Sequence Bio, a biotechnology company in Newfoundland and Labrador that last year had considered moving its genome project to New Brunswick — meaning the loss of approximately 100 high-paying jobs here and an estimated negative economic impact of $150 million — has won its day in court.
Sequence Bio challenged the Health Research Ethics Board (HREB) in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador on timelines and a judge found in the company’s favour on Friday.
Sequence Bio strives to improve how to treat diseases and develop medicines.
It argued the ethics board should have to render decisions on applications in 30 days and Justice Vikas Khaladkar agreed.
“We are pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision that the HREB must make decisions on applications with 30 days and is bound to fulfill this obligation under the (Health Research Ethics Authority) Act,’’ Sequence Bio’s CEO and president Chris Gardner said in a news release.
“This ruling will provide all researchers in this province with increased certainty regarding the timing and review of health research applications. We look forward to continuing our constructive work with the newly formed HREB-Genomics board,” he added.
Sequence Bio had requested that a decision be made within 30 days but the HREA believed it should only consider applications within that time period, and not actually render a decision.
The court ruling recognized the benefit of having expedient health research conducted in this province, stating, “Fewer studies translates into fewer potential benefits down the road for the citizens of this province — since health research involving human subjects should have, as one of its main aims, the amelioration of health conditions for the population being studied.”
The St. John’s-based biotechnology company filed an application last spring with the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court seeking an order declaring that the board, as appointed by the Health Research Ethics Authority (HREA), is lawfully obligated to decide on a research application within 30 days of receiving it, as set out in provincial legislation.
Gardner told Telegram at the time that the company’s actions are not about discrediting the regulator, but about creating an environment where research into the diseases affecting so many people in this province can thrive, so as to improve health-care delivery and outcomes.