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From Testing to Investing Part 2: Terpenes & Testing Post Conference Exclusive Interview

Written by Mike Pensive

We caught up with Inbar Maymon Pomeranchik of Biodiligence recently to ask her a few follow up questions about her experience at the very first Terpenes and Testing World Conference in San Jose, California earlier this year.

Interview and photography by Mike Pensive

T&T: Okay, hello, Inbar! So, we have a post conference interview with Inbar Maymon Pomeranchik. Did I pronounce it right? Close? [laughs]

Inbar: Close. Close enough, yeah.

T&T: So, how did you happen to be invited to speak at the Terpenes & Testing World Conference?

Inbar: So, as you know, I came as an advisory board member of iaso who were the gold sponsors for this conference.

T&T: Mhm.

Inbar: So, I came as an iaso team member, but, um, Adam from the conference asked me if I can also give a scientific lecture.

T&T: Right. So you gave a presentation about Cannabinoid Research and Medicalization of Cannabis. Is that right?

Inbar: Right. In Israel, now since currently I don’t have research of my own. I was a researcher for many years. But, in the last two years, I don’t have my own research. I know a lot of researchers here in Israel. I have a lot of contacts in the field of academic research in the cannabis industry in Israel. I took some good notes and at an interesting presentation of one professor here in the Technion. I got additional research from another doctor in one of the hospitals here that is doing a clinical study. I asked them if I can share their research with the audience in the conference. So, this is what I did.

T&T: Fantastic. Yeah, it was a very good presentation. I was there. [laughs]

Inbar: Mhm. I know.

T&T: [laughs] So, I didn’t hear much of your iaso presentation where you gave that, you know, second presentation in front of your booth. Can you tell me a little bit more about iaso and what they’re up to?

Inbar: Sure. So, iaso is a company that was founded in 2014 in Puerto Rico. And, the focus of iaso is therapeutic medical cannabis applications across the complete continuum for genetics and strains, cultivation and extraction, and drug delivery. So, from the beginning, from the genetics until the drug delivery. iaso basically develops and commercializes innovative and proprietary cannabis technologies and products. Among them, they have this GrowBloX that you saw. Also there is PhytoX, that is a new extraction method that basically, the presentation that you saw was about the GrowBloX, but we have also the PhytoX.

T&T: Yeah, tell me about this new extraction method. What is the difference between that extraction method and supercritical CO2?

Inbar: So, basically, the main difference is that the PhytoX extraction is using water. The solvent, in essence, is water. So, you can use fresh plant material. You don’t need to use dry plant material.

T&T: I see.

Inbar: So, yes. It actually takes and grinds all the flowers in the water, and then continues. It’s a long, long explanation. But basically, the main difference is the water and the fresh material that you can use. This is PhytoX.

T&T: Does that give you any advantages? Do you get more product? Or, is it more…

Inbar: So, right now, it’s still in R & D. It’s supposed to, yes. But, I cannot tell you that right now for sure. But all the research and development that is being done right now in the States shows that there is a lot of potential with this method.

T&T: Okay, great. So, what about GrowBlox? I mean is that better than other…

Inbar: Yeah, yeah, GrowBlox. It’s a really cutting-edge technology. It’s a growing system for great medical cannabis. It’s fully automated with four growing chambers. I don’t know if you looked at it. But, there are four chambers inside, and they are designed to create and maintain full control over the growing environment. For managing and monitoring temperature, light, humidity, water, nutrients, CO2. It’s like precision agriculture and it’s really amazing. I have seen other boxes but this one is really cutting-edge technology. It’s a completely controlled growing condition, and you can grow plants year-round because it’s fully automated in any climate to ensure harvesting. The big problem [with growing cannabis for medical purposes] is the consistency of the cannabis. In the presentation that I gave at the conference, I showed that even if you grow the same strain with the same grower, but you grow in different greenhouses, you can get different results, different cannabinoid profiles.

T&T: Right.

Inbar: So, in this case, with this GrowBlox, you can grow and always get the same plant and the same cannabinoid profile. So, it’s super important if you’re talking about creating medical products.

T&T: Yeah, that makes sense. That’s really great. So, are you able to get like an exact consistency as far as you know? Is it like a 100%? 99%? Or…

Inbar: Yeah, so, the numbers I cannot tell you because we don’t have enough research. But, you do get the consistency because the conditions are exactly the same. Because if you’re growing indoors or in a greenhouse, you will never get the same conditions. The CO2 in the air will be different, the lighting will be different because if, you know, in Israel for example, we grow in greenhouses. So, the light it’s from the sun, and you can help it a bit with LED, and the LED in those chambers are from a company in Finland which did a lot of research about specifically what wavelengths are for the cannabis. So, it’s really impressive.

T&T: I like the idea of supporting Puerto Rico you know? Especially, because they were devastated by the hurricane last year. So, can you compare what’s happening in Israel to what’s happening in Puerto Rico regarding cannabis cultivation? I know you said that you are mostly using greenhouses and maybe now they are mostly doing indoor in Puerto Rico or did they have greenhouses there as well before…?

Inbar: No. So, currently, all the greenhouses that were in Puerto Rico were ruined by the hurricane. So, currently, they’re growing indoors. And, the main difference between Puerto Rico and Israel, unfortunately, for me, because I’m from Israel, is that Puerto Rico was legalized a year ago, more or less. Since then, there are already 20,000 patients, right now, in Puerto Rico and they are adding five hundred new patients per week.

T&T: Wow.

Inbar: So, it’s growing very very fast, yes. So, the potential there is huge. And, it’s supposed to get to 200,000 patients. However, in Israel, currently, we have around 30,000 patients but it’s not growing as fast as we would like to. So, this is a very big difference. In Israel we have only eight growers that are able right now to cultivate cannabis. There are many licenses that were given to farmers but there’s no permit yet to use them.

T&T: Mhm.

Inbar: So Puerto Rico, well, if you look at the potential it’s much easier there to start to grow and to sell because you know it’s a territory of the United States and it’s a bit different there with legalization.

T&T: Right.So what do you think in terms of investment opportunities comparing, you know, Puerto Rico and Israel. Where would you think that better opportunity might be?

Inbar: So it depends again if you want to invest in growing facilities. The technologies in Israel are really amazing. The technologies in Puerto Rico you’ll have to look at it carefully. I heard also that HBP labs in Puerto Rico is growing there with a very high technology system. There is Dr. Dimuth Siritunga. He’s the Chief Science Officer of iaso’s HBP Labs, doing R&D, and he’s really amazing. He is very knowledgeable and he uses really cutting-edge technologies to grow. So you can look there to invest if you want.

T&T: Sure.

Inbar: But regarding investment opportunities in Israel you have a lot of start-up companies that are talking about new technologies. And then there are a lot of investors from Europe that are looking for new technologies in Israel to transfer them out of Israel. So…

T&T: Okay. I know that Israel is the world leader for cannabis research and you’re growing cannabis for export. But I read an article which said that the exports were put on hold in Israel for some reason and that there are farmers that have like, you know, tons of kilos of cannabis with nowhere to sell it. Is that still the case or…?

Inbar: No, it’s half, eh, You’re half correct. So the export is delayed right now but there are no farmers with tons of cannabis because there’s no permit to start growing if you don’t need to. So there’s not tons of eh, material that is sitting or waiting to be…

T&T: I see so they’re just waiting to get the approval to grow.

Inbar: Exactly. Yeah, to get the approval to grow and they know that you need three months in order to get the uh, the flower.

T&T: Right.

Inbar: So they won’t start growing like 10 tons or how do I say in pounds I don’t know?

T&T: Or kilos or whatever, yeah.

Inbar: Yeah, 10 tons it’s like a lot, 10,000 kilos. If you know that you cannot export it outside the country and, you know, it can stay for one year actually, but nobody is doing it right now.

T&T: I see.

Inbar: Exports right now are on hold because the [Israeli] government wants to understand if it’s wise and if it really will, eh, bring a lot of income to Israel. They want to know the exact numbers.

T&T: It will.

Inbar: Yeah, it will but again you need to see if there is someone that want to import it to their country. And the big opportunity is that facilities here in Israel will have the GAP and GMP, certification. The GAP is the Good Agricultural Practice and GMP is the Good Manufacturing Practice. These are things that the pharmaceutical companies use.

T&T: Right.

Inbar: So if you talk about the medicine it’s eh, it’s a big advantage.

T&T: So that’s gonna be…

Inbar: Yeah, and we believe that the exports will be. I believe that it will be in 2019 or something like that because…

T&T: Okay.

Inbar: We’re already in June of 2018 so, yeah.It will take a bit of time but it will happen eventually. If they’re [Israeli Parliament members] not divided.

T&T: Sounds good.

Inbar: Yeah.

T&T: So getting back to the conference. So what were your overall impressions about the Terpenes and Testing Conference?

Inbar: So I liked the conference. It was really a scientific conference. It’s something that I like because you know, you have the Vegas conference. It’s amazing, the MJBizCON, but it’s a lot, you know. You have everything and anything and a lot of people. This was like a smaller conference with very interesting presentations. Unfortunately, well not unfortunately but, since I was part of the iaso team, I had to stand in the booth so I couldn’t go to all the lectures that I wanted to hear.

T&T: Oh I see.

Inbar: Yeah. But it was really interesting, a lot of interesting people, a lot of interesting you know professionals.

T&T: Was there anyone there that you met that you’d heard of and been hoping to meet or was very impressive? Other than you. [Grinning]

Inbar: Other than me, yeah. So eh, I finally met Dr. John MacKay, which was great.

T&T: Mhm.

Inbar: He’s a really smart guy and actually he’s part of iaso also and I had some time to, you know, to speak with him and to understand what he is doing. He’s a very smart man and he knows a lot of things and it was really fascinating to talk with him. And also the other doctor that I met, was Dr. Dimuth Siritunga, who is also part of iaso team and he comes from the plant science and plant genetics world and he’s an expert in tissue culture. You know it’s nice to see how the cannabis world is getting into the science, into the scientific world. You know it’s those scientists that came from other worlds and then they like came to