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Medical Cannabis Technology

For real upside, look beyond the plant

As deep tech investors, we are excited about the tremendous opportunity for technological innovation in medical cannabis. Across the sector, breakthrough technologies are finding new applications in cultivation & extraction, drug discovery, and patient-delivery systems. These developments are greatly improving efficiency and expanding the addressable market, and this article outlines a few of these innovations and the companies developing them.

The investment thesis for medical cannabis has gone beyond simply capitalizing on the market for cultivation and access to raw plants for patients, to include IP assets such as cannabinoid derivatives, biosynthetic production processes as well as high-tech equipment for extraction. In addition to these, we are seeing the development of an entire ecosystem of ancillary services and products, including next-gen vaporizers and mobile applications.

The medical and pharmaceutical sector is much more akin to a traditional life science and deep tech sector than many outside observers typically imagine. As such, many issues within the medical cannabis space can be, and are now being addressed by existing technologies already deployed in adjacent verticals, tailored to nuances in the new and rapidly growing sector. This also hugely increases the size of addressable market for these innovations, with new medical cannabis technologies having the ability to address adjacent traditional and more stagnant verticals, ranging from the processing of hops for beer to the monitoring of patient outcomes from novel treatments.

Once such example is Herbolea. A crucial part of the medical cannabis supply chain is the extraction of cannabinoids from the raw plant. To this end, the Italian company has developed three GMP-compliant industry solutions to extract, concentrate, and purify bioactive compounds. Their technologies not only reduce energy-use and environmental impact but also preserve the quality and consistency of the cannabinoids, ensuring  optimal therapeutic effect. The group have managed to secure substantial IP protection and the platform technology has vast applications outside of the medical cannabis sector.

Similarly, progress in modern gene-editing sciences allows for the creation of new cannabis strains with improved characteristics. Using these technologies, Paris-based biotech company Plantik is aiming to dramatically shorten the plant breeding process in order to create cannabis plants with specific concentrations of cannabinoids for therapeutic use and also with an ability thrive in different growing conditions and be disease-resilient. 

Another major innovation is Octarine Bio’s process for harnessing the power of synthetic biology. Their process uses enzymes to catalyze chemical reactions that create novel molecules which have not been reproduced elsewhere in nature or by man-made chemistry. Their platform has yielded an extensive proprietary library of next-gen derivatives that address some therapeutic limitations of regular cannabinoids, such as low bioavailability, rapid degradation, insolubility in water, and poor pharmacokinetic properties.

We also find a range of smart technologies among ancillary products and services in the medical cannabis industry. Companies such as Vapormed, RYAH and SyqeAir have created certified precision dosage devices (vaporizers) with various functions: high-precision dosage selection, collection of biomarkers and data for enhancing the consumer experience, and even remote control/customization through mobile applications. Aside from vaporizers, there are several digital patient-platforms specializing in medical cannabis treatments, like Leva Clinic, that utilize online tele-consulations with physicians.

These ventures represent just a tiny fraction of all the technological innovations we have identified in the medical cannabis industry. Óskare Capital is already a proud investor of Octarine and Herbolea, and we look forward to adding more promising assets to our portfolio in the coming months and years. Connect with us on Linkedin and let us know which industry innovations excite you the most.