Skip to content

Leadership

Board of Directors

Avtar Dhillon, MD
Executive Chairman

 
 
Dr. Dhillon serves as a board member and chairman of multiple life science and investment companies. As a founder/co-founder or lead investor in dozens of life science companies, he has raised more than $1B in public and private financings. As President and CEO of Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Dr. Dhillon led a turnaround with multiple successful financings and licensing deals with Merck, Wyeth (now Pfizer) and Roche. Before joining Inovio, he was Vice President of MDS Capital Corp. (now Lumira Capital Corp.). Dr. Dhillon now serves as an active board member and chairman for multiple life science and investment companies and is Chairman of the Cannabis Canada Council. Prior to his business career, Dr. Dhillon practiced family medicine. He has a BSc (Honours) in human physiology and an MD from the University of British Columbia.

Robert Rai, BSc
Director

 
Mr. Rai, CEO of Avricore Health Inc., which is committed to becoming a health innovator and applying technologies at the forefront of science to core health issues at the community pharmacy level,  has more than 25 years of experience in the pharmacy industry. The operator of multiple Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy locations for more than 20 years in Metro Vancouver, his pharmacies were the first in Canada to launch two new government funded pilot programs: a revolutionary point of care HIV testing package utilizing the INSTI test and a partnership program with the Kidney Foundation of Canada to develop a more efficient screening method for chronic kidney disease using HealthTab technology. He has a BSc in biochemistry and a BSc in Pharmaceutical Science from the University of British Columbia.

Punit Dhillon, BA Hons.
Director

 
 
Mr. Dhillon was the co-founder, CEO, and a director of OncoSec Medical Incorporated, a biopharmaceutical company developing cancer immunotherapies for the treatment of solid tumors. Prior to OncoSec, he served as Vice President of Finance and Operations at Inovio Pharmaceuticals, where he raised more than $160 million through multiple financings and several licensing transactions. His management experience spans corporate finance, M&A integration, in-licensing of key intellectual property, strategy implementation, corporate transactions and collaborations with leading universities and key global opinion leaders. Mr. Dhillon also co-founded BeCancerPositive.org, an online community for cancer patients. In 2014, he was a finalist in Ernst & Young’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” competition. Mr. Dhillon holds a BA (Honours) in political science and a minor in business administration from Simon Fraser University.

Jim Heppell, BSc, LLP
Director


Mr. Heppell was a co-founder, President and director of BC Advantage Funds (VCC) Ltd., a venture fund that invested in and built technology, life science and clean technology companies. His first fund, the Advantage Life Sciences I Fund, won the Canadian Venture Capital Deal of the Year Award in 2006. Early in his career, he practiced corporate securities law with Fasken Martineau DuMoulin and later served as President and CEO of Catalyst Corporate Finance Lawyers. Mr. Heppell has also helped build a number of life science companies, including Aspreva Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Galenica Ltd.), Immgenics (acquired by Amgen), Inovio Pharmaceuticals, and Sophiris Bio Inc. He earned a BSc in microbiology and a law degree from the University of British Columbia.

Scientific Advisory board

Gaetano Morello, ND

 
Dr. Morello is an accomplished clinician with first-hand experience in the clinical and medical application of cannabinoids. Dr. Morello practices at the Complex Chronic Disease Program at Woman’s Hospital in Vancouver, Canada and serves on the Quality Assurance Committee for the College of Naturopathic Physicians of British Columbia and other health and medical panels. The author of Cleanse: The Ultimate Inside-Out Approach and The Fiber Miracle, he is also a contributing author to A Textbook of Natural Medicine, Alive Magazine, Viva Magazine and other publications. He has a BSc in cell biology/nutrition from the University of British Columbia and a Doctorate in naturopathic medicine from Bastyr University.

Alasdair Barr, PhD

 
Dr. Barr is a professor at the University of British Columbia, with a focus on mental health and addictions research using a multidisciplinary and translational approach that spans from laboratory to clinic. Dr. Barr maintains active programs in both clinical and preclinical research.

Eduardo Muñoz, MD, PhD

 
Dr. Muñoz, a co-founder of two biotech companies, VivaCell Biotechnology (Spain) and Glactone Pharma AB (Sweden), is an expert in the mechanism of actions of cannabinoids and endocannabinoids as well as the development of cannabinoid-based new chemical entities. He is Professor of Immunology in the Department of Cell Biology, Physiology and Immunology of the University of Córdoba (Spain) and Director of the Inflammation and Cancer Research Group at the Institute Maimonides for Biomedical Research of Córdoba. Dr. Muñoz has more than 30 years of experience in biomedical research, and is the author of nearly 200 articles, patents, and book chapters with almost 5,000 citations. He received a PhD in medicine and surgery from the University of Córdoba and has been an associate researcher at Tufts University and the Institute Pasteur.

