Conversations with the Board

What distinguishes us at EmpowerPharm is the depth of expertise, experience and talent of our individual Board members. They are committed and passionate about our mission. Their unique skill sets and rich backgrounds will inform our operations and ensure our practices are kept to the highest of standards. Please click on each question below to understand why we are so proud of this incredible team.

Elaine Campbell

I took Chemical Engineering at University, specializing in polymers, with multiple biology courses along the educational route. My original career path was going to be medicine, and therefore finding my way “back” to a medically related field felt very natural and real for me. I started my adult career in a manufacturing plant, working as a process engineer, and later the plant safety officer. I did foreman (person) coverage and worked with process technicians. Later I became a tech rep for our products – troubleshooting in customers’ plants. I had the chance to move into our Medical Products Division at DuPont after my first child – with a manageable travel schedule, as my previous role, in Corporate Development, had me flying all over the US and Canada. The pharma business of DuPont was split out into a small JV and then independent company. We were only 6000 people globally, but I was able to do product planning, development and marketing – large scopes in small companies. When DuPont sold the business to BMS, I joined AstraZeneca for a “second career” with a top 5 pharma. I travelled globally, worked with many amazing international colleagues and investigators on a number of exciting drug developments. I then came back to Canada to be President of AZ Canada for 3 years, which I loved. I retired from that position in 2015. I came “back to work” for 6 months in Ottawa running IMC, the branded trade association for pharmaceuticals in Canada, while a new permanent President was sought. Since 2016, I have been working on TOHealth!, the health sciences cluster initiative in Toronto, as a Board member of MaRS Discovery District, and as an Advisor to the Chair of Toronto’s Chem Engineering Department. 

Elias Toby

My alma mater is the University of Toronto where I obtained an honours degree in Commerce and Finance, and subsequently, was granted the designation of Chartered Professional Accountant.  

I began my career at a big four national accounting firm, then moved briefly to industry where my focus was M&A transactions and sophisticated tax planning.  For the last 25 years, I have been employed by the Dan Family Investment Office as its designated Chief Operating and Financial Officer for its group of companies, which we proudly refer to as Dancap.

My career at Dancap has seen me engage in various unique and interesting ventures, including repositioning commercial high rise real estate operations, establishing and operating a regulated foreign bank, taking a majority ownership of four hydro-electrical facilities to improve its operations and ultimately vend the assets to a strategic owner and a managing partner in the purchase, management and sale of a 1,270 multi-res apartment portfolio. My core responsibility at Dancap is to manage a family office and investment team that is charged to build a diversified global investment portfolio consisting of public equities, hedge funds and alternative investments, including private debt & equity along with various forms of real estate. 

Jack Kay

I graduated as a Registered Psychiatric Nurse from the University of Saskatchewan, then I worked at the Saskatchewan Hospital in Weburn for 2 years. It was at this point in my career that I entered the pharmaceutical Industry as a detail sales representative for a Branded pharmaceutical company. After 10 years in this role, I moved over to the Generic Industry. My first role was as Director of Government sales for ICN Canada in Montreal. I was fortunate to progres through the company and ended my tenure after 10 years as Co-General Manager. 

It was at this point in my career that I joined Apotex Inc as VP Sales & Marketing, then moved onwards to various roles, including Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating officer, President and Vice Chairman, having more than 50 years of experience in pharmaceutical management and sales. Along with Barry Sherman, we developed new products, launching them in Canada and globally, spearheading a 10,000 employee organization.

Janis Peleshok

I am currently an Independent Director at EmpowerPharm. I have formerly worked in the Office of the Chief Risk Officer at CIBC. I have worked internationally at a top tier Pharma, focused on innovative emerging brands. My community involvement includes serving on the board of Trustees of the Ontario Science Centre and as a Director for the Opera Atelier. I hold a B.A.Sc. (Chemical Engineering) from the University of Toronto and am licensed with the Professional Engineers Ontario and Institute for Corporate Directors.

Nancy Baines

With a lifelong interest in science and medicine, I graduated from Queen’s University in 1976 with a degree in Honours Biochemistry. Over the years, I’ve also completed numerous executive education courses, including Harvard University’s Strategic Marketing Management, IMD’s “The Challenge of World Class Leadership”, University of Toronto’s (Rotman School of Management) “Advanced Program in Human Resource Management” (APMR accreditation), and a number of financial courses. Although not part of my career aspiration, I also attained the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto’s Grade Ten Piano accreditation.

I landed my first job in Product Development at Procter & Gamble, a leading consumer products company. During my 9 years at the firm, P&G entered the pharmaceutical field with the acquisition of Norwich Eaton products. I was tasked with transitioning the business, and I enjoyed the exposure to marketing, regulatory affairs, manufacturing and financial matters.

