Verspeeten family makes $3-million donation to build first clinical genome centre of its kind in Canada

A $3-million donation from a trucking industry pioneer will help to develop Canada’s first clinical genome center for the treatment of cancer and other genetic diseases.
Archie Verspeeten, who founded Verspeeten Cartage in 1953 with an $800 loan, made the donation to create the Archie and Irene Verspeeten Clinical Genome Centre at London Health Sciences Centre. His late wife Irene died of cancer, as did their son Alan.

Archie Verspeeten (Source London Health Sciences Foundation)

“This means more to my family than words can convey,” said son Ron Verspeeten, speaking on behalf of the family at a virtual event Oct .14. “My family has been greatly impacted by cancer over the years, so we understand the pain that goes along with this diagnosis.”

“The creation of the Verspeeten Clinical Genome Centre will have a profound effect in the lives of patients with complex diseases not only in our community, but also in communities around the world,” said John MacFarlane, president and CEO at the London Health Sciences Foundation. “It is because of Archie and Irene’s vision and deep-rooted passion to find a cure to end cancer that this Centre is possible.”

Genomic profiling allows doctors to create personalized treatment options based on a patient’s DNA. Cancer, epilepsy, neuromuscular disorders and developmental disabilities are some of the illnesses that can be treated this way.

“This is the first facility of its kind in Canada. It integrates the advanced translational research capabilities of a genome centre within the highly standardized and regulated clinical diagnostic laboratory environment,” said Dr. Bekim Sadikovic, scientific and clinical director of the Verspeeten Clinical Genome Centre.

(Source: London Health Sciences Foundation screen grab)

“It will advance the standard of care by providing access to the world-leading molecular genetic diagnostics and personalized medicine to cancer patients in southwestern Ontario. The Verspeeten Clinical Genome Centre will improve a patient’s journey by uncovering unique information hidden in their personal genomes. This Verspeeten Clinical Genome Centre will have the ability to bring us closer to transforming fast-spreading and fatal cancers, such as pancreatic cancer, into manageable diseases and the research and knowledge gained through genomic profiling will provide valuable information that will benefit patients now and, in the future.”

“I am so humbled that we are able to support launching the first Clinical Genome Centre in Canada,” said Archie Verspeeten. “This means more than words can ever express. My wife and I have been passionate about finding a cure for cancer because, unfortunately, my family has been no stranger to the deathly grip of the disease and I want nothing more than to end cancer completely. I hope this Centre will get us one step closer to that goal. I believe genetic testing can provide better patient outcomes and help patients live longer, fuller and happier lives.”

The lead gift of $3 million sets the groundwork for the Centre, but the total cost will be about $10 million. Further fundraising is underway.