Giovanni Appendino PhD

 
Dr. Appendino has studied cannabis and cannabinoids for more than 15 years and is regarded by the global scientific community as one of the world’s most influential thought leaders in cannabinoid research. He is the Director of Research and Development at Indena SpA and Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of Eastern Piedmont in Italy. Dr. Appendino was the local coordinator of three European research programs, and his research on natural products chemistry focuses on medium-sized cyclic compounds, such as cannabinoids. He also serves as Editor in Chief of the scientific journal Fitoterapia, and belongs to the publishing advisory board of several journals for organic chemistry and natural products. Dr. Appendino authored more than 250 articles and 10 book chapters, and holds six patents (four related to cannabinoids).

James T. McCracken, MD

 
Dr. McCracken is the Joseph Campbell Professor of Child Psychiatry and Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. An active clinician who has been included in America’s Top Doctors, Best Doctors and Super Doctors listings for more than a decade, Dr. McCracken is an expert in child psychiatry and serves on the editorial board of the journal Molecular Autism.

Jim DeMesa MD, MBA

 
Dr. DeMesa has over 30 years of experience in biotech product development, clinical and regulatory management, and partnerships with pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device companies, and is CEO of Emerald Health Pharmaceuticals, which is advancing unique, rationally-designed cannabinoid-derived molecules through clinical development. He has raised more than $200 million to advance product development into clinical stage, regulatory approval, and commercialization. Dr. DeMesa is the former CEO of two public biotech companies, Migenix and GenSci Regeneration Sciences (now part of Integra LifeSciences), and currently serves as director for two biotech companies, OncoSec and Induce Biologics. He was previously Vice President, Medical and Regulatory Affairs at Biodynamics International (now part of RTI Surgical) and Bentley Pharmaceuticals (now part of Teva Pharmaceuticals). Dr. DeMesa received a BA in chemistry, MD, and an MBA from the University of South Florida.

RIAZ BANDALI

President & Chief Executive Officer

Mr. Bandali’s expertise in global operations, strategy development, driving innovation, M&A, and investment management has been developed over a 25-year career in the life sciences sector spanning contract clinical and research services, analytical instrumentation, lab services and venture capital.

He holds an Advanced Management Program Degree from Harvard Business School, a Master of Business Administration from McGill University, and a Bachelor of Science from the University of British Columbia. He is an innovative business leader who has built strategic and operating plans that have resulted in rapid growth and significant profitability enhancement. He has managed businesses and operations with a global footprint and has led teams of over 900 people.

Mr. Bandali’s previous experience includes serving as President, Early Phase Clinical Services and Translational Science, Syneos Health; President, Early Stage Development, as well as Chief Innovation Officer, inVentiv Health Clinical; Senior Vice President, Strategy and Business Development, AB Sciex and Molecular Devices (part of Danaher Corporation); Senior Vice President, Strategy, Legal and Corporate Development, MDS Analytical Technologies; and Vice President and General Manager, Global Early Stage Development, MDS Pharma Services. He was also Venture Partner and Vice President at MDS Capital and has served on the boards of private and public companies.

Jenn Hepburn

Chief Financial Officer

Ms. Hepburn has over a decade of experience in accounting and finance and is an experienced manager of privately and publicly traded manufacturing and mining businesses operating in Canada and the USA. Prior to joining Emerald, Ms. Hepburn was the Director of Finance and Administration at bioLytical Laboratories Inc., a medical diagnostics manufacturer. Before that, she held controller positions at junior gold and silver mining companies Northern Vertex Mining Corp., Kootenay Silver Inc. and Theia Resources Ltd. Ms. Hepburn earned a BBA from Simon Fraser University and her certification from the Certified Management Accountants of British Columbia.

Rebecca Wong

Vice President, Quality and Regulatory Affairs

Ms. Wong has more than 25 years of managerial experience in quality assurance and quality control spanning research, preclinical, clinical, and commercial phases for pharmaceuticals, combination products, biologicals and medical devices. Before joining Emerald, she was the Executive Director of Quality Assurance at Novelion Therapeutics (formerly QLT Inc.), where she was the head of quality assurance, validation, compliance auditing, document management, and GxP training departments. Ms. Wong previously worked for life science companies including MDS Nordion, Cangene Corporation, and Biomira Inc. Specializing in microbiology, she earned a BSc from the University of Alberta.