TechforCann Europe is entering into a strategic collaboration with Yissum, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s technology transfer company, and the University’s Multidisciplinary Center for Cannabinoid Research (MCCR).
Europe’s first tech accelerator dedicated to medical cannabis, TechforCann Europe, and the Hebrew University’s MCCR, have today announced the collaboration that aims to strengthen the European medical cannabis tech ecosystem and promote medical cannabis research.
MCCR at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, home to the “godfather of cannabis research” professor Raphael Mechoulam, is the biggest cannabis research centre in Israel and one of the few in the world.
It conducts breakthrough research on cannabinoids, endocannabinoids and medical cannabis, with a focus on cancer, pain, inflammation and stress management, immunity, metabolism, drug delivery and nanotechnology, pharmaceutical chemistry, neuroscience and plant science and genetics.
Yissum was founded in 1964 and serves as a bridge between academic research and a global community of entrepreneurs, investors and industry.
CEO of TechforCann Europe, Lilac Mandeles, commented: “Partnering with such important and world-breaking institutions such as Yissum and the MCCR validates our goal of supporting early-stage IP-based startups from around the world who are solving challenges across the medical cannabis supply chain.
“We are excited to nurture and promote top-tier research that is currently being conducted, as well as offer our startups access to world-leading clinicians and researchers and cut the time to market for these remarkable innovations.”
To date, Yissum has registered more than 10,875 patents globally, licensed more than 1140 technologies and has spun out more than 191 companies. The company’s business partners span the globe and feature major names such as Boston Scientific, Google, ICL, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Microsoft and Novartis.
TechforCann Europe identifies and nurtures early-stage IP based companies with potential for exit/IPO. The hybrid acceleration programme focuses on entrepreneurs who are solving challenges across the supply chain, with a focus on healthcare and biotech, digital health, precision agriculture and new product technologies.
The programme enables participants to reach milestones faster, with less error and expense – increasing valuation and probability of commercial success.
Under the agreement, TechforCann Europe will have access to a pipeline of innovative research projects that will benefit from the acceleration programme and the parties will collaborate for licensing or co-development of new products.
Under the agreement, MCCR affiliated researchers will act as advisory board members, mentors, and potential recruitment candidates for the startups that are accepted from around the world into the TechforCann Europe accelerator programme.
Professor Yossi Tam, director of the MCCR, associate professor of pharmacology, and head of the Obesity and Metabolism Laboratory at Hebrew University, commented: “One of our major objectives at MCCR is to foster collaborations between our own teams and other groups around the globe who are conducting medical cannabis research.
“One of our priorities is a cannabis-based synthetic API which may change people’s lives.
“For example, we have recently completed pre-clinical work with a synthetic derivative of cannabinoid-acid, demonstrating its efficacy in treating obesity, and we have a lot more research in the pipeline.”
The agreement will also see the University’s medical cannabis online curriculum will also be available to international audiences through the accelerator platform.
Italy plans hemp production increases: could the UK be next?
Italian officials are planning an increase in hemp and processing centres which could boost fabric or fibre production
Officials in west-central Italy are progressing plans to build a sustainable hemp supply chain model which would help to boost local agriculture.
The town of Roccasecca is located in the Frosinone province in the Lazio region. Officials are preparing the land to be planted with hemp ahead of the growing season. The project is a joint initiative of the city of Roccasecca and Cosilam, the University of Cassino and Southern Lazio, consultancy Agricola Happy Hill and municipalities of Ceccano and San Giovanni Incarico.
The project was announced last year as a way of processing poor soil and attracting industry to the region. The Consortium for the Industrial Development of Southern Lazio (Cosilam) conducted a pre-planting analysis and the soil will be assessed after one farming cycle this year.
As well as the production of fibre, hemp plastic, concrete and biofuels, hemp can also be used as a bioaccumulative. It can draw unwanted toxic material out of the soil helping to heal polluted areas.
Nitrogen-fixing plants such as hemp, alfalfa and peas can extract nitrogen from the air for fertilization which then results in higher amounts released into the soil. Soil can be damaged by heavy metals, toxins and pesticides used in farming.
Soil regeneration may help to make the land suitable for farming other crops. Hemp could also contribute to the carbon targets set by European countries including the UK, by capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. For every tonne of hemp produced, 1.63 tonnes of CO2 is removed from the air. Hemp can absorb 15 tonnes of CO2 per hectare.
Roccasecca is just one of many Italian cities considering hemp processing and planting.
Umbria, a neighbouring region to Lazio, has also started planting hemp with the aim of creating a hemp fibre and hurd supply chain. The city is also interested in the phytoremediation, and Phyto-purification of water in the region through hemp.
An increase in hemp farming and also an investment into infrastructure would allow Italian companies to start developing hemp-fibre-based bioplastics and biopolymers. It could also serve the textile and fashion industries where alternative fibres are in high demand.
Hemp cultivation has been legal in Italy since 2016. Until the second world war, Italy was the largest producer of hemp but the move towards synthetic fibres meant that production was scaled back.
During the pandemic, Italy proposed a law change regarding personal grows to allow medical cannabis patients to cultivate up to four plants at home. A petition on medical cannabis circulated last year gathered over 500,000 signatures which may trigger a referendum on legalisation.
Katya Kowalski, head of strategy at Volteface said: “The introduction of hemp farming across Italy is a welcome initiative. Hemp is a high value, sustainable and versatile crop. In the midst of economic and environmental turmoil, hemp is a viable crop from widespread job creation to offsetting carbon-intensive building.
Hemp is an excellent demonstration of how cannabis reform is a much broader and varied area of policy than simply recreational drug use.”
