Leadership

Board of Directors

Avtar Dhillon, MD Executive Chairman

 
Dr. Avtar Dhillon has been instrumental in founding and developing numerous companies, including Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc., developing next generation DNA based vaccines; Arch Therapeutics, Inc., developing bleeding control products; OncoSec Biomedical, developing cancer therapies; and Vitality Biopharma Inc., developing a natural low calorie sugar substitute and cannabinoid products. Dr. Dhillon has more than 20 years of experience building public companies through mergers and acquisitions, leading innovation in scientific, engineering and farming enterprises, securing government grants and NGO funding, and building intellectual property portfolios through partnering and negotiating deals with small businesses as well as large multibillion dollar companies. He served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Inovio Pharmaceuticals from 2001 to 2009, Executive Chairman from 2009 to 2011, and Chairman from 2011 to his retirement in January 2019.

Bobby Sukhwinder Rai, BSc. Biochem., BSc. Pharm., RPh.

Director

Mr. Rai has over 20 years of experience operating “The Medicine Shoppe” Pharmacies in Greater Vancouver, Canada. In 1998, he and his partners pioneered the online pharmacy business in the USA. Mr. Rai introduced HIV point of care testing into community pharmacies and introduced lab testing to pharmacies, including chronic kidney disease screening using the HealthTab technology. Both were firsts in Canada. Mr. Rai is a member of the Alumni UBC Advisory Council representing the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Science. Mr. Rai is also Chairman and CEO of Canadian Pacific Global Pharmaceuticals and Chairman of its subsidiary PharmaCanada Inc.

Punit Dhillon, BA Hons. Director

 
Mr. Dhillon is the co-founder and former CEO of OncoSec Medical Incorporated, a developer of cancer immunotherapies to treat solid tumors. Mr. Dhillon serves as a director and Audit Committee Chair for Emerald Bioscience Inc. and a director for Arch Therapeutics Inc. Prior to OncoSec, from 2003-2011 he served as VP Finance and Operations at Inovio Pharmaceuticals. He has led and assisted in raising over $500 million through financings, M&A deals and several licensing transactions with large pharma. 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 global disease specific opinion leaders. Mr. Dhillon also co-founded and is the Director of the Young Entrepreneur Leadership Launchpad (YELL), a registered Canadian charity that partners with schools to support entrepreneurial learning. In 2018, he was awarded the Biocom Life Science Catalyst Award.

Jim Heppell, BSc, LLP Director

 
Mr. Heppell was the founder, CEO and director of BC Advantage Life Sciences I Fund, which won the Canadian Venture Capital Deal of the Year Award in 2006 and had the highest returns of any retail venture fund in Canada for five years in a row. He worked for six years with the law firm, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, during which time he was seconded for six months to the British Columbia Securities Commission. He then became President and Chief Executive Officer of Catalyst Corporate Finance Lawyers, a boutique corporate finance law firm that assisted life science and technology companies. He is a past member of the Securities Policy Advisory Committee to the British Columbia Securities Commission and past chairman of the Securities Section of the Canadian Bar Association (B.C. Branch). Mr. Heppell is a director of a number of public and private life science companies.

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

Senior Vice President, Quality and Regulatory Affairs

Ms. Wong has over 30 years of quality and regulatory management experience in pharmaceutical and life science companies regulated to Canadian, US, European and international requirements. She has been responsible for establishing quality systems and ensuring regulatory compliance through all phases of product development from GPP, GLP, GCP, GMP for cannabis, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, combination products and biologicals. She was previously Executive Director of Quality Assurance at Novelion Therapeutics (formerly QLT Inc.) and worked for life science companies including MDS Nordion, Cangene Corporation, and Biomira Inc. Ms. Wong earned a B.Sc. (Microbiology) from the University of Alberta.

Orville Bovenschen

Senior Vice President, Operations

Mr. Bovenschen has over 16 years of progressive experience in financial management, project and operations management, strategy development and risk management. Before joining Emerald, he was a senior member of the construction joint venture responsible for the Riyadh metro project, a rapid transit system under construction in Saudi Arabia with a US$22B contract value. Mr. Bovenschen previously served in various management roles for Strukton, a leading construction and engineering firm in the Netherlands and earned a Master of Business Administration from Nyenrode Business University and a BBA from NCOI in Utrecht, Netherlands.