CHAIRMAN, CEO AND PRESIDENT
Avtar Dhillon, B.Sc., M.D.
Avtar Dhillon is a life sciences entrepreneur with more than 20 years experience building public companies through mergers and acquisitions, leading innovation in scientific, engineering and farming enterprises, securing government grants and NGO funding (more than $75 million U.S. to date), and building dominant IP portfolios through partnering. During his tenure as President and CEO at Inovio (NASDAQ: INO), he led the turnaround of the company through restructuring and acquisitions. Under his leadership, Inovio completed financing totalling over $250 million and several licensing deals with global pharma leaders Merck, Wyeth (now Pfizer) and Roche. Before joining Inovio, Avtar was Vice President of MDS Capital Corp., now Lumira Capital Corp., a leading healthcare venture capital organization. In 2016, he was appointed to the board of the Cannabis Association of Canada, which comprises key opinion leaders and executives who provide the Canadian government with their input to the formation of the recreational cannabis regulatory framework.
Avtar practiced family medicine for over 12 years after receiving a B.Sc. (Honours) in Human Physiology and an M.D. from the University of British Columbia.
Jim Heppell, B.Sc., LLB
Jim Heppell was co-founder, President and Director of BC Advantage Funds (VCC) Ltd., a venture fund that invests in and builds successful 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 for having the highest realized return (23.4x its investment in Aspreva Pharmaceuticals). Early in his career, Jim practiced corporate securities law with Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, one of Canada’s leading law firms. He then became President and CEO of Catalyst Corporate Finance Lawyers, a boutique corporate finance law firm for life science and tech companies. During his career, he has helped build a number of successful life science companies, including Aspreva Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Galenica Ltd. SW: GALN), Immgenics (acquired by Amgen NASDAQ: AMGN), Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: INO), and Sophiris Bio Inc. (NASDAW: SPHS).
Jim has a B.Sc. in Microbiology and a law degree from the University of British Columbia.
DIRECTOR, AND SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF REGULATORY AND PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT
Dr. Gaetano Morello, N.D.
Dr. Morello is the Director of Education and past President and CEO of a national distributor for Enzymatic Therapy Inc., one of North America’s largest manufacturers and distributors of health and dietary supplements. 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. A clinician at the Complex Chronic Disease Program at Woman’s Hospital in Vancouver, Dr. Morello also serves on the Quality Assurance Committee for the College of Naturopathic Physicians of British Columbia and other health and medical panels. He has made more than 500 medical presentations in the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, and Italy in the last decade.
Dr. Morello has a B.Sc. in Cell Biology/Nutrition from the University of British Columbia and a Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University.
Stephen Hall, B.Sc., CPA, CA, FCA
Stephen is a Chartered Accountant with more than twenty years of experience in finance and international capital markets. Prior to working with Emerald, Stephen spent a decade advising high net worth clients at Citigroup Capital Markets, having worked in audit at PricewaterhouseCoopers and hedge fund management at UBS during the early years of his finance career.
Stephen has a B.Sc. Economics Major in Management Sciences from the London School of Economics & Political Sciences, London, UK and is a member of the Chartered Professional Accountants British Columbia (CPABC) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW).
Jim DeMesa, M.D., M.B.A.
Dr. DeMesa has 27 years of executive experience in biotech product development, including clinical and regulatory management and partnering with small and large pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device companies. He has raised more than $150 million to advance product development into clinical stage, regulatory approval and commercialization. He is the former CEO of two public biotech companies, Migenix Inc. and GenSci Regeneration Sciences, which is now part of Integra LifeSciences (NASD: IART). Dr. DeMesa is a director of two biotech companies: OncoSec Medical (NASD:ONCS), and Induce Biologics. Prior to the CEO positions, he was Vice President of Medical and Regulatory Affairs at Biodynamics International, now part of RTI Surgical (NASD:RTIX), and Vice President of Medical and Regulatory Affairs at Bentley Pharmaceuticals, now part of Teva Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: TEVA), and a practicing physician.
Dr. DeMesa has a B.A. in Chemistry, an M.D., and an M.B.A., all from the University of South Florida.
SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER
Dr. Giovanni Appendino, Ph.D.
