that can help them do more,” says Allan Miranda, Head of JLABS Canada. “We see Mitacs as one of the resources on the people side; it allows the companies to get access to skills and skilled people in a cost-effective way, with the aim to help them to diversify and add on to their product portfolio.”

JLABS @ Toronto opened in 2016 with the aim to help support the growth of the biotech ecosystem locally and nationally. They work side by side with innovators, providing an exchange of ideas and resources to support their potential success.

Mitacs first got involved with the incubator’s community in 2018. Since then, it has funded 45 projects in partnership with 24 resident companies and 38 professors from seven Canadian universities. As a result, more than 50 interns and postdoctoral fellows benefited from research opportunities.

One of these researchers was Dr. Janaina Bortolatto, who is currently a full-time Clinical Specialist at Cohesys — a start-up developing surgical adhesives technology. She joined the company as a Mitacs postdoctoral fellow after completing another fellowship at U of T’s Faculty of Dentistry. “Mitacs has given me the opportunity to further develop my career by understanding the corporative side of research and how different it can be from an academic world,” she says.

For Dr. Bortolatto, being at JLABS @ Toronto has contributed to her positive experience. “The laboratories are equipped with state-of-the-art instruments, we have access to their events with relevant talks, and share our experience with members of other companies. In addition, we learn many aspects related to administration systems employed by more corporate-focused labs.”

Continued investment during COVID-19

With the onset of coronavirus, the combination of Mitacs and JLABS @ Toronto’s resources has been crucial to help ensure businesses could pivot where needed, continue operating, and work to scale up.

Of the 11 JLABS @ Toronto resident companies working with Mitacs in 2020, seven took advantage of the special COVID-19 call for proposals. This call expedited coronavirus-related projects within days by securing government funding, accessing resources for research, development, and equipment, and hiring post-secondary interns.

For instance, in April 2020, Mediphage Bioceuticals was able to quickly put together a project proposal to work with four University of Waterloo interns. The goal was to adapt their innovative Ministring DNA technology into a universal vaccine platform for coronaviruses and flu viruses. Mediphage encoded a novel virus-like particle into their genetic medicine system that would stimulate a “synthetic infection” in patients, causing an immune response and sparing patients from the symptoms of COVID-19.

Mediphage, Dose Biosystems, and Cohesys are only a few of the many examples of how the unique collaboration between Mitacs and JLABS @ Toronto can drive innovation locally, nationally, and internationally. “Exposing these talents to these companies — and exposing these companies to technology — gives us the chance, as Canada, to help develop homegrown assets. I feel it gives the opportunity to keep these people employed by Canadian companies,” highlights JLABS’s Allan Miranda.

“And that’s to the benefit of everybody.”

Mitacs’s programs receive funding from multiple partners across Canada. We thank the Government of Canada, the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies, the Government of Saskatchewan, and the Government of Yukon for supporting us to foster innovation and economic growth throughout the country.

Do you have a business challenge that could benefit from a research solution? If so, contact Mitacs today to discuss partnership opportunities:


Mitacs empowers Canadian innovation through effective partnerships that deliver solutions to our most pressing problems. By driving economic growth and productivity, we create meaningful change to improve quality of life for all Canadians.