Vancouver, BC – Today, VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation announced an $18 million gift from Aqueduct Foundation on behalf of an anonymous donor that will go towards accelerating the development of new treatments for cancer patients. Cancer is a diagnosis that half of all Canadians will face in their lifetime. This vital funding will increase capacity for discovering and testing new life-saving cancer treatments right here in BC.

“VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation is honoured to receive this truly transformational $18 million gift that will increase capacity for discovering and testing new life-saving cancer treatments right here in BC. Specifically, the funding will support the design of precise, targeted and cost-effective drugs for cancer in work led by Dr. Sriram Subramaniam in close partnership with the Vancouver Prostate Centre at VGH and other research centres,” says Barbara Grantham, President & CEO of VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation.

Announced today by the federal government, Subramaniam will hold the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Precision Cancer Drug Design. The Vancouver Prostate Centre at VGH and the University of British Columbia (UBC) were jointly awarded the highly competitive opportunity to recruit the Chair to build on their extensive track record of success in identifying cancer biomarkers and developing new therapeutic drugs. The CERC position comes with a federal grant of $10 million to support Subramaniam’s research.

“To honour and recognize the commitment of our anonymous donor, the Chair has been renamed the Gobind Khorana Canada Excellence Research Chair after the late Nobel Prize winner Professor Har Gobind Khorana who began his career at UBC. The naming also embodies the determination of our visionary donor to recruit talent from all over the world—from different backgrounds and all walks of life—to bring innovations that benefit British Columbians,” continues Grantham.

This naming is very special for Subramaniam himself, who worked with Professor Khorana as a postdoctoral fellow at MIT after obtaining a Ph.D. in Chemistry at Stanford University. “My training with Gobind was a transformative event in my scientific career. He was an extraordinary individual who led by example, inspiring all of us that had the privilege of working with him to set the highest standards for rigor in scientific research. The overall vision of our CERC program to develop better therapeutics follows the trail blazed by Gobind decades ago with his discovery of the genetic code and establishing principles of gene synthesis. I am deeply honoured by this award,” said Subramaniam.

Dr. Sriram Subramaniam at UBC

Dr. Sriram Subramaniam at UBC. Photo credit: Elaine Subramaniam 

Subramaniam is recognized as a global leader in the emerging field of cryo-electron microscopy, or cryo-EM, a technology that has sparked a revolution in imaging of protein complexes. Subramaniam and his team demonstrated that proteins and protein-bound drugs could be visualized at atomic resolution with cryo-EM, paving the way for this technology to be used in accelerating drug discovery. The unprecedented worldwide adoption of cryo-EM was recognized with the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Dubochet, Frank and Henderson—early pioneers in the cryo-EM field. Before moving to NIH, Subramaniam trained with Henderson at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, publishing a dozen papers with him over the years.

“I am proud to be part of a team of outstanding researchers here in Vancouver, and working together to harness the true potential of cryo-EM to accelerate our cancer drug design capabilities, including for cancers that are currently drug-resistant. Our work has the potential to establish VGH, the University of British Columbia and Canada at the forefront of the precision medicine research sector,” says Subramaniam.

About VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation

VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation is Vancouver Coastal Health’s primary philanthropic partner, raising funds for specialized adult health services and research for all British Columbians. We partner with donors to drive innovation and sustainable health care at VGH & UBC Hospital, GF Strong Rehab Centre, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and Vancouver Community Health Services.

About the Vancouver Prostate Centre

The Vancouver Prostate Centre at VGH is hosted by the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and the University of British Columbia, and receives substantial financial support from the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation.

About Aqueduct Foundation

Aqueduct Foundation is a national public foundation based in Vancouver that facilitates exceptional personal philanthropy. It is cause neutral and runs individual donor advised funds. Aqueduct is operated by Scotia Wealth Management.

About Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERC) program

The Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERC) program was established by the federal government in 2008 to attract top research talent from abroad to Canada. Through the CERC program, the federal government provides up to $10 million over seven years to support each Chair and their research teams.

Media Contact

Dany Maneely, Vice President, Marketing & Communications, VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation
Email:; Phone: 604-715-9427