Transforming Discovery into Opportunity

Board of Directors

CDRD is governed by an independent Board of Directors comprised of a cross-section of public and private sector stakeholder groups:


Don Avison – Chair
Former President of the University Presidents’ Council of BC (now the Research Universities Council)

A Victoria-based lawyer and consultant, Don Avison was President of the University Presidents’ Council of BC (now the Research Universities Council) for 10 years, and has also served as Deputy Minister with the Government of British Columbia in the Ministries of Education, Skills and Training, Crown Corporations and Health. A leader of British Columbia’s life sciences sector, Mr. Avison has also been a member of numerous boards of governors including the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, Providence Health Care and LifeSciences BC.

Francois Benard – Vice President of Research, BC Cancer Agency

Dr. François Bénard is Vice President of Research at BC Cancer Agency. He is responsible for setting and facilitating a comprehensive cancer research strategy and agenda for British Columbia in collaboration with research leadership provincially, nationally and internationally.

Dr. Bénard is an international leader in molecular imaging as well as an important part of the research community in British Columbia. His interests combine state‐of‐the art clinical care with a thriving translational research program in imaging and radionuclide therapy. After leading a highly successful molecular imaging program in Sherbrooke, Québec, he relocated to British Columbia in 2008, where he was awarded the BC Leadership Chair in Functional Cancer Imaging. He became Head of the Division of Nuclear Medicine at the University of British Columbia and Scientific Director of Functional Imaging at the BC Cancer Agency. Under his leadership, his team designed and built a new cyclotron and imaging facility, implemented a comprehensive preclinical imaging platform, set up research radiochemistry and radiopharmacology laboratories and expanded the clinical program.

Dr. Bénard has also been highly successful in raising peer‐reviewed funding to support the program, recently receiving a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Foundation Scheme grant totaling $1.4 million for the development of new radiopharmaceuticals for cancer diagnosis and therapy. Dr. Bénard has earned numerous prestigious awards over the years, including most recently the 2015 Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering.

Helen Burt – Vice President Research & International pro tem, University of British Columbia

Dr. Helen Burt was born in Manchester, England and obtained her B. Pharm. (Hons) from the University of Bath and her Ph.D in Pharmaceutics from UBC. She is Professor of Drug Delivery in the UBC Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and began her term as Associate Vice President, Research & International in 2011.

Dr. Burt’s major research efforts are supported by grants from CIHR and NSERC and involve the development of polymer-based drug delivery systems for controlled and localized drug delivery. She has published more than 140 peer-reviewed papers and holds eight patents.

She has been the recipient of several teaching prizes and research awards, including the UBC Killam Teaching Prize and Killam Faculty Research Prize, NSERC Synergy Award for Innovation, CSPS Award of Leadership in Canadian Pharmaceutical Sciences and YWCA Woman of Distinction Award for Science, Research and Technology.

She is a founding scientist in the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD), a member of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and has served on the Board of Directors of the Provincial Health Services Authority.

Joy Johnson – Vice President, Research, Simon Fraser University

Professor Joy Johnson joined Simon Fraser University as the Vice-President, Research in September 2014. From 2008 to 2014 she served as the Scientific Director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Institute of Gender and Health while holding a professorial appointment at the University of British Columbia. In her role as Scientific Director, she worked with the Canadian gender, sex, and health research community and stakeholders to improve the health of Canadians by identifying research priorities, developing research funding opportunities, strengthening research capacity, fostering partnerships, and translating research evidence into practice.

Professor Johnson has developed a highly productive program of research focusing on health promotion and health behaviour change. She has obtained millions of dollars in research funding from national funding organizations and has published over 170 papers in peer-reviewed journals. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including the UBC Killam Research Prize; she was elected a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences in 2005. In 2010, she was recognized as one of British Columbia’s 100 Women of Influence and in 2012 was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Karim F. Lalji – Chairman and CEO, Microbion

Karim Lalji is the Chairman & CEO of Microbion, a clinical stage biotechnology company developing breakthrough treatments for resistant infections. Microbion’s lead programs are for the treatment of orthopedic infections and chronic wounds.

Mr. Lalji began his career with Merck & Company. While at Merck, he led the infectious disease new product portfolio from the commercial perspective, with responsibility for products such as INVANZ, CANCIDAS and CRIXIVAN. Mr. Lalji was a key member of the team that ultimately led to the discovery of the triple cocktail for HIV disease. Mr. Lalji subsequently undertook responsibility for driving the global franchise strategies for Merck’s two leading areas: cholesterol reducers and hypertension/heart failure treatments. His final role during his ten-year tenure at Merck was as an executive leading the worldwide osteoporosis franchise and its main product, FOSAMAX.

Subsequent to Merck, Mr. Lalji worked at Sepracor, Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts, where he was Vice President of Business Strategy and New Product Commercialization. Mr. Lalji was the primary architect of LUNESTA for the treatment of insomnia at Sepracor.

Subsequently, Mr. Lalji joined Cardiome Pharma Corp. in Vancouver, British Columbia where he held the  position of Chief Commercial Officer. He played a pivotal role in driving Cardiome’s $1 billion worldwide licensing agreement with Merck & Company for vernakalant oral and IV for the management of atrial fibrillation.

