Cannabis is often cited as a replacement or an alternative medicine to your prescribed pharmaceuticals, but make no mistake, modern and alternative medicine are in the works to becoming one in the same. The questions are: Is this a good thing? Who is behind it? Can consumers stay aware enough in the development process to prevent cannabis from being over processed into some unrecognizable, big-pharma product?
Among a few of the up-and-coming cannabis pharmaceutical companies is Scythian Biosciences. We sat down with the CEO of Scythian, Jonathan Gilbert, to get a peek behind the curtain of startup cannabis pharmaceutical companies.
What are they doing? Why? Who is running the show?
Jonathan Gilbert is a family man. The youngest of his children, has a severe case of Tourette’s syndrome which Gilbert says is much more than people see on TV. “It’s really debilitating, very distracting and very disruptive. It’s a really hard thing to deal with.”
When at a Tourette’s support group for parents of children with Tourette’s Syndrome, Gilbert realized that the teenage kids in the group seemed to be managing their symptoms well. Curious as to how they were doing so well, he asked the teens what they were using to manage their symptoms and as Gilbert tells the story, “They said, ‘we’re off meds, we’re self-medicating,’ and they took their fingers to their lips and indicated they were smoking weed. And I thought, ‘well, there’s my clinical trial!’”
The man has a why…He has a son suffering from a serious condition, and five teenagers in Long Island who proved to him that cannabis is capable of relieving at least some of his son’s suffering. Gilbert says that he was aware that cannabis had medicinal benefits but that speaking to the teens at the support group was the first time that he got enthusiastic about it and inspired by it. Although Scythian BioSciences is not yet developing a product to treat Tourette’s, it is something Gilbert is looking to do in the future. A passion project of his, if you will.
“Originally we bought a small facility in Canada with a pending MMPR application. I wanted to buy multiple facilities, attain licenses and grow and sell medical marijuana across the country of Canada. That was the business model. Canada took so long granting licenses, granting only 36 in the past three years, that our application is still one of thousands left pending. So, while waiting for Health Canada to approve the pending application, we pivoted and I hired a bunch of experts — strong scientific minds, Harvard graduates, Johns Hopkins graduates, and we developed a patent to create a cannabis based medication. In this case, we targeted concussions.”
In 2015 there were 271 diagnosed concussions in the NFL
Using his know-how from his decades long and very successful finance career, Gilbert raised more than $16 million to fund the study at the University of Miami in Florida. The University of Miami study is a 5-year clinical trial. “A multi-disciplinary team of researchers from neurology, neurological surgery and otolaryngology will embark on this five-year study to address the effects of combining CBD (a cannabinoid derivative of hemp), and an NMDA antagonist for the treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and concussion. Researchers believe the combination could reduce post-injury brain cell inflammation, headache, pain and other symptoms associated with concussion.” (news.miami.edu)
“Currently if you go to the emergency room with a concussion there is no prescribed medical treatment. They basically say, ‘go home and rest.’ If Scythian’s drug compound is successful, you are talking about a company having the first ever approved compound to treat a condition that doesn’t have a treatment. That Excites me,” says Gilbert.
What does this mean for Cannabis culture as we know it? Only time will tell the full-scale impact. For now, as far as Scynthian BioSciences is concerned there seems to be a hope that the gap between pharmaceuticals and cannabis culture will be responsibly bridged, as long as the research and company goals continue to be transparent, as they have been thus far. It bodes well that the company chose a name strongly grounded in Cannabis history. The Scythians were a powerful nomadic people, who controlled a large territory, spanning parts of Asia, Europe and the Middle East for several centuries starting around the 4th Century BCE. Scythians are credited with spreading knowledge of Cannabis through the ancient world, due to their military mastery on horseback. The Greek historian Herodotus noted that the Scythians created “smokes…that no Grecian vapour-bath would surpass”.