Kelowna diamond pioneer donates $9.1 m for Alzheimer’s research

Chuck Fipke has given $3 million to endow a professorship at UBC dedicated to Alzheimer’s research.

  • Sep. 30, 2014 11:00 a.m.

The University of British Columbia’s quest to understand and treat Alzheimer’s disease is being bolstered intellectually and technologically thanks to three gifts from Charles Fipke, whose geological discoveries made Canada one of the leading producers of diamonds.

Fipke has given $3 million to endow a professorship dedicated to Alzheimer’s research, and has pledged $600,000 to outfit the professor’s lab with cutting-edge equipment at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, a partnership between the UBC Faculty of Medicine and Vancouver Coastal Health. He has also committed $5.5 million to support the purchase of the most novel and coveted brain imaging technology.

Fipke, from Kelowna, was moved to make the gifts by the plight of his longtime friend, Bill Bennett, the former Premier of British Columbia, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Bennett’s son Brad expressed the family’s gratitude at a recent ceremony honouring Fipke’s philanthropy.

“The end game has to be to find a cure for this,” Brad Bennett said. “We still don’t know what causes this disease and there are far too many people afflicted with it and far too many families like ours suffering the horrible consequences.”

Dr. Haakon Nygaard, the new Fipke Professor in Alzheimer’s Research, has joined the Faculty of Medicine from the Yale School of Medicine. He will be seeing patients and conducting research in the recently opened Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health at UBC, which unites under one roof UBC’s and Vancouver Coastal Health’s scientific and clinical expertise across neuroscience, psychiatry and neurology.

Fipke also pledged funds for a machine that combines positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The PET-MRI will enable Dr. Nygaard and other scientists to conduct studies that wouldn’t be possible using two machines separately.

“I was stunned to learn about Bill Bennett’s illness—yet another great mind stricken by Alzheimer’s,” Fipke said. “I want to do anything I can to help UBC’s researchers find a cure.”

A UBC alumnus, Fipke had previously given $8.7 million to the university, mostly for buildings and equipment at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

These gifts contribute to UBC’s Start An Evolution campaign, the most ambitious fundraising and alumni engagement campaign in Canadian history, with the twin goal of raising $1.5 billion and involving 50,000 alumni annually in the life of the university by 2015.


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