When P&G moved their headquarters and my group to north Toronto, I decided to leave the firm and work locally as I had young children. I joined Mother’s Restaurants (yes – the iconic Canadian pizza chain) as Director of Marketing and spent two years gaining additional experience in financial controlling, franchising, marketing and product development. A slight twist to a career in science and pharmaceuticals, but valuable, hands-on experience working within an entrepreneurial company.

A call from the CEO of Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd. lured me back to the pharmaceutical business. I was appointed Director of New Business Development, which tasked me with the responsibility of licensing and acquiring new businesses for the company.  In this role, I was responsible for evaluating new opportunities from a medical/technical standpoint, assessing financial models, regulatory requirements, marketing and sales needs.  I enjoyed 15 years with the company, eventually becoming VP of the Consumer Health Division, and responsible for a vitamin and supplement manufacturing facility in Vancouver, B.C. It was during this time that I met Aubrey Dan, then President of Wampole. We enjoyed working with each other on many Canadian Health Food Association industry issues.

After the company sold my division, I joined Patheon Inc., a large Canadian contract manufacturer of pharmaceuticals sold by the world’s 20 top drug companies. As VP of North American Business Management, I was responsible for the customer relationships dealing with our 11 plants in Canada, the U.S. and Puerto Rico. My role involved maximizing product life cycle, reducing competitive threats, identifying line extensions, and making strategic manufacturing decisions. My goal was to maximize overall margin, grow our client’s businesses and assure customer satisfaction.

When Patheon was sold to U.S. interests and their headquarters moved south of the border, I decided to indulge my interest in new entrepreneurial ventures. I joined my husband Ian in his renewable energy consultancy, and with investors from New York, have been working for the past ten years to develop sustainable energy projects in Canada and the U.S.

Nancy Baines

I have known Aubrey Dan for over twenty years; we met when I was running the Consumer Health Division of Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd., and Aubrey was President of Wampole Canada Inc.  Through the Canadian Health Food Association and groups within Health Canada, we tackled various issues in the emerging natural health market. We shared similar views on bringing our pharmaceutical experience and a higher level of transparency, science and professionalism to the category.  I have always had a high level of respect for Aubrey as a trusted colleague in the industry. 

Aubrey approached me in the early New Year of 2019 and asked if I would be interested in a new venture.  He was building a team of seasoned pharmaceutical talent and indicated that my experience could be valuable in developing research-based CBD products for the newly regulated Canadian, as well as world-wide markets.  I have long been interested in the value of cannabidiol products, recognizing the huge unmet potential of clinical research in this area and the possibility that unique pharmaceutical dosage forms could meet many patient needs.  I am particularly interested in further research in pain management indications, raising the possibility of using CBD products to replace opioids. My husband recently underwent two knee replacements, and the possibility that there could be an alternative to morphine-based products to alleviate pain has been of great interest to me.  

I was impressed with the depth of experience of the team that Aubrey and Peter Billiaert assembled in just over six months.  Being a goal-oriented person, I especially appreciated the vast scope of work and project management that had been accomplished since founding the company.  I also respected the depth of experience and professionalism of Directors who had already joined the Board. When offered a position on the EmpowerPharm Board, I jumped at the opportunity to be part of this new, exciting venture.

Jack Kay

After meeting with Aubrey and Peter, listening to their vision of their pharmaceuticalizing approach to the cannabis market and my knowledge of what others were doing in this field.  It fit right in with my belief that cannabis had to be handled as a prescription drug and had to be treated the same way as any new molecule. It had to be manufactured in a GMP regulated environment, which was the exact approach EmpowerPharm was taking. Product development, clinical studies, manufacturing and marketing to the medical community, just like Aubrey and Peter were setting up to do. Their vision complemented my vision.

Janis Peleshok

People and purpose attracted me to Empower. We exist to empower health and innovation.  I am energized that our work will empower better care and a better future. Our high integrity, innovative, entrepreneurial, trustworthy, ambitious people, will make a difference in the world. I’m proud to be part of this collaborative Empower family.

Elias Toby

It is very exciting to be part of the establishment of a new industry.  Certainly there will be all sorts of characters that will want to participate but it will be the experienced, skilled, resourceful participants that will succeed.  Empowerpharm has all those ingredients and so to be part of this company is a thrill, honour and responsibility and I look forward to all of it.

Elaine Campbell

I learned about EmpowerPharm from a colleague and friend who was on the Board. We chatted about the opportunity, and the need to know more about CBD – I knew many people taking it with very different reasons and experiences. I thought the idea of a prescription grade CBD was critical to really knowing what can be done for people – and I knew of many concerns about the wild west nature of the market. Sounded like a great idea, and a super group of people to work with on this project.