Dr. Appendino has studied cannabis and cannabinoids for more than 15 years and is regarded by the global scientific community as one of the worlds thought leaders in cannabinoid research. He was the keynote speaker at the 2014 ICRS Symposium, held in Baveno, Italy. He has been Director of Research and Development in Indena S.p.A. since 2006 and is a Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of Eastern Piedmont (UPO) in Italy. Dr. Appendino has been the local coordinator of three EU research programs, and his research on natural products chemistry focuses primarily 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 of the area of Organic Chemistry and Natural Products. Dr. Appendino is the author of more than 250 articles and 10 book chapters, and holds six patents (four of which relate to cannabinoids).
PRE-CLINICAL DRUG DEVELOPMENT
Mari Luz Bellido, M.B.A., Ph.D., Managing Director VivaCell
Dr. Bellido is the Managing Director of VivaCell Biotechnology España SL, a privately held, preclinical-stage pharmaceutical company based in Córdoba, Spain. VivaCell is a worldwide pioneer in the discovery and development of new cannabinoid and cannibigerol derivatives for the treatment of inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases. She has extensive experience in academic research and pharmaceutical drug discovery and has co-authored numerous peer-reviewed papers and patents. She also has developed expertise in start-up and R&D financing, innovation and project management of cannabinoids for therapeutic use. After joining VivaCell In 2008 as Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Bellido become a partner in 2012 and was appointed Managing Director of the Company. She participates in all stages of the pre-clinical development from project management to interactions with financing bodies and with the investment community in fund raising.
Dr. Bellido received her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Córdoba in Spain, and her M.B.A. from Spain’s ESIC Business and Marketing School.
PRE-CLINICAL DRUG DEVELOPMENT
Prof. Dr. Eduardo Munoz, Ph.D.
Prof. Dr. Eduardo Muñoz is a co-founder of two biotech companies, VivaCell Biotechnology of Spain and Glactone Pharma AB of Sweden, as well as a member of the Strategic Advisory Board at Aphios Corporation in the U.S. A Professor of Immunology in the Department of Cell Biology, Physiology and Immunology of the University of Córdoba (Spain), he has more than 25 years of experience in Biomedical Research, and is the author of several patents and 145 articles published in international scientific journals. As a Principal Investigator, he has managed about 20 national and international research projects, and has great experience in project management and staff training. Prof. Muñoz belongs to the editorial board of several scientific journals.
He received a Ph.D. in Medicine and Surgery at the University of Córdoba and was an associate researcher at Tufts University in Boston, and at the Institut Pasteur in Paris.
PRESIDENT AND CEO
Dr. Bin Huang, Ph.D., M.B.A.
Dr. Huang has more than 30 years of experience in life sciences. Her career began with Allelix Crop Technologies, where she spent six years as a plant research scientist. For a number of years, Dr. Huang was the President and CEO of Cytovax Biotechnologies, a Canadian biotechnology company focused on research, development, and commercialization of peptide vaccines and monoclonal antibody (MAb) therapeutics for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, including those caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria. Following that, she led WEX Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of publicly listed CK Life Sciences International (Holdings) Inc., as President and CEO. Wex’s drug development focus is on a new class of non-opioid analgesics.
Dr. Huang has a Ph.D. in Plant Cell Biology from the University of East Anglia, UK and an M.B.A. from the University of Toronto.
VICE PRESIDENT, RESEARCH AND QUALITY AFFAIRS
Dr. Frey Garabagi, Ph.D.
Dr. Garabagi is a research scientist and inventor in the field of plant molecular genetics and medical biotechnology. He has published numerous scientific papers and books relating to plants and served as Senior Scientist for Plant Form Corp., a biotech company focused on manufacturing platform for a wide range of plant-made pharmaceuticals. Dr. Garabagi has 10 years of postdoctoral research experience at the University of Guelph, where he developed intellectual property (IP) on the production of plant-derived Herceptin, a therapeutic monoclonal antibody used in the treatment of breast cancer. He also has extensive experience in development of DNA-based techniques for improving insect pest management strategies. Dr. Garabagi is a member of the International Association for Plant Biotechnology (IAPB) and the Canadian Society of Plant Biologists (CSPB).
He holds a Ph.D. in Plant Molecular Genetics from the University of Guelph.
