Montréal is hosting the world’s biggest HIV/AIDS conference — here’s why.
There’s no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has received an enormous amount of attention over the past year and a half. However, many other pandemics exist and affect the lives of countless people around the world. One of the most complex is HIV, a virus that attacks the body’s immune system and can lead to AIDS if left untreated.
Over the past 40 years, remarkable progress has been made in improving the lives of those who live with the virus, thanks in large part to groundbreaking research. Montréal, in eastern Canadian province of Québec, is a global leader in this research — and home to visionary thinkers who are continually unleashing new breakthroughs.
Montréal: an influential life sciences centre
A number of features contribute to Montréal’s reputation as one of the leading life sciences regions in the east coast. For one, there is a wealth of expertise in the sector. According to Montréal Invivo, life sciences and health tech support 56,000 jobs in Québec, 80% of which are based in Greater Montréal. The region also boasts a highly qualified talent pool, thanks to eight university level institutions and three engineering schools. All told, 6,300 graduates in life sciences leave school to enter the job market each year.
Montréal, which is known as Canada’s research capital, is home to the largest number of research centres in the country. Some of the city’s world-renowned institutes include the Montreal Clinic Research Institute, The Research Institiute of the McGill University Health Centre and the McGill AIDS Centre. Thanks to the cutting-edge work taking place, grants for new research and development continually flow into the city.
Another reason Montréal thrives in life sciences and health technology is because of a strong spirit of collaboration among research institutions, industry and government. Combine all of these advantages, and it should come as no surprise that industry giants like Merck, Pfizer and Novartis have their headquarters in the cosmopolitan city.
A leader in HIV/AIDS research
Montréal continues to be a global centre for HIV/AIDS research, a subsector of the city’s life sciences and health technologies domains. There are countless examples of strides that have been made in the city since the outbreak of the AIDS pandemic in 1981.
The late Dr. Mark Wainberg, who was director of the McGill AIDS Centre, made significant contributions to HIV treatment and care. He was the first scientist in Canada to work directly on HIV in the 1980s and is also among the first in the world to identify the problem of drug resistance. This led to the discovery of an anti-viral drug that has been instrumental in transforming HIV from a deadly infection to a manageable chronic disease.
More recently, in 2006, Professor Rafick-Pierre Sékaly's team at the Université de Montréal identified a protein that, when stimulated, restores the function of T cells, which are responsible for eliminating cells infected and rendered dysfunctional by the HIV virus. And in 2008, researchers at McGill University identified two genes that prevent the virus or slow the development of AIDS. Advances like these have been critical in improving the lives of millions of people around the world.
Many innovations have also been sparked in Montréal. For instance, an award-winning smartphone self-test application called HIVSmart! was developed in the city, which enables rapid detection of new infections and efficient connection to care. The test was developed by Dr. Nitika Pant Pai at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre.
A natural draw for conferences
This wealth of knowledge capital and innovative culture of research are some of the reasons why top-tier business events and conferences are held in Montréal. In fact, the International AIDS Society, the world’s largest association of HIV professionals, selected Montréal as the host city for their next international conference: AIDS 2022.
The conference will take place from July 29 through August 2, 2022 at the state-of-the-art Palais des congrès de Montréal, bringing together thousands of leading scientists, policy makers and grassroots activists and more. This is the second time that Montréal has hosted the prominent conference.
A place to meet
By choosing Montréal, organizations and conferences planners can tap into the city’s life sciences knowledge base and explore Canadian treatments, therapies and technologies powering the future of healthcare during B2B exchanges, lab tours and more.
“We call that 'meeting with purpose',” says Mylène Gagnon, vice president of sales and convention services at Tourisme Montréal, pointing out that Montréal is poised to show off its thriving life sciences sector and the visionary researchers who are shaping the future of health.
Additionally, Montréal is a chic, creative and safe city that overflows with festivals, culture and a vibrant nightlife. These authentic experiences add an exciting dimension to conference schedules and make the city a major draw for delegates from around the world. In fact, for the fourth consecutive year, Montréal was the top-ranked city in the Americas for the number of international events hosted in 2020, according to the International Meetings Statistics Report released by the Union of International Associations.
A central location
Montréal is connected to the world. The newly revamped Montréal-Trudeau International Airport (YUL) offers direct flights to over 150 global destinations. Plus, Montréal is less than a three-hour plane ride to major American cities like New York, Washington, Chicago and Atlanta.
Delegates to Montréal can choose from accommodation options that include familiar names like Delta, Fairmont, Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz Carlton, Sheraton and Westin. Local boutique hotels and ritzy independent properties are also scattered across the city and rank among the best in the world.
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