She added: “I hope that these positive changes continue to reframe the reform sector and that hemp farming is taken up further across Europe and in the UK.”
When it comes to English hemp supply chains or production, Katya notes that changes would need to be made to THC levels to allow farmers more freedom.
“In order for the UK to capitalise on this, changes need to be made to the outdated restrictions on hemp farming. As per recommendations in Volteface’s report, Pleasant Lands allowing hemp seed varieties with a THC percentage above 0.2 per cent and up to 1 per cent would improve the health of the plant and increase the yield of CBD per acre.
Alongside this, investment into the sector and moving hemp farming under DEFRA as opposed to the Home Office to streamline this industry more”
Could the UK produce more hemp?
Hemp designer Laura Bossom, founder of Cultiva commented on what it would take for the UK to increase hemp production.
“As an industry, What we are waiting for is the government to put forward farmer incentives such as making policy changes that would allow farmers to benefit from growing hemp. Last year there were conversations happening [remove: at the moment] around building facility centres in the UK for processing. As a nation, we are only growing 1600 hectares a year and we must grow more to make it viable.” she said.
“There were initial talks about importing fibre from Europe but that doesn’t seem economically viable or sustainable in terms of emissions. I’m sure the government is aware of the information coming from research and other projects being put forward by a lot of associations. We are waiting for the government to give us the go-ahead and back it completely. They are protecting the Pharmaceutical CBD markets by making it difficult for farmers to grow. They don’t actually benefit much from growing hemp as the CBD margin on their crop is not there due to a ban on processing CBD in the UK.”
She added: “We need to be building our local industries and I don’t see why the government won’t do it. I think it’s just a matter of when.”
When it comes to private investment, Covid has caused disruption in the market and the hardiness of hemp could mean sturdier equipment is needed. However, government backing could secure private investors who may feel nervous about the sector.
Laura said: “The other issue we have is that it is quite a long process. When you look at other natural fibres, they are not as strong as hemp, so they are quicker and easier to process. Hemp is so hardy that it requires decortication with quaternized action and a lot of refining processes.
We need a facility centre that will cost a lot of money but will be profitable in the long term. It’s a big investment! A lot of investors during Covid have been wary of putting their money into a high-risk project when they aren’t seeing the government backing it or farming policy encouraging growth.”
South African company planning to export cannabinoids to UK and EU
The company is the first in the country to receive a licence for the manufacture, import and export cannabinoids.
Green Engineering Solutions Ltd (GES Labs) has stated it intends to export into regions including Australia, Israel, EU, UK, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada and the US.
The licence will allow the company to manufacture, import and export bulk active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) containing cannabinoids in accordance with the Medicines and Related Substances Act, 1965, and will last until 2026.
GES Labs, which is a licensed pharmaceutical manufacturer and exporter, has said that this will cover CBD Isolate APIs at 98+ per cent, CBD API at 90+ per cent CBD, THC API at 90+ per cent THC and USP generic Dronabinol.
GES Labs stated publicly: “GESLabs has rolled out our product offering for 2022.
“This quarter we will be focusing on our bulk cannabinoid product offering including CBD isolate, CBD intermediate, THC intermediate, and Dronabinol.
“In quarter one we will be focusing on delivering sample amounts for prospective clients while our global stability program is underway for Quarter 2 commercial supply.
“We will be looking to offer these products to Australia, Israel, EU, UK, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, and US clients focussed on the pharmaceutical cannabinoid sector.”
On its website the company commented that: “The product certification ensures that all our cannabinoid APIs are of pharmaceutical quality suitable for medicine manufacturing.
“We use state-of-the-art manufacturing technologies to produce world-class extracts using high quality input materials from approved South African cultivators that have been approved through strictly controlled auditing programs.”
In December it said: “We have now been in production of cannabinoid APIs for a month and we will be finalizing our product validations with market-ready stability studies in the new year.”
Thailand to propose removing cannabis from controlled substances list
Thailand was the first nation in Southeast Asia to approve medical cannabis in 2018
The Food and Drug Administration of Thailand is to propose that the narcotics control board remove cannabis from the list of controlled substances.
Under current law, cannabis is classed as a category 5 narcotic. It would also remove lengthy prison sentences for possession which can be up to 15 years.
The measure would need to be approved by the Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul before the law is changed.
Thailand has been slowly liberalising access to cannabis although there are still many laws that restrict farming. Cannabis and hemp products are allowed in the cosmetic and food industries since 2020 with hospitals allowed to produce cannabis-based medicines.
Thailand was the first nation in Southeast Asia to approve medical cannabis in 2018. The county removed the stems, roots, leaves and sprigs of the plant from the Category 5 narcotics list in December 2021. However, buds and seeds remain on the list.
Under the 2021 list update, Thai households can grow up to six plants for personal use and keep the parts of the plant with 0.2 per cent of THC. The flowers and seeds must be sent to a state medical facility for processing.
Withid Sariddeechaikool, deputy secretary-general of the FDA told Bloomberg: “If we’re able to decriminalise marijuana, we will be able to benefit from all of the plant and not just parts of it. The flower buds and seeds could be used economically and in compliance of the law.”
Thailand and medical cannabis
The Public Health Ministry in Thailand signed an agreement with Rx Leaf World Medica to establish an international medical cannabis research centre. The centre will combine doctors, scientists, pharmacists and cannabis experts to conduct research.
In a press event, public health minister, Anutin Charnvirakul said that the ministry would promote medical cannabis to help people access treatment safely and within the law. He also highlighted that the ministry would aim to promote Thailand as a great location for cannabis production and development.