Jack Kay

My five decades of knowledge of the regulatory environment for the making and selling of prescription pharmaceuticals in Canada and globally. Especially, having worked for Apotex, who manufactured more than 20 Billion tablets and capsules per year, this will be a differentiating factor. Having experience from being a start-up along with Barry to scaling up to become the largest generic drug company in Canada.

Elias Toby

I consider myself a resourceful and versatile entrepreneur.  My strengths lie in strategic planning and thoughtfully evaluating current and prospective policies and procedures and I have extensive experience in formulating recommendations and/or solutions to complex issues. Above all else, I believe that typical for this nascent industry is the lack of critical thinking to identify, assess and develop solutions, and I look forward to bringing that mindset to the leadership team.

Nancy Baines

I see an analogy to my work in the natural health products area.  I firmly believe that patients should be 100% certain of the quality of the product that they are taking and that product claims should be based on solid clinical evidence.  I have come from a research-based pharmaceutical environment and value scientific evidence – clinical research, analytical testing and quality control.  I also believe that by working with world-class clinicians to develop sound indications, we will build a thriving, sustainable global company. 

Many companies operating today are selling CBD extracts with questionable composition, varying potencies and unsupported claims.  In short, we are seeing a lot of confusion in the market.  I believe that my experience in the past, working proactively with Health Canada and ensuring the highest level of pharmaceutical due diligence and compliance, will be helpful in providing guidance to EmpowerPharm.

Janis Peleshok

Our collective, diverse experiences will shape us to become a global pharmaceutical leader in CBD-based therapeutic products that empower lives and enable people to make better, more informed personal health decisions.  Effectively, balancing the long term, which in Pharma can be a 15-year time horizon, with the short-to-medium term, ensuring discipline on a quarterly and annual basis will be key to our differentiation.

Elaine Campbell

The most interesting thing for me is to really know about CBD, what it does, who it can help most, and what we should be concerned about, if anything. I have had multiple experiences working with regulators, particularly the FDA on labelling, and have had product successes, and failures in the very late stages. It taught me to work with really expert people in setting up clinical work, developing the questions we really wanted to ask, and really digging into the clinical data when things looked a bit unexpected, as has happened with almost every product I worked with. Since our goal is to provide meaningful information for people and doctors, regulators and payers, I think my experience will be helpful.

Elias Toby

I look forward to collaborating with my other board members, learning from their experiences and knowledge while providing a financial perspective that has been honed from decades in the trenches.  I am a professional who has consistently demonstrated a strong business acumen and done so while having a proactive inclination in what will surely be EmpowerPharm’s entrepreneurial environment.

Elaine Campbell

I try to look at things from a long-term, strategic focus for a business, but don’t lose sight of the short-term issues which can pop up. I ask good questions. I know the prescription drug development and commercial business. I am collaborative but not shy when I am uncomfortable with a direction being pursued. I have business and management experience. I can learn from others, and I can provide different perspectives based on my experience. I can be very positive about projects I believe in, especially when they can help people.

Janis Peleshok

We are a diverse board comprised of leaders from the pharmaceutical field committed to quality, good corporate governance, integrity and transparency.  Licensed with the Institute for Corporate Directors, I take seriously our fiduciary duty, and duty of care.  I offer my international pharma experience from a top tier Pharma company, launching innovative emerging brands, my business development & deal experience in biotech & specialty Pharma, my pain market experience at a top tier medical device company, my risk experience from a top tier Canadian bank and an extensive network to enable our success.   As a proud board member and investor, I am excited to help value creation for Empower to grow.  We have a healthy board culture, welcoming effective challenge and striving to make the right decisions.  I am confident we will wisely leverage our hindsight, insight and foresight to benefit patients and our Empower family.

Jack Kay

I believe I bring a lot of value to the board with my 55 years experience in the pharmaceutical industry as well as having served on the Boards of two publicly listed Pharmaceutical Companies in both Canada and the USA.  As a healthcare professional, I have also served on the Board, both as a director and as Chair of the Board for one of the largest Regional Hospitals in Ontario. 

Nancy Baines

Over a 43-year career, I have had the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of positions, including product development, sales, marketing, market research, and human resource management.  I also have a deep understanding of government regulatory thinking and complex legal issues.  I have had P&L responsibility for small to mid-sized companies, as well as start-up ventures, and have negotiated multi-billion dollar contracts. 

