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Contribution of $2 million Honours Memory of Cranberry Entrepreneur; Supports Health Research at UBC

November 20, 2006

Source: University of British Columbia

Two funds totalling $2 million that will advance medical and food nutrition research at the University of British Columbia have been established in memory of one of Canada’s leading cranberry entrepreneurs.

A contribution from the family of Rashpal "Paul" Dhillon will support research into the incurable lung disease Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) and the health benefits of cranberries. The funds, announced today, are the Rashpal Dhillon Fund in Idiopathic Pulmonary Research and the Rashpal Dhillon Fund in Cranberry Research.

"Paul Dhillon’s reputation as a community leader, a businessman and a philanthropist was already well-established," says UBC President Stephen J. Toope. "UBC is proud to have the opportunity to honour his memory, and we are determined to make the most of this timely and generous gift."

Rashpal "Paul" Dhillon, who died Jan. 6, 2003 from IPF, invested in cranberry bogs in Richmond and Pitt Meadows in the late 1970s and his Richberry Group grew to become Canada’s largest producer of cranberries. He had also gained distinction as the country’s first Indo-Canadian police officer, having joined the RCMP at the age of 19. He went on to serve 24 years in law enforcement, including service as a corrections officer and sheriff.

A condition involving the scarring of the lung, IPF affects more than five million people worldwide. The exact cause of the condition is unknown and there is no cure. Each year in North America, more than 40,000 people die from IPF, and more than half of these within five years of diagnosis. A research team led by UBC Assoc. Prof. of Pharmacology and Therapeutics Darryl Knight, who is Canada Research Chair in Airway Disease, is seeking ways to prevent and treat this condition without compromising the immune system.

"The Dhillons’ contribution to UBC will allow Dr. Knight and his team to find answers to the mysteries of IPF and to make a real difference in patients’ lives," says Dr. Gavin Stuart, Dean of UBC’s Faculty of Medicine. "The potential exists for significant, life-altering discoveries to be made in this area."

The Food, Nutrition and Health Program in UBC’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems focuses on food security and its impact on health. Prof. David Kitts, Program Director, is an expert in functional food constituents of fruit crops, and research associate David McArthur is a plant scientist expert in cranberry biology.

"The funding from the Dhillon family will allow our faculty to bring together a team of plant and food nutrition researchers to conduct interdisciplinary research on cranberries," says Dr. Murray Isman, Dean of UBC’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems. "They will investigate how cranberries can be grown in a sustainable fashion with enhanced levels of compounds considered of high value to human health."

The late Mr. Dhillon’s son, Peter P. Dhillon, is the President and CEO of the Richberry Group of Companies. Peter Dhillon received his B.A. from UBC in 1988 and his Law degree from the University of Leeds. He was also a director of the Vancouver Olympic Committee (VANOC) and chaired VANOC’s Audit Committee. Dhillon serves on many local and national boards, including the Board of Directors of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., Vancouver International Airport Authority, and Seacor Environmental Inc.

IPF research will be conducted at the James Hogg iCAPTURE Centre for Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Research, a collaborative research centre of the UBC Faculty of Medicine and Providence Health. The centre conducts research into the mechanisms, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart, blood vessel and lung diseases.

UBC’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems is a leader in integrated research and education that addresses global issues surrounding health and sustainable land and food systems.

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Hilary Thomson
UBC Public Affairs
Tel: 604.822.2644
Cell: 604.209.3048



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