Board of Directors
Amani Kaur Saini, Founder & President
Amani holds a BA in Political Science from the University of British Columbia and Master of Public Administration degree from Dalhousie University. She has spent many years working in the civil service, including with Statistics Canada, BC’s Legislative Assembly, and Nova Scotia’s Department of Intergovernmental Affairs, where she worked on policy for the Premier’s meetings with the Council of the Federation. In 2010, her then 19-year-old sister almost passed away from an adverse drug reaction (ADR) to a common over the counter ibuprofen drug. In 2015, while surfing the internet, she came across an article which talked about how gene variants can lead to disease and decided to contact researchers and scientists around the world and in Canada to learn more about genomics. Afterwards, she developed a policy in her spare time to prevent ADRs. For her policy work, she received the 2016 Canadian Science Policy Award of Excellence (under 35 category), presented by the Minister of Science at the Canadian Science Policy Conference, which recognizes an individual who developed an innovation and compelling evidence-based policy that will make a positive difference to Canadians.
Robert McLean, Treasurer
Earning his double focus BSc at the University of British Columbia, Robert has a strong passion for creating a better world through science and innovation. He works extensively to help connect ideas to action. His interest in healthcare policy and advising comes largely from growing up in a family of physicians and healthcare executives. Robert leverages experience in a number of sectors, from pharmaceuticals to finance, as he works to build a healthier world for future generations to come. Actively involved in the community, he teaches financial literacy at local schools and mentors a number of secondary and post-secondary students. With a strong family tradition of giving back, he works with a number of local charities and is a proud team captain in the annual Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting the BC Cancer Foundation.
Alysia MacGrotty, Secretary
Alysia MacGrotty obtained her BA from Simon Fraser University and works as a communications specialist in the natural resource sector. Experienced in stakeholder engagement, project management, public relations and business, she is skilled in engaging in meaningful dialogue with influencers and industry leaders. She spent many years working as a political aide to both provincial and federal elected officials and has served in leadership positions for several community and university organizations, including serving as a Senator at Simon Fraser University and as an active member of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade and the Business Council of British Columbia.
The Honourable Senator James Cowan, Q.C
Senator Cowan studied at Dalhousie University where he obtained his Arts and Law degrees. He then attended the London School of Economics, receiving a Master of Laws degree. In 2009, Dalhousie University awarded him the degree Doctor of Laws (honoris causa). He has practiced law in Halifax since 1967 and is a partner at Stewart McKelvey, the largest law firm in Atlantic Canada. In 1983, he was appointed Queen’s Counsel.
Senator Cowan was appointed to the Senate on the recommendation of Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2005. He was named Opposition Whip in the Senate in 2007 and was appointed Leader of the Opposition Liberals in the Senate in 2008, a position he held until stepping down in June 2016. He retired from the Senate in January 2017. His Bill S-201 to prohibit and prevent genetic discrimination passed the Senate in April 2016 and the House of Commons in March 2017. In a previous Parliament, he also proposed legislation to address the criminal justice system’s approach to persons suffering from mental illness and was a member of the Special Joint House-Senate Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying. Senator Cowan is the recipient of the 2016 Advocacy Award by the American Society of Human Genetics for his work leading efforts to prevent genetic discrimination in Canada. He shares this award with the Canadian Coalition for Genetic Fairness.
Gavin Dew is Director, External Relations at Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. He is an experienced corporate communications, stakeholder engagement, and public affairs consultant and has advised clients on a wide range of issues including energy infrastructure, community planning, skills certification, technology, consumer regulation, and crisis readiness. He completed a BA at the University of British Columbia and an MBA at Oxford, where he undertook academic research on social license to operate, the idea that companies have an obligation to earn permission from communities. Gavin serves on the Board of Governors of Kwantlen Polytechnic University, the Policy Council of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade and the Next Leaders Council of the Business Council of British Columbia.
Dr. Pieter Cullis
Dr. Cullis is the Director of the Life Sciences Institute, Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Director of the NanoMedicines Research Group at the University of British Columbia.