How do I work?  I bring maturity and a sense of balance to the organizations that I work with.  I am willing to dig deep on issues to understand their core.  I rarely accept the easy answer.  I have an intensive personal focus on corporate cash flow and shareholder value.  I have a deep respect for good corporate governance and regulation.   Finally, having spent my career in both global enterprises and small business, I understand what it takes to launch a new company and support its growth.

Janis Peleshok

As an independent director on the inaugural Empower Board, I am grateful for this wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the value of excellence in directorship and to anticipate, influence, and meet boardroom challenges. 

Elias Toby

My current role on the Board is a member of the Audit Committee where my objectives are to participate in the oversight of the company’s financial reporting and related internal controls. The audit committee is also charged with the compliance, engagement and performance of the company’s independent external auditor. I look forward to my responsibility in overseeing the entire financial reporting process and ensuring that management has established effective processes and controls so that we can rely on the outcomes as presented, and ensuring that the Board can identify and manage the financial risks of the company.

Nancy Baines

I am currently Chair of the Governance and Compensation Committee, and a member of the Communications Committee.

Elaine Campbell

I will be a member of the Board, the Chair of the Audit Committee and a member of the Compensation committee. 

Jack Kay

 I am a Director as well as Vice-Chairman of the Board.

Nancy Baines

Good corporate governance occurs when an organization is fulfilling the aims of its key stakeholders and doing so in an ethical and effective manner with due transparency and accountability. This includes maintaining a culture of ethics and compliance and ensuring the approach is embedded throughout our Board, Management and Supply Chain.

At EmpowerPharm, good corporate governance will allow our company to put our positive traits on display. With a culture of transparency, our company is more likely to be held accountable for our behaviour and actions — and importantly show that we are willing to distance ourselves from duplicity.  The ultimate goal is corporate success, from the perspectives of achieving financial milestones and social responsibility.

Elaine Campbell

When I retired (the first time) I decided to take the ICD Course in Toronto, to sharpen my understanding of what it takes to be on a Board – versus the non-profits I had been working with. It was an important experience but focused on businesses different from the one I spent my career on – medicines.  I have great value for good governance, and for ethical standards in any business dealings, but most especially when we are talking about the health of people. Governance will keep us clear on how we manage other people’s money in our endeavours, and how we approach decisions which can impact health and safety of the people who will want to use our medicine. 

Janis Peleshok

I am a strong advocate of Corporate Governance. Better boards build better businesses.  

Jack Kay

Good corporate governance is key. Why do I say that?  I had a terrible experience of serving on the board of an organization that was totally dysfunctional, as there was virtually no corporate governance, and I ended up resigning from the board.  No governance leads to a dysfunctional board.

Elias Toby

Parmount.  I see the Board is charged with establishing committees and processes to fulfill its responsibilities that respond to the needs of users, including investors, regulators, management and its employees. I believe that the Board advises management in the development of strategic priorities and plans that align with the mission of the organization and the best interest of stakeholders, all the while setting the ethical standard for the organization. Good corporate governance is not mere coincidence but a result of intentional and deliberate thoughtful actions.

Elaine Campbell

I expect all of the Board members to bring their best experiences, their passion for the mission and their respect for each other to every endeavour we take on. I expect we will have a lot of fun as we explore something very new, and very exciting together, and with the people in the company as it grows. I also know that we have a large network outside of this Board, and we will be reaching out, as needed, as time goes on. 

Jack Kay

That the board will operate using all the accepted principles of how a Board should operate using best practices. 

Elias Toby

I look forward to being part of an effective Board, one that properly represents all of the company’s constituencies. A board that is passionate for EmpowerPharm with a diverse, experienced approach that is unified in its undertakings after respectful discourse and deep and thoughtful analysis. 

Janis Peleshok

As a steward of the corporation, the board of directors is expected, among other things, to engage in the oversight of strategy, talent management, executive compensation, risk management, and the appointment and continuing evaluation of the CEO. High performance boards add value in all of these areas.  I am delighted that we are committed to nurturing a healthy board culture and organization.  Tone at the top is paramount.

Nancy Baines

Our Board should provide clear vision for EmpowerPharm to cut through the “wild West” of the newly regulated cannabinoid industry.  We should have an absolute focus on evidence-based clinical research and physician level benefits within evolving regulations in Canada and globally.  Our aim as a company is to provide products with real and measureable benefits to patients.  We need to do that with a keen focus on our responsibility to shareholders, specifically return on investment and social responsibility.

Elias Toby

The Boards that have most impressed me are those that have engaged directors with a clear understanding of their duty of care.  Boards are most productive when their members act with care, diligence, and skill, and apply their expertise and intelligence in making reasonable business decisions. My relevant and appropriate skills revolve around financial literacy and I look forward to integrating those skills as will be certainly required in our Board deliberations.