Punit Dhillon, B.A.
Punit Dhillon is the co-founder and CEO of a leading biopharmaceutical company based in the U.S. that develops advanced-stage immunotherapy to treat solid tumors. Punit served as Vice President of Finance and Operations at Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc., where he raised more than $160 million through multiple financings and several licensing transactions, including early stage deals with Merck and Wyeth. His management experience spans corporate finance, M&A integration, successful in-licensing of key intellectual property, strategy implementation, corporate transactions and collaborations with leading universities and key global opinion leaders. Punit is also the founder of BeCancerPositive.org, an online community for cancer patients. In 2013, he was recognized as one of the “Top 100” CEOs by PharmaVoice and “Most Admired CEO” by the San Diego Business Journal. In 2014, Punit was recognized as a finalist for Ernst & Young’s “Entrepreneur of the Year”.
He holds a B.A. (Honours) in Political Science and a minor in Business Administration from Simon Fraser University.
Jade Beutler has more than 25 years of experience in the natural products industry, 14 of them as CEO of Barlean’s Organic Oils, a provider of high quality essential fatty acid products that has been named the number one health food store brand in the U.S. and manufacturer of the year numerous times. As CEO, Jade led Barlean’s national and global expansion and spearheaded product innovation and R&D after serving as Director of Sales, Marketing and Education. He also served as CEO of a Barlean’s subsidiary, Lignan Research, leading collaborative research partnerships and product development that resulted in the world’s first guaranteed for potency lignan extract.
Jade has a bachelor’s degree in Respiratory Therapy from the California College for Health Sciences. He is a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) and a Certified Respiratory Therapy Technician (CRTT).
SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER
Dr. Michael T. Murray
Dr. Murray is one of the world’s leading authorities on natural medicine. The author of the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, he has published more than 30 books featuring natural approaches to health. His research into the health benefits of proper nutrition is the foundation for a best-selling line of dietary supplements from Natural Factors, where he is Director of Product Science and Innovation. Through his work with leading companies like Natural Factors, Dr. Murray has been instrumental in bringing many natural products to North America, including: Glucosamine sulfate, St. John’s wort extract, Ginkgo biloba extract, Silymarin (milk thistle extract, Saw palmetto berry extract and Theracurmin. He has also lectured to hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and appeared on hundreds of radio and TV programs, including the influential Dr. Oz show.
A graduate and former faculty member of Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington, Dr. Murray now serves on its Board of Regents.
STRATEGIC ADVISORY BOARD / CLINICAL
Dr. Caroline McCallum, M.D., F.R.C.P.C. (Internal Medicine), B.Sc. Pharm
Dr. MacCallum is a practicing physician focused on pain management. The medical director of a cannabis clinic that authorizes legal, Health Canada, approved medical cannabis, she is engaged in direct patient care as well as cannabis research. The research focuses on the multimodal affects of cannabis on symptoms clusters; reducing polypharmacy, opioids and adverse drug effects; and topical application of cannabis. Dr. MacCallum is a member of the Practitioners for Medicinal Cannabis (PMC) group and on the PMC BC working committee with a focus on provincial cannabis guidelines. As an educator she makes frequent presentations to physicians and other health care professional about therapeutic application for medicinal cannabis and cannabinoids. She is currently working with the School of Pharmacy at the University of British Columbia to create curriculum and cannabis electives for its students.
Dr. MacCallum has a B.Sc. in Pharmacy from Memorial University of Newfoundland, where she also completed her undergraduate medical training before graduating from the University of British Columbia Internal Medicine Residency Program.
Stefan Meyer is the co-founder of Phytoplant Research S.L. of Cordoba, Spain and has served as its Managing Director since 2008. Phytoplant Research S.L. engages in the research and development of seeds and clones of new crop varieties for applications in pharmaceutical, bioceutical, and dermocosmetic sectors. The company engages in the phytotherapy research; and specializes in developing the industrial chain of medicinal plants ranging from selection and breeding to registration, cultivation of registered varieties, and obtaining derived products. Prior to founding Phytoplant, Stefan had worked as a Europe-wide sales representative for a fertiliser producer, as a marketing and quality control expert for major international hotel chains, and a marketing consultant for a web design agency.