December 21 2018

Whitby medical cannabis facility prepares for commercial launch

Jeff Baker, a cultivationalist at Scientus Pharma in Whitby, installed some suportive mesh netting around some marijuana plants at the facility Nov. 22.
– Ryan Pfeiffer/Metroland

WHITBY — With the possession and consumption of cannabis now legal across the country, consumers have greater direct access.

But while legalization offers benefits for recreational users, it can be problematic for those who rely on marijuana for medicinal purposes, says Har Grover, chair and CEO of Scientus Pharma Inc. The local biopharmaceutical company manufactures cannabinoid derivative products with a goal to provide a more consistent and safer option for patients.

“We’re trying to bring about a level of patient safety for true medical product. There’s an evolution in the marketplace from agricultural grade to — let’s call it — craft grow grade, and then, ultimately it’s got to get to a global scale,” said Grover.

“If you think about any consumer product goods … there’s a level of consistency and a standardization that you need to bring to get products to that level, and that’s not there. So, we’re trying to bring that level of standardization and reliability.”

Scientus recently announced it had received Health Canada authorization to produce cannabis softgel capsules and oils at its 45,000-square-foot commercial production facility in Whitby. According to a release issued by the company this fall, it’s preparing to launch “the next generation advancement toward a more consistent and safer product for medical patients.”

Current extraction methods used by most licensed growers do not adequately activate the medicinal component of the cannabis plant, such as THC and CBD, “nor do they compensate for large batch-to-batch variability inherent in natural plant materials,” the release noted.

In October, Canada became the second country to make it legal for adults to buy, grow and consume small amounts of marijuana. The increased availability of cannabis to patients in need and in a variety of forms other than smoking is positive for the industry, said Grover, but the main downside is the variability factor.

“I think that there are two very distinct customers or patients. There are the sophisticated, connoisseur-type users in the recreational market and they’re well served,” he said.

It’s that second segment that I don’t think is well served, which is that 70-year-old cancer patient who doesn’t have a whole lot of experience with cannabis.”

Scientus has developed a proprietary continuous flow extraction platform to produce consistent batch profiles of oils and softgel capsules with 100 per cent decarboxylation — the process of applying the right amount of heat and time to activate the THC in cannabis. It’s important to ensure patients have consistency in their experience with medical cannabis every time, said Grover.

“The choices that they’re faced with right now are huge. We’ve got over 100 companies, each one’s got 10 different products — and then, the level of education on the THCA vs. THC, the level of decarboxylation … it’s very difficult to get, certainly in the recreational market, so I think there does need to be a strong medical market that supports that patient.”

The company, which was established in 2014, is waiting to receive its sales licence from Health Canada with hopes of launching product next month, said Grover.

“We’re bringing about strong science, we’re eliminating as much of the variability as is possible at this stage of growth and we’re getting it to a point where it is equal to a standardized ibuprofen, so that if we’re advertising it as 10 milligrams of THC, it is 10 mg of THC — not 5 mg of THC and 5 mg of THCA.”

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