Janis Peleshok

By asking insightful questions, my past board experiences suggest boards enhance management discipline and focus to achieve better business outcomes.  For Boards, the saying is “nose in, fingers out.” One recent example of effective board challenge was the first Empower investor presentation.  The enhanced result delivered by the executive team made everyone feel proud of the compelling work and positive outcome, closing our first over-subscribed round of Empower financing.  May we always Empower ourselves to bring out the best in each other.

Jack Kay

Even though we are a private Company, the Board must operate in the same way that any top notch publicly traded company operates.  As well, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) from my past experiences is of utmost importance to any successful company, a view that I share with both Aubrey and Peter the founders of EmpowerPharm. We’re creating EmpowerPharm Foundation to help further research on CBD and helping those suffering from the opioid crisis. 

Nancy Baines

I have had the privilege of serving on the board of a start-up energy company as well as a number of not-for-profit boards.  I have learned to:

  • Focus on high-level goals of the company, including cash flow and key deliverables
  • Provide strategic direction – don’t do management’s job
  • Act as a sounding board/resource to executive management
  • Try not to be all things to all people – be razor-focused

Elaine Campbell

Interestingly, I learned something about real estate from the MaRS DD Board as we built a large incubator complex while I was a Board member. It was a tough experience, but the result was fantastic. It was about believing in the mission, and keeping our eye on the outcome, while getting the best options at every stage – not always the optimal option.  I have been a member of the Finance and Audit Committee of that Board for over 6 years, and along with my own experience as a CEO I have seen many budgets, and strategies, and the critical need for these to be aligned! I have been on 2 Boards that hired new organizational leaders, which has also been informative – how to think about what qualities are going to be needed in talent– more importantly how to work with and provide feedback when needed. My non-profit experience has also been about knowing what is possible, when everyone is there as a volunteer, and the pros and cons of that. 

Jack Kay

I am very active physically being an avid racquetball/squash player along with my wife Pat. We do a tremendous amount of walking and love to go on hiking vacations. We both work out at the gym on a regular basis with a personal trainer 3 mornings a week. We have 5 children and 8 grandchildren ranging in ages from 2 years to 23 years old, including a set of twins.

Nancy Baines

I lived in Burlington (the city where our plant is located) most of my childhood and adult life as I love the community and location on the lake.  My husband and I have two “kids” – Andy lives in Britannia Beach, B.C. with his wife Michèle and baby daughter; Katie and her husband Craig live in Kingston with their three young daughters, all under six years old.  We moved to Kingston four years ago to be close to our family in Ontario.

We spend our summers on Kah-She Island in Georgian Bay.  The cottage is a 113 year-old historic fishing camp and we’ve been renovating the old girl for the past 20 years.  As we’re on an island, good thing that we’re both handy! 

I love spending time with all four young granddaughters, and enjoy entertaining friends, gardening, travelling and road biking.

Elaine Campbell

My husband, Clive Robertson, is also an engineer. He is retired from a lifetime career working at DuPont in Canada and the US and is an advisor to a couple of start-ups in the MaRS/U of T incubator system, as well as being an avid golfer and sailor. We have 3 children, 2 boys and a girl. Our oldest son Cameron is in California with his family and we spend time there when we can (one grandson and another on the way!). Our second son Sean, who is in Business Development, and his wife, are relocating to Dubai in the next month or so. Our daughter Alexa is on a yacht somewhere in the Adriatic Sea and will soon move to the BVI for the winter, where she and her crewmate will run charters on a 45-foot catamaran. We never know where she will go next!  

My hobbies are golf and music. I was a squash player for many years, but those days are over! I play piano and am re-learning guitar, which is far harder than I ever imagined. This all keeps me busy between trips to California, Toronto, and soon, Dubai, from our home in SE PA.

Elias Toby

Born and raised in Toronto, married my high-school sweetheart and blessed with four children, two of which are married and 2 grandchildren, for now.  I have volunteered in various functions for charitable, non-profit and political associations with the hope of giving some back to this wonderfully blessed society we live in.

Janis Peleshok

On a personal note, here are some fun facts. 

Having gotten married at our cottage in August 2019 during an emergency weather alert, I can weather any storm and am skilled in crisis management. Cycling is my favourite outdoor activity, having participated in some memorable charity rides.  I am honoured to be awarded a 2019 Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, with its mandate “to make Canada better known to Canadians and to the world.”  Share or ask me anytime about the Ontario Science Centre, celebrating 50 years of inspiring the human adventure of discovery, and the importance of nurturing early learning and lifelong curiosity.