Helene Desmarais holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance from HEC Montréal. She is founder, CEO and Chair of the Board of Administration of the Centre d'entreprises et d'innovation de Montréal (CEIM). CEIM is a business incubator, with an emphasis on startups as well as the development of innovative IT, multimedia, industrial technology and biotech companies. CEIM supports the emergence of viable, innovative and successful companies from those sectors which are an economic priority for the Greater Metropolitan Area of Montreal and the province of Quebec.
Ms. Desmarais is founder and Chair of the Board of Administration and of the Entrepreneurial Development Committee of the Société de développement économique Ville-Marie (SDEVM) since 1998. She is both Chair of the Board of Administration and of the Financial Assistance Committee of the SDEVM's Société d'Investissement Jeunesse (SIJ) Loan Guarantee Program. The primary mission of these two organisations is to promote entrepreneurship and economic development. The SDEVM primarily offers commercial loan guarantees to startup companies. The SIJ offers personal loan guarantees to young entrepreneurs under 35, who wish to start, acquire or become an associate in a Quebec business.
Gestion Bio-Capital Inc. was founded in 1997 and was led by Ms. Desmarais as Chair of the Board of Administration until the sale of the fund in 2001. She was also a member of the verification and investment committees and member of the private investment evaluation committee at the time of the sale of the fund. Gestion Bio-Capital Inc. was a venture capital organisation specializing in biotec startups.
In 2003, Ms. Desmarais was appointed first female President of HEC's Board of Administration, to which she had been named in 1999. She is Co-President and founder of the International Advisory Board of HEC Montréal (1990), is chair of the University of Montreal's Faculty of Medicine Advisory Committee (2006), is chair of the advisory board of the Consultative Committee of the Hospital Centre of the Université de Montréal (CHUM) (2008), is President of the Advisory Board and member of the Board of Governors of the Conference of Montreal (International Economic Forum of the Americas, 1995), is President of the Board of Administration of The Montreal Economic Institute (2007) where she has held a seat since 2002, is Chair of the Canadian Joint Regional Committees since 2006, was President of the Board of Directors of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal. She was on the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal from 2002-2009 and has sat on its Executive Committee since 2005. She has been Deputy Chair of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Chair and founder of its Fondation since 2008. She chaired a commission formed by the Province of Quebec to study the healthcare industry (1997).
Ms. Desmarais also sits on the following Boards of administrations : Garda World Security Corporation (2006); C.D. Howe Institute (2005); the Institute for Governance of Private and Public Organizations (2005); of the IRCM - The Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (2005), of Génome Québec (2002), of VAL-CHUM -- Société de valorisation des recherches du CHUM (2004). She is a member of the Conseil des partenaires de l'innovation (CIP), which falls under the aegis of Quebec's Ministry of Développement économique, Innovation et Exportation (2006), of the City of Montreal Economic Orientation Committee (2005), of the advisory board of Biotechnology Research Iinstitute, National Research Council of Canada (1998−2001) and of the Investment Committee, Hydro-Quebec CapiTech - Innovation Fund (2001−2004).
Recipient, Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee Medal 2002; Order of Merit, Université de Montréal 2007; Medal of Honour, Faculty of Medicine of the Université de Montréal 2009; Doctor of Laws honoris causa, St. Francis Xavier University 2009; Order of Canada, Chancellery of Honours 2009.