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Perhaps one of the most critical lessons to occur during the pandemic was the impact of the collaborations that materialized across several sectors. Public private partnerships have been essential in the funding and conducting of research, including vaccines, as well as their procurement and equitable distribution. The scientific community came together to share data, knowledge, and expertise to accelerate our understanding of the virus and in the development of vaccines and treatments. The patient community was recognized as an essential partner in the pandemic response, with patients providing critical insights (how the virus and vaccine affects women differently, long covid amongst a few key items) and participating in clinical trials. These collaborations have been key for effective action against the virus, demonstrating the power of cross sector partnerships in addressing and accelerating complex public health challenges. 


The COVID19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of numerous policies and innovations, such as the widespread use of telehealth, and created a pressing need for enhanced communication channels within and across various professionals from different organizations. The importance of international cooperation was widely recognized in the global response to the pandemic. Spurring interdisciplinary cooperation and national coordination in many ways, including collaborations between researchers, clinicians, and public health officials as well as between different countries and regions.21 

Countries have worked together to share information and resources, including sharing scientific data and expertise, developing and distributing vaccines and medical supplies, and coordinating travel restrictions and quarantine measures.

The pandemic has also reshaped the cultural landscape in science, setting aside competition to accelerate the exchange of information and ideas. Necessitating a reassessment of longstanding incentive structures in the scientific community, which have traditionally emphasized individual achievement and specialization, rather than prioritizing collective progress over individual recognition.22

Within weeks of the first case of COVID being reported, Chinese researchers had identified the virus they suspected of causing the disease and had decoded an initial genome sequence. During the first 24 hours after publication, an evolutionary biologist in Scotland had figured out the similarities between this virus and SARS-CoV-1 and shared the findings immediately online. A researcher in the U.S. openly published the new virus’ phylogenetic tree. And another started reverse engineering a live virus from the sequence, letting colleagues around the world know that the first steps towards developing an antibody test were already underway.23 

Collaboration has been key in the fight against COVID19 and can serve as a blueprint for cancer research and policy. By leveraging a similar collaborative approach, we can tap into the collective expertise and resources of various scientific fields and research institutions to accelerate progress towards the development of more effective cancer treatments and effective policies that bring them to the cancer patients who need them.

While COVID19 has demonstrated the value of open science and international collaboration, it has also exposed the gaps in science policy, a reminder that science, technology, and innovation policy are essential to build resiliency and enable sustainability. Highlighting the need for more equitable and sustainable science policies, which prioritize investments in research and development, and emphasize the importance of integrating science and technology into policy frameworks. 


The onset of COVID19 highlighted a lack of preparedness among government departments and public sector organizations in countries, globally. In this context, the private sector has emerged as a critical partner, leveraging its capacity for innovation and rapid response to develop and enhance existing services. Collaborations between private and public sector entities have been instrumental in strengthening the pandemic response and enabling the development of new solutions to emerging challenges, with Canadian industry stepping in to offer its support, partnership, and expertise. Many of these partnerships between public and private actors worked efficiently to speed up research by using public funding, private capital, and foreign direct investment to enhance production facilities, to streamline approval and administrative processes and to make planning for future supplies more efficient.24 

Public private partnerships (PPPs) are collaborations between the public and private sectors in which each party contributes skills, expertise, and resources to achieve a common goal. The purpose of PPPs is to leverage the strengths of both sectors to provide public goods and services more efficiently and effectively than either sector could achieve alone. The benefits of PPPs include the ability to share risks and rewards, to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of public services, to attract private investment, to foster innovation, and to deliver projects on time and within budget. PPPs can also lead to the creation of new jobs, economic growth, and improved quality of life for citizens. 

There have been several successful public private partnerships during the COVID19 pandemic in Canada, including

COVID19 Immunity Task Force. The COVID19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) was created in late April 2020 with the goal of catalyzing, supporting, funding and harmonizing research into COVID19 immunity to inform Canadian policymakers, allowing them to make evidence based decisions. The COVID19 Immunity Task Force is a partnership between the Government of Canada, several Canadian universities, and the private sector. The task force is aimed at tracking the spread of COVID19 in Canada and determining the extent of population immunity to the virus. The partnership involves providing funding and resources to support research, as well as coordinating efforts to ensure the timely sharing of data and information.

Helping Canadian Industry produce Ventilators. At the outset of the COVID19 outbreak, the Government of Canada issued a call to action to Canadian businesses and manufacturers to step up production of much needed "made in Canada" medical supplies, including ventilators. Through the national research council, the program was able to provide funding and support to manufacturers to increase production capacity and accelerate the delivery of ventilators to hospitals and healthcare providers. These interactions have led to a collective building and sharing of knowledge and expertise across the organization which has contributed to a number of successes, including CAE (Montréal, QC), a global leader in the delivery of training for the civil aviation, defence and security, and health care markets.

Code Life Ventilator Challenge. The Code Life Ventilator Challenge was a two week international design competition to create a simple, low cost, easy to manufacture and easy to maintain ventilator to serve COVID19 patients. A joint initiative between the Montreal General Hospital Foundation and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), backed by Scotiabank, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and MD Financial Management (200.000$). By the two week deadline, they received more than 2,600 challenge entries from engineers, scientists, programmers, and medical technology experts in 90 countries.

The Government of Canada, through Innovative Solutions Canada, launched specific challenges to harness the innovations of Canadian entrepreneurs to meet the (then) immediate needs of the health system. The government rapidly selected the best projects to accelerate development and testing of promising innovations that would have a direct impact on our health care response. 

COVID19 Supply Council. The COVID19 Supply Council is a partnership between the Canadian government and the private sector, bringing together a diverse group of leaders to provide the government with advice on the procurement of critical goods and services required as part of Canada’s COVID19 response and recovery. Aimed at ensuring Canada's supply chains remain strong and resilient during the COVID19 pandemic. The partnership involves working closely with the private sector to identify and address supply chain challenges, as well as coordinating efforts to ensure the timely delivery of critical supplies and equipment.

CanCOVID. A network of active researchers, academics, patient partners, decision makers, and industry partners dedicated to an evidence informed response to the COVID‑19 pandemic. The purpose is to support the scientific effort and community in their work through encouraging multidisciplinary collaborations and helping to connect people and resources to enable rapid knowledge mobilization and science to policy action. Providing government partners with a better line of sight to existing and emerging COVID‑19 science and research. 

The COVID19 pandemic has demonstrated the potential of public private partnerships (PPPs) to enhance the delivery of healthcare services in Canada, many demonstrating the potential for outcomes focused, creative ways of mobilizing skills, funds, and capacities to help achieve public health goals.  Drawing on the successes and lessons learned from this pandemic, PPPs can be leveraged as a model for improving and addressing the complex challenges facing cancer care in Canada. By pooling resources and expertise through PPPs, we can leverage the strong relationships between industry and government to enable rapid and effective transformations. This can include simplifying procurement, accelerating the development and adoption of new technologies in cancer care, promoting data sharing and collaboration, supporting provincial and national decision makers through a diverse range of public sector partners, and fostering innovation and long term planning. By harnessing the power of PPPs, we can enhance the quality of cancer care, improve outcomes for patients, and strengthen Canada's healthcare system overall.

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