He has been very active in the development of several biotechnology companies and is recognized as a remarkable researcher and innovator. His work has led to three drugs that have been approved by regulatory agencies in the U.S. and Europe for the treatment of cancer and its complications and five more that have finished Phase I clinical studies. Dr. Cullis and co-workers are the key figures for the fundamental advances in generating, loading and targeting liposomal nanoparticulate systems for intravenous delivery of conventional and genetic drugs. His drug delivery systems have improved formulations of several cancer therapies as well as other drug agents. His lipid nanoparticles delivery system is a leading technology worldwide, enabling the therapeutic potential of siRNA.
Dr. Cullis has published over 300 scientific articles. He has also received many prestigious awards, including the B.C. Science Council Gold Medal for Health Sciences in 1991, the Alec D. Bangham Award for contributions to liposome science and technology in 2000 and the B.C. Biotechnology Association award for Innovation and Achievement in 2002. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2004, received the Leadership Award of the Canadian Society of Pharmaceutical Scientists in 2010, was awarded the Prix Galien, Canada’s premier prize for achievements in pharmaceutical R&D in 2011, and received the LifeSciences BC Milton Wong Award for Leadership in 2015.
Dr. Martin Dawes
Dr. Dawes is the Head of the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia. He started his clinical practice as a family physician in Oxford. He completed his PhD on weight gain in pregnancy in 1992. In 1995, he helped develop a multi-disciplinary Masters programme in Evidence Based Health Care, which allows clinicians to engage in research, that is run at the University of Oxford. He was Director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford and Head of the Department of Family Medicine at McGill University. He was chair of the Program committee of the North American Primary Care Research Group. His research includes genomics in primary care, lifestyle interventions to prevent diabetes, and chronic disease management.
Dr. Robert Fraser
Dr. Fraser received extensive training in the molecular mechanisms of endocrinology while completing his Ph.D. at the University of Alberta and Harvard Medical School and Post-Doctoral Fellowships at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, and IGBMC, Strasbourg France. Backed by his expertise in molecular diagnostics, molecularly targeted drug discovery and development, biochemistry and regulatory compliance, Dr. Fraser has been involved in leading drug discovery and development projects at Sanofi, Xenon, Neuromed and CDRD.
Dr. Ron Reid
In 1969, Dr. Reid graduated with his BSc in Pharmacy from the University of Saskatchewan and in 1972 completed his Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at Chelsea College, University of London (England). He spent 1972 to 1974 in a postdoctoral position in the Institute for Genetics at the University of Cologne and from 1974 to 1982 he held another postdoc in protein structure and function in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Alberta. From 1982 to 1990, he was a professor of Medicinal Chemistry in the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Manitoba, at which time he joined the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at University of British Columbia. He retired in June 2017 and is currently professor emeritus in the UBC Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. His interests are in the application of omics biomarkers to personalize disease diagnosis, prognosis, and therapy as well as the maintenance of personal wellness.
Dr. Colin Ross
Dr. Ross is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of British Columbia and a scientist at BC Children’s Hospital. His expertise spans pharmacogenetics, genomics, drug development, drug safety, adverse drug reactions, predictive genetics, and genetic/clinical factors of drug response. Researchers in his lab investigate the genetic basis of disease and severe adverse drug reactions using genomics-guided precision medicine approaches to help make drugs safer, improve disease diagnosis, and develop new targeted therapeutics. Dr. Ross’s research capitalizes upon national and international collaborations with clinicians, researchers and industry partners. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Canadian Pharmacogenomics Network for Drug Safety, a nation-wide collaborative network of researchers. He currently holds a leadership role on the network’s executive steering committee.
Dr. Ross has been the recipient of a number of awards, including a Scholar Award from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, a New Investigator award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, a Champions of Genetics Award from the Canadian Gene Cure Foundation, the Boehringer-Ingelheim Award in Pharmacology Research from the Canadian Society of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, and the Excellence in Research Award from the American Society of Gene Therapy.