"Cannabis may affect women differently from men"

Elah Alkalay, Narkis Tessler and Barak Landes / Photo: Ravit Levran

Nextar CEO Orna Dreazen told the Women's Health Innovations and Inventions Congress in Tel Aviv that more needs to be known about the impact of cannabis on women.

The first International Women's Health Innovations and Inventions Congress, initiated by Tel Aviv Venture Partners and DJF Tamir Fishman Ventures partner Dr. Benny Zeevi and Asana Group and Gynica founder Prof. Moshe Hod, took place last week in the Tel Aviv Hilton. The doctors, businesspeople and investors who attended the conference discussed both conventional topics and topics such as the connection between women's health and the global economy.

One of the panels dealt in the connection between women and cannabis. The panel was initiated by the WomenCanCann network, which unites leading women in the cannabis sector in Israel and worldwide. The panel was moderated by Nishot Strategy and Research founder and CEO and consultant to the Sela Cannabis mutual fund Shiri Eden and Tikun Olam international relations manager and WomenCanCann cofounding partner Maayan Weisberg. Other members in the network include Yael Silberman Romano and Ravit Levrann, also cofounding partners in WomenCanCann, which has 350 members worldwide.

Weisberg began the panel by saying that this young industry was already experiencing a decline in the number of women executives, like other sectors in the medical industry in recent years. The proportion of women executives in the cannabis sector is now 23%, after reaching a peak of 37%.

TeraCann CEO Narkis Tessler, who previously built the Life private brand at Super-Pharm, stated that women's leadership in the fields was being negatively affected by the capital market's takeover of the sector. "Capital markets are traditionally managed by men, who are more comfortable with men like them," she said. The solution is to improve the connection between women and the capital market. "Women are now entering the capital markets and investments and entrepreneurship in the field. In my opinion, the younger generation already understands that there is a change in the way of thinking."

Elah Alkalay, VP business development at IBI Investment House, which also manages funds in the cannabis sector, and chairwoman of the Israel Women's Network, said that both men and women had a built-in reluctance to invest in the cannabis market. "This is a promising market, but it is very risky. For the past few hundred years, it was a black market, in which merchandise could be bought, but not on a medical level. People used it, though, in order to obtain the advantages they regarded as medical for themselves.

Something wonderful about uncertainty

"Today, with the market becoming legal, we see money going in the wrong directions, but also in the right ones. Like in the dot.com bubble days, the next YouTube and Amazon cannot be predicted. From an investor's perspective, the uncertainty is alarming, but the potential is clear. From the industry's perspective, there is something wonderful about the uncertainty, because this dispersal of investments will guarantee that many more products will get money for development.

"As chairwoman of the Israel Women's Network, I do see far more men in executive positions, and we, as women, have to take chances sometimes."

Eden noted that concurrently with the decrease in the number of women in the cannabis industry, there was increased interest in gynecology. Today, almost all of the world's cannabis companies have products specifically aimed at women.

Orna Dreazen, chairperson and CEO of drug development company Nextar, who founded the Nextage Innovation company for the development of medical cannabis products, said, "There are doctors who refrain from prescribing cannabis for women, because they do not know its effect on fertility, the health of the fetus in pregnancy, on breastfeeding, etc. The existing regulation is based on partial information, and it is certainly possible that cannabis affects women differently than men, on whom most of the studies already published were conducted.

"Research into the connection between women and cannabis is an enormous and diverse field. The feminine reproductive system contains the next largest number of endocannabinoids in the human body after the brain (receptors that react to cannabis and in effect are designed to respond to materials like cannabis in the human body). This enables us to study, develop, and promote special cannabinoid-based medical solutions for women. We must provide continuous research in order to understand the effects and act accordingly."

Dreazen added that women doctors and researchers could lead the direction of this research, together with patients and mothers of pediatric patients. "They are the ones who can start research and bring the need for it to the surface," she said.

BioDiligence founder and Biotech investment consultant Dr. Inbar Maymon-Pomeranchik said, "Both the user and the doctors have to be educated. For example, people think that you can take CBD (cannabidiol, G.W.) for any problem, but it is not clear where this CBD came from, what dosage is needed, and what dosage was administered. People have to be educated to check what they are actually taking and what its effect is."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on July 15, 2019

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019

Elah Alkalay, Narkis Tessler and Barak Landes / Photo: Ravit Levran
Elah Alkalay, Narkis Tessler and Barak Landes / Photo: Ravit Levran
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