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New European Ecosystem Highlights Emerging Opportunities For Cannabis Entrepreneurs

IN spite of its delayed arrival Europe has a first-class opportunity to become a world-leader in the emerging global cannabis industry.

This is one of the key take-aways from the latest First Wednesdays’ Ecosystem cannabis legend – this time of the emerging European medical cannabis industry.

Back in June, FW corralled its database and publicly-available information to deliver a UK Cannabis Ecosystem which annotated the main players in a series of industry sub-sections.

Alastair Moore, Co-Founder of Hanway Associates.

Its approach to the European Medical Cannabis Ecosystem – publicly launched today – is to likewise identify its main players and sub-sectors, and highlight the opportunities in this rapidly-emerging industry.

Scepticism Over North American Model

Alastair Moore, Co-Founder of Hanway Associates, the creators of the First Wednesdays Network, says its latest piece of work highlights a different trajectory for the European industry to that of the North American forerunners.

And, it demonstrates how distinct European jurisdictions are using their innate advantages to carve out their own distinct sub-sector fiefdoms.

“The UK, like its European counterparts such as France and Germany, does look sceptically on what happened in North America and says ‘we can do that better, in more of a medical way’. 

“The healthcare establishment is against cannabis sneaking-in by the back door; They want to see it done by the book, and head towards a pharmaceutically-led system.” 

Around 150 Companies Feature In Ecosystem

With some 150 companies listed in nine sub-sectors, the First Wednesdays European ecosystem will provide a useful resource for anyone with an interest in the industry.

The sub-sectors run methodically from seed-to-sale, starting with Genetics and companies such as Seedsman, through to Cultivation, which includes the like of Bedrocan, Demecan and Emmac.

It then progresses up the the value-chain through Testing, Research and Extraction & Purification, which include the likes of Medicinal Genomics and Eurofins and on to Formulation & Manufacture and Branded Medicines which feature Cellen Therapeutics, Medalchemy, and Little Green Pharma, amongst others.

The final two categories are Technology and Distribution and these feature companies such as Shimadzu, Releaf, Faramko and Therismos.

Areas highlighted by FW as being under-developed and worthy of entrepreneurial attention include extraction and testing which are still generally wrapped in a vertically-integrated bubble – expect some developments in this space soon, said Mr Moore.

He also highlights the branded medicine cabinet as being one worthy of further attention. 

With just a handful of medicines securing market authorisation, such as those from GW Pharmaceuticals, there is plethora of white-label suppliers in the market making it difficult for prescribers to settle on trustworthy brands, he believes.

Countries Picking Their Own Narratives

Individual nations are using their domestic capital to support the industry’s growth with Denmark developing a strong pharmaceutical cluster around Copenhagen.

Whilst in the UK, the lack of NHS prescriptions is driving competition and innovation in distribution – the final link in the ecosystem value chain.

Germany is also forging ahead in this space, whilst Portugal, with its favourable climate, is becoming a cultivation import and export hub.

While many had thought the cultivation sector would have been offshored to the low-cost jurisdictions in Africa and Latin America it shows signs of resilience due to the the stable political and regulatory regimes in Europe.

First Wednesdays

The London Stock Exchange’s decision to look to list cannabis firms, and similar developments in Scandinavia, will attract capital to these destinations.

“Countries are picking their own narratives.“ said Mr Moore. 

Medical Cannabis Supply Chain Focus

Nevertheless, the Ecosystem leans towards elucidating on the supply chain, rather than focusing on individual countries.

Mr Moore said: “With the medical cannabis market we felt that would be the best way to do it. It starts with where the genetics are coming from, and how cultivation plays into the later stages; distribution, dispensing and branding products.

“We thought it would be an interesting way to see where, firstly the concentration of businesses are, and where innovation is happening and also to see where the next stage of opportunities are. 

“We’re interested in how plant R&D, genetics and synthetic biology platforms earlier on in the supply chain, will make it better for patients and regulators at the other end, at the later stage of the supply chain.

“Some of the later stage supply chain stuff such as technology and data are really exciting.

“There are two areas which have been underfunded to date and that’s the genetics and research sub-sections, but, here in the UK and Europe we have the right academic institutions, life-science business parks, cannabinoid researchers to really do well and own this part of the value chain for Europe.”

Storz & Bickel Vaporizer.

New Technologies, Medicines, Devices And Patient Apps

SOME of the global technologies currently deployed for creating, delivering and dispensing cannabis medicines could be viewed as  equivalent to the horse and cart – ripe for transportation into a hi-tech, digital era.

In Germany, where numbers accessing medical cannabis will soon pass 100,000 one of the most popular delivery mechanisms is still a dried flower using a cumbersome Storz & Bickel vaporising device.

Developing new technologies, new medicines, devices and patient-interface apps are just some of the key sub-sectors where Europe can thrive, says Mr Moore.

“The fact that a combustible flower is the typical method of consumption for cannabis medicine is one of the barriers to medical cannabis becoming mainstream and being prescribed by doctors in the UK, and the other countries coming on line, such as France.

“This is where we will see more of a focus on formulation manufacture technology and medical devices. The things that help us move cannabis from a flower, that is consumed through vaporisation or smoking, into a medicine that is familiar looking to doctors.

“This will need to change to move cannabis into the mainstream prescribing vocabulary of European doctors and regulators.

“They are unsure of the long-term implications; they are unsure of the supply chain and its transparency and, they don’t have a good grasp of the data from the nursing and patient side to really feel comfortable with it, yet.

“From both of these perspectives what we need now are businesses that create medicines and medical devices that look like traditional healthcare products and we need technology and data companies that build patient apps and help regulators feel more comfortable with medical cannabis.”

@The ‘FW European Medical Cannabis Ecosystem’ was launched by First Wednesdays, a network for entrepreneurs and investors in the European cannabis sector.

The report was produced in collaboration with Hanway Associates, and Invest in Denmark, part of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The report is available to download for FW members. To access a copy visit: https://firstwednesdays.eu/ecosystem

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