Mr. Lalji serves on the Board of Overseers of Harvard University’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, a leading academic teaching hospital. He is also the Chairman of the Aga Khan Conciliation and Arbitration Board for British Columbia. Mr. Lalji holds a Science Masters Degree in Health Policy and Management from Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. He also holds a BBA from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada.

Gordon C. McCauley – President & CEO, CDRD

Gordon McCauley was appointed President & CEO of CDRD in 2017 after serving on the Board for four years. Mr. McCauley is an accomplished life science investor and executive.

He has served as President & CEO of Viable Healthworks Corp., a national healthcare service business; President and CEO of Allon Therapeutics Inc., a neuroscience biotechnology company that developed novel therapeutics from pre-clinical to global phase 3 studies before being sold, and Co-Founder and Partner of NDI Capital, an institutionally-backed life-science investment fund. Mr. McCauley has also been a senior executive of several successful health care enterprises and a senior advisor to several prominent Canadian political leaders.

Mr. McCauley is a Director of Defender Therapeutics, Inc., and 3D Signatures Inc. He is also a Director of LifeSciences British Columbia and served as its Chair from 2012 – 2015, and a Director of BioteCanada. In 2008 Mr. McCauley was the first Canadian appointed to the Board of The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) in Washington D.C., where he served in leadership positions until 2013. He is Past Chair of Acetech, and was a founding Director of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and Past Chair of the Toronto Rehab Foundation.

Peter Nicholson – Founding President (Retired), Council of Canadian Academies

Dr. Peter Nicholson retired as founding President of the Council of Canadian Academies in December 2009.The Council — a not-for-profit organization — supports studies by independent experts on issues of public importance.

Dr. Nicholson is a native of Nova Scotia and received degrees in physics from Dalhousie (1965) and a PhD in operations research from Stanford University in California (1969). His varied career has included senior positions in academia (University of Minnesota); business (fisheries, banking and telecommunications); and public service (several federal government departments and the OECD in Paris). Dr. Nicholson was the chief policy advisor to Prime Minister Martin from 2003 to 2006 before assuming the presidency of the Council of Canadian Academies. He has has received honorary degrees from Dalhousie, Acadia, the University of Quebec and McMaster. He is a Member of the Order of Canada awarded in recognition of his contributions to business and public policy.

Bradley Popovich – Former Chief Scientific Officer, Genome BC

Dr. Brad Popovich completed his MSc degree in Genetic Counseling from Sarah Lawrence College in 1978 and became one of the first genetic counselors to immigrate to Canada. He went on to complete an MSc and PhD in biochemical and molecular genetics respectively, at McGill University, completing his postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate Oliver Smithies. During his graduate training period he was focused on the application of genomic technologies to the diagnosis and management of human disease.

After completing his graduate and post-doctoral training, Brad became the founding director of the San Diego Children’s Hospital DNA Diagnostic Laboratory in 1989 and was responsible for the translation of several new genetic research findings into clinical practice. These genetic tests include: cystic fibrosis, Duchene muscular dystrophy, Becker muscular dystrophy, fragile X syndrome, and myotonic dystrophy. He was also a pioneer in the forensic use of DNA while in San Diego and his laboratory was the first in the US to offer solely DNA-based paternity testing.

In 1992, Brad joined Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) and became the founding director of the Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory at OHSU Hospital where he was responsible for translating genetic research findings into clinical tests used by referring physicians. The menu of services offered in his clinical laboratory at OHSU was one of the most comprehensive of any academic based institution in the US. In 1997 he was granted tenure and became the first Executive Director of the Genetic Service Laboratories at OHSU offering a complete suite of medical genomic laboratory services and providing academic training for a variety of researchers and clinicians. The work of his trainees resulted in many peer reviewed publications in the area of diagnosis and molecular pathology of diseases.

Other academic accomplishments include: coauthoring the first comprehensive genetic privacy legislation passed into US law (Oregon 1995); helping to develop quality assurance guidelines for medical laboratories developing disease specific practice guidelines for clinicians performing DNA based clinical testing; and assisting in the prosecution/defense of several criminal cases using DNA based forensic evidence.

Brad left OHSU in 2001 to work in the private sector when he joined Xenon Pharmaceuticals (Vancouver, BC) where he was employed from 2001-2005. He then moved to Sirius Genomics where he was the Chief Operating Officer (2005) and President and Chief Executive Officer from 2006-2009. Brad presently also serves on the boards of Sirius Genomics and Genetic Information Management Systems. He recently served on the boards of DNA Direct, Tm Biosciences, the American College of Medical Genetics, and American College of Medical Genetics Foundation.

Douglas A. Wilkes – BC Oil and Gas Commission

A seasoned executive, Mr. Douglas Wilkes has over 25 years of industry experience in all areas of finance, restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, operational and strategic planning, and public company governance. He is currently Lead Director and Chair of the Audit Committee for the BC Oil and Gas Commission. He has held executive roles in private and public organizations including North American Energy Partners, Canfor Corp, Slocan Forest Products, BCR Group and Tolko Industries.

Trained as a public practice Chartered Accountant, his career has also included significant roles in non-financial areas, including leading the construction of a large manufacturing plant, and leading the marketing and sales group for a large lumber company. In addition to his roles as Lead Director and Audit Committee Chair, Mr. Wilkes has received the designations of Chartered Director and Audit Committee Certified from the Directors’ College (a joint venture between McMaster University and the Conference Board of Canada).

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