In many countries, cannabis is still illegal and is subject to restrictions on its use and transportation, but the product that Entou Labs wants to sell to the cannabis market is completely legal and unrestricted - a "force multiplier" for cannabis. The company says the product is a substance that promotes absorption of cannabis by the body, and that it can reduce the required dosage and perhaps also the side effects. It could also reduce the price of cannabis, both for patients using it for medical purposes and for recreational users.
The company's entrepreneur and CEO Sagi Menuhin, who was previously in real estate marketing and investment banking, came to know the cannabis scene twelve years ago. "I was among the first people to receive a license for medical cannabis, to treat post trauma," he says. "As the years went by, I felt that the minimum needed to produce the same effect was continually rising. The body develops tolerance, and the effect diminishes."
"In my work as an investment banker, I came across a Nasdaq-listed company that combines synthetic THC (an active substance in cannabis - G.W.) with a substance that assists its absorption. It's developing a product on a drug licensing track, which means that it will be many years before it reaches the market. But when I heard what they were doing, my jaw dropped. I asked the people there, have you thought of combining the additive with the complete plant?"
That company preferred to continue on the drug licensing track, but it agreed to give Menuhin a license on its know-how and intellectual property so that he would be able to sell the additive alongside the complete plant. "The potential royalties will be able to finance trials and research on the endocannabinoid system and its therapeutic function in combination with medical cannabis and our molecule."
The first research to identify the connection between the substances was carried out in the laboratory of "the doyen" of cannabis science, Prof. Raphael Mechoulam of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and he is also the owner of the intellectual property behind the product.
"Basically, I'm the first person to have tried combining the additive with an ordinary joint, and the result was a huge hit," says Menuhin. "Suddenly, the cannabis started working again, and my feeling is that it works on me better than ever. If beforehand I smoked a certain quantity that hardly had any effect on me anymore, now I smoke 70% of that and the effect is noticeable.
"The side effects that stemmed from the high dosage of cannabis disappeared - munchies, a dry mouth, red eyes, teeth grinding and more. The anxiety attacks did not disappear, because they can't be made to disappear, but with time the duration of an attack fell from 40 minutes to a few minutes, so I feel that I've nailed it. I now longer experience the fear of an attack."
Menuhin brought in Ido Ramot, who in the past founded a data management startup, Omri Shmulewitz, and Ilan Tsinman, formerly business development manager at Outbrain. Tsinman will be responsible for marketing the product, which will be dispatched to US stores within the next few months. Eli Bar-on, a high-tech industry veteran, is CFO of the company.
The company says that a trial has been conducted on the product in combination with medical cannabis, with the participation of fifteen people in Israel. A further trial on post-traumatic stress disorder patients will begin shortly, in conjunction with cannabis growing company IMC. In Israel, the company's product does not fall under any specific regulation. It is neither banned nor permitted.
The substance itself already exists on the market and is sold as a dietary supplement for alleviating pain, with no connection to cannabis. The company claims that in its current form it is difficult to absorb. Nevertheless, since the product is already on the market, the company will face a challenge in trying to differentiate itself. "When I looked at this substance, I realized that this was a game that had to be won on the marketing front," says Ramot. "It's like what they did at Red Bull - taurine already existed, but they marketed it differently."
Marketing will mainly be online.
Aren't the big cannabis companies interested in the product?
Ramot: "We had meetings with big companies. More than a couple of meetings ended with the big company saying 'we're afraid of you - you'll hurt our sales.'"
Menuhin: "We found it upsetting, because we bring a painful personal side to this. I meet people suffering from shell shock, and I see them weighing flowers so that they'll have enough to last until the end of the month. I know I can help them."
Tsinman: "Even Prof. Mechoulam was excited to see Sagi, because he's like the first test-tube baby who demonstrated that this thinking really does lead to a possible product.
"The CannaTech Tel Aviv - Global Medical Cannabis Conference in March was a turning point. We started to receive good feedback. We were highly sought after. So far, we have only invested our own equity in the company, and now we want to raise $2.5 million and hit the market."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 3, 2019
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