The Big Read

Discovering MaRS: The untold story of Canada’s largest and most controversial innovation hub

Dr. John Evans was curled up on a wooden bench in Chicago’s O’Hare airport, resting his long, wiry limbs as he waited for the snowstorm outside to pass. He and Dr. Calvin Stiller were returning to Toronto from a meeting in Salt Lake City in 1999 when their flight was cancelled on account of the weather. With Toronto-bound planes grounded until the next day, the two resolved to spend the night in the airport. Stiller recalls watching Evans, “an Abe Lincoln-looking character,” blink his eyes open after a short nap and unfurl from the too-short bench. “OK,” he said, “It’s time for us to get to work.” Evans got a pen and paper and began writing down his dreams.

He wrote about the convergence of science and business, and the translation of discoveries into products and medicines and how that would create wealth in Canada.

Inspired by Boston’s Kendall Square—then the most concentrated cluster of biotechnology in the world—the innovation hub Evans envisioned would be a junction for universities, hospitals, financial institutions and government; where ideas born in laboratories would collide with business and churn out globally-competitive companies.

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