Angus Chapel, managing and executive director of Medibis

"The patient support is what is building the momentum of the cannabis industry"

The cannabis industry has been gaining momentum ever since its inception. Even though this is slowly calming down, it is really hard to tell when we've reached a plateau. This is certainly the case for Australia, where more growers are coming online, and getting a hold of significant market shares. Medibis is exactly one of those Australian players. The company has been researching medical cannabis in Australia over the past years, and is about to import the product from Israel – the spearhead of cannabis research and innovation. However, Medibis is now about to get into the cultivation business itself, thanks to the license that they have received. “In the next 12 months, we should have the facility and the funding underway, so we can start giving shape to our vision,” says Angus Chapel, Managing and Executive Director of Medibis. “At the same time, we are also working a lot on the research side. In the next 12 months, we are going to initiate trials on different aspects of medical cannabis. This not only to find the best formulations to treat specific diseases but also to produce that clinical evidence that is necessary for practitioners to confidently prescribe cannabis medicines.”

Addressing practitioners reluctance
By doing this, Medibis wants to address one of the root issues of the cannabis industry: the lack of information on which practitioners base the therapies for their patients. Following the same principles, Angus and Medibis have prepared a detailed plan and concept design for their cultivation facility. “The cannabis will be grown in a glasshouse,” he says. “That’s because we have put in place a very strict quality management regime. Doctors have been reluctant to prescribe medical cannabis because of the quality fluctuations in the market. This needs to be solved, and the only way to do that is to have a cultivation facility in which you can control every little aspect. We have a sweet spot for technology and automation, and we are going to implement as much of that as we can in the glasshouse. However, this doesn’t mean that operations like ours don’t need people and experienced growers: it is critical to find the right balance of automation and human intervention, as only the combination of the two would allow a cannabis cultivation to express its full potential.”

Other than the technologically advanced facility, Medibis is capitalizing on the agricultural heritage of Australia. “The place where we are planning to build the facility is called The Green Belt,” Angus says. “This is the region in Australia with the richest agricultural history. This means that the people we bring into the facility come from agricultural families and backgrounds. Maybe this is not specifically in cannabis, but the fundamentals are there, and that is something extremely valuable.”

Strict standards mean high quality
All of this is particularly important in an industry where high-quality is always chased but not often achieved. At the same time, this is not necessarily the growers’ fault, but it has to do with the regulatory framework of a given country. “Our cannabis industry regulations are built around the EU pharmacopeia,” Angus points out. “This means that our standards are very similar to the EU-GMP standards. This comes with a lot of hurdles, not only for the actual growing but also to prove to the authorities that said growing processes and results are repeatable.”

Medibis could rely on PharmOut for the licensing process. PharmOut is a company that has helped the majority of current Australian LPs obtain their license, and Medibis is no different. “As said, the regulatory process in Australia is quite intense,” Angus remarks. “We went to a PharmOut conference and reached out to them to help us with the regulatory process, as they have done this a few times already. They provided us the input necessary to design everything around GMP from the start. Considering that we eventually got our license, it was great to lean on the expertise of somebody that understands all those pathways.”

Road to vertical integration
To improve the processes and product, Angus and Medibis are looking to be vertically integrated within the next few years. “The best way to grow is to push the innovation as hard as possible,” he points out. “In this way, you get multiple streams of input to improve the product.” Regardless of the quality fluctuations in the market, the cannabis industry keeps going strong. “I am pleased and surprised by how well the industry is taking shape globally. One thing that sticks to my mind is the advocacy rate in Australia, which is 85%: basically, the people are being very supportive, and that’s the true catalyst. Companies are thriving despite the product quality is not consistently high. If this was another industry, these companies wouldn’t have survived making those mistakes. The patient support is what is building the momentum here.”

For more information:
PO Box 573 Toowoomba QLD 4350

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