Paul Segal, chairman and co-founder of Symtomax, showcases Symtomax’s contribution to innovations in the medical cannabis sector.
2020 is looking to be a remarkable year for medicinal cannabis. The sheer amount of both research and new applications we are witnessing looks set to make the coming decade a cultural turning point for cannabis, in all its forms. Symtomax asks the question: where are the most groundbreaking advancements happening? Moreover, where should we as an industry be directing our innovation for the greatest benefit to the community?
Cultivation and production
Many would point towards the work being done in cultivation and production of cannabis, as higher yields and less upkeep will ultimately result in cheaper prices. There are certainly no shortage of advancements in this area.
For example, Symtomax has invested in developing the latest state of the art facilities to create the largest cultivation site in Europe, having received approval from Infarmed – the regulatory authority for medicines and health products in Portugal – earlier this year; before Symtomax could even begin planning the work on its cannabis cultivation site, approval from this authority needed to be secured.
With the necessary approvals and permissions from both local and regulatory authorities in place, Symtomax has been able to begin development on a scale not seen before in Europe: its huge site has a total of 105 hectares. Its size ensures that there is plenty of room for propagation and greenhouses, so the site can be used for the first stages of cannabis growth and the vegetative stages of flowering. Such developments facilitate ideal growing conditions for the cannabis plant, thereby enabling the experts at Symtomax to produce products to the highest possible standard.
However, innovation within the sector hasn’t stopped at the growing stages. Indeed, experts are also conducting more and more research into the cannabis plant itself, to better understand the lesser known cannabinoids and the distinct qualities they possess.
You are likely fairly familiar with THC and CBD by now – the primary active two (psychoactive and non-psychoactive, respectively) chemical components in cannabis – but you may not be aware that there are actually over 100 naturally occurring cannabinoids in the cannabis plant; all with their own unique chemical structure. Although CBD has been the primary focus of research and the development of wellbeing products in recent years, it is only a matter of time until another cannabinoid may be discovered to have medicinal benefits. This has already occurred to an extent: a small number of companies are already making products centred around cannabigerol (CBG).
CBG, often referred to as the ‘stem cell’ of cannabinoids, is the precursor from which all other cannabinoids are synthesised. The majority of the findings from those who’ve studied it look incredibly positive, with potential benefits ranging from improving mood and combating Huntington’s disease to treating both cancer and MRSA.
Unfortunately, we should not expect any medical or wellness products containing CBG to hit the market any time soon; as the compound is exorbitantly expensive to create. The barrier to entry is steep, as a chemical chromatographer is needed to initially identify the compound in the first place. However, that issue is minor compared to the primary obstacle: the CBG content of hemp is typically only 5% of its CBD levels. This means you would have to cultivate 20 times the amount of crop to produce the equivalence of a regular CBD yield. Scientific progress on the chemical, therefore, will likely remain far behind THC and CBD research due to a sheer lack of resources.
Methods of consumption
Finally, the area in which we are likely to see the greatest innovation is in the development of new methods of consumption. Conservatively, there are about eight different ways to consume medicinal cannabis – all of which have their distinct drawbacks. Tinctures and sprays may allow for controlled dosages, but the effects are significantly delayed. Smoking the dried hemp plant does produce fast-acting effects, but it is closely associated with negative stereotypes and unhealthy behaviours. Vaporisers provide assurance of a lack of toxins, but the prohibitive price of a high-quality device will bar many from accessing this method.
All of the above has contributed to the high number of patients who have never considered medicinal cannabis products as a treatment option, as each consumption method will likely have at least one strong drawback which is not present in other plant-derived medicinal product types. This is why we need innovation in this area more than any other: perfecting a drawback-free method will render medicinal cannabis a newly available option for millions, thus increasing the financial incentives to spur innovation in other areas.
This is what Symtomax had in mind when developing its new CBD oral tab. Traditionally, oral consumption of CBD oil has the lowest rates of absorption into the bloodstream, as this type of pill form mostly ends up travelling through the stomach and intestines. When oil-based CBD capsules or soft gels are swallowed, some studies show that as little as 4% of the substance actually makes it to the bloodstream; meaning up to 96% of the active CBD ends up being flushed from the body without ever having any effect.
However, Symtomax’s oral tabs deliver CBD directly to the bloodstream, entering the circulatory system directly via rapid absorption through the oral mucosa. Built on a thin film which adheres to the inside of the cheek, the proprietary technology releases the cannabinoids in a controlled, timed process. This not only improves the flexibility of time release but also increases the amount of medicine available to enter the blood stream, and therefore contributes to better efficiency and systemic absorption rate than any other method available at present.
As we enter the 2020s, Symtomax plans to continue bringing innovative technologies and fresh thoughts into the medicinal cannabis scene to encourage new and better products for the benefit of everyone. In this effort, we have recently appointed a new CEO – Olaf van Tulder – to ensure we’re as equipped as possible to keep turning ingenious ideas, like the oral tab, into reality. With his 28 years of experience as CEO at another of the world’s leading cannabis companies, and his expert knowledge on the genetic nature of cannabis cultivation, Olaf’s appointment marks an exciting new chapter for our organisation. I look forward to seeing what the coming years have in store for Symtomax; and seeing the various ways in which we can innovate the medical cannabis industry.
Symtomax has been approved by Infarmed to start the development of Europe’s largest medical cannabis facility. The organisation is dedicated to the production, research, cultivation, processing and distribution of medicinal cannabis oil to pharmaceutical companies worldwide.