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Bridging Botany and Biomedicine: The Pioneering Journey of Ottawa Startup, Spiderwort

Apr 3, 2024

548 words – 3 mins

In their individual quests to advance the regeneration of cellular structures, Dr. Charles M. Cuerrier and Dr. Andrew E. Pelling stumbled upon a remarkable synergy in their research. This discovery led them to join forces and establish Spiderwort in 2015 with the aim of transforming plant tissues into biomedical materials that could be integrated with the human body. 

Founders of Spiderwort, Andrew Pelling and Charles Cuerrier standing proudly - one with hands on hips, the other holding a Macintosh laptop.

Through years of subsequent research, Dr. Cuerrier and Dr. Pelling discovered how to engineer scaffolds from apples, asparagus, and other plants to facilitate the regeneration of human cells.

This innovative approach of putting plants into people initially seemed implausible but is proving to be a game-changer. Not only are the plant-based scaffolds accepted by the body, but they also provide the necessary structure for cells to thrive. 

The potential applications of Spiderwort’s technology are vast, from treating spinal cord injuries to repairing skin damage and signs of aging. Early results have been very promising, particularly in restoring mobility and function in cases of severed spinal cords in an animal model, moving the technology soon into clinical trials with human participants. 

However, the journey from laboratory results to health-care system integration is long and challenging for biomedical startups. They need lots of support, mentoring, and facilities to ensure their products deliver proven results and get regulatory approval 

Doctors Cuerrier and Pelling are grateful for the help they’ve received from Invest Ottawa and Collège La Cité.   

Invest Ottawa, known for its dedication to nurturing local startups, has been instrumental in helping Spiderwort with business advice, investment opportunities, and essential facilities.

A logo for Ottawa company Spiderwort.

Spiderwort joined Invest Ottawa’s Accelerator program in 2018 and has since graduated into IO ScaleUp, a program designed to help high-potential technology firms achieve rapid growth and market success.

Since 2018, the pioneer in life sciences has grown from six to more than 22 full-time employees and has raised 20.8 million CDN in total capital. 

“Invest Ottawa made the difference in our ability to survive over the length of time it takes to develop practical biomedical technologies,” Cuerrier explained.

“It has been amazing to work with Charles, Andrew and their team from the very early days – especially in seeing how far they have come.” Said Nick Quain, Vice-President of Venture at Invest Ottawa.

Logo for Ontario-based French language college La Cite.

“For a life science firm where the co-founders were primarily researchers at the beginning of their journey, to where they are now as true business leaders in our community and biomedical leaders in their industry. It’s really no surprise to see investors betting on Spiderwort.”

Collège La Cité, an Ottawa-area college, has complemented this support by providing Spiderwort with access to specialized equipment, research collaborators and assistants, and state-of-the-art lab space.

They’re extremely supportive”, says Cuerrier. “Although we were one of their first industry clients, they’ve continually adjusted their facilities to accommodate our growth over the years. They are a perfect example of how academia and industry both benefit when they work closely together and adapt to each other’s needs.” 

Spiderwort’s success story is a testament to the power of collaboration between economic development agencies, academia, and industry. As the company continues to develop the technology that promises to transform the lives of patients worldwide, it is proud to call Ottawa home.

“Invest Ottawa and Collège La Cité have been perfect partners in our ongoing journey,” says Cuerrier, “They create a very supportive environment for startups of all kinds.” 

About IO ScaleUp    

Designed for high-potential product-based technology firms, IO ScaleUp provides advisory services, networks and programming to help overcome three key challenges to rapid growth and market success – customers, revenue and talent.

The platform is jointly delivered by Invest Ottawa, Communitech, and MaRs Discovery District to help scale-up firms rapidly scale revenues or teams and increase their potential of becoming $100 million companies.  Learn more about IO ScaleUp.



Invest Ottawa
Invest Ottawa, is Ottawa’s leading economic development agency for fostering the advancement of the region's globally competitive knowledge-based institutions and industries. Invest Ottawa delivers its economic development services through a unique partnership with the City of Ottawa, where the City and Invest Ottawa, through its members set the strategy and manage the programs that move Ottawa’s economy forward. Invest Ottawa is a non-profit, partnership organization that operates on an annual budget that comes from a variety of sources including: municipal, federal and provincial government; membership fees; professional development programs; and private sector contributions.

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