Virani Family Takes Steps to Secure the Future of Arthritis Research
“The symptoms came on with a vengeance, and they were debilitating. It was as if I woke up one morning and my hands and knees no longer worked.”
Virani was living in Toronto; at a loss about what to do, she decided to fly home to Vancouver and was seen by Dr. Diane Lacaille, a rheumatologist and research scientist at Arthritis Research Canada and now the organization’s Scientific Director.
Lacaille quickly confirmed Virani had rheumatoid arthritis – a serious, autoimmune disease. One year later, the disease was finally present in her bloodwork.
“At 27 years old, it was difficult to wrap my head around the diagnosis,” Virani said. “I felt like my body had betrayed me and there was nothing I could do. The type A in me struggled with the loss of control.”
Virani, and her family’s foundation, are now giving back to the organization that helped her find answers.
At the 2023 ARThritis Soirée, Arthritis Research Canada’s annual fundraising event, The Amir and Yasmin Virani Family Foundation generously donated $250,000 to kick off the Dr. John Esdaile Professorship in Arthritis Research campaign to raise $2.5 million.
It’s a unique opportunity that will support the career of an arthritis scientist for generations to come and will translate into practical research that will benefit millions of people, like Virani, living with arthritis, now and into the future.
The foundation concentrates its giving in British Columbia by supporting marginalized youth, the arts, academic and medical institutions, as well as organizations that aid women and children across the globe.
“The Virani Foundation’s leadership is inspiring others to give generously as we work towards securing the future of arthritis research,” Lacaille said.
What is the Dr. John Esdaile Professorship?
Over six million Canadians live with different types of arthritis and approximately 374,000 have rheumatoid arthritis, which is caused by the immune system attacking joint tissue. There is no cure but early diagnosis is essential for effective treatments to prevent joint damage and for people to live longer, high-quality lives.
Arthritis Research Canada’s team of over 100 researchers, trainees and staff conduct research to prevent arthritis, facilitate early diagnosis, find new and better treatments, and improve quality of life.
“We develop solutions so that people can live well with all types of arthritis,” said Lacaille. “Our scientists have conducted studies and created programs to help with employment, mental health, family planning, insomnia, strength training, osteoarthritis prevention, vaccine safety and much more.”
However, arthritis research can not happen without the scientists who do the work. For this reason, Arthritis Research Canada has partnered with the University of British Columbia, through the President’s Academic Excellence Initiative, to establish the Dr. John Esdaile Professorship in Arthritis Research, to attract a new scientist at the Division of Rheumatology at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Arthritis Research Canada.
UBC has committed to providing $2 million in matching funds and Arthritis Research Canada is setting out to raise the remaining $2.5 million. This endowed fund, named after Arthritis Research Canada’s founder who led the organization for more than two decades, will support the salary of a clinician scientist dedicated to arthritis research, forever.
More Scientists Means More Life-Changing Research
“I have firsthand experience to speak to the importance of arthritis research,” Virani said. “People who have arthritis want to do a lot more than just be able to move. We want to be social, enjoy the outdoors, exercise, go to work and live normal, pain free lives. We need research to make this a reality.”
The Virani family came to Canada in 1972 after Ugandan dictator Idi Amin expelled 60,000 people of South Asian descent from Uganda. Today, they give back to the country that welcomed them with open arms.
“Our foundation is happy to support vital research that changes lives – research that helps people get diagnosed earlier and gives them practical solutions to the challenges caused by arthritis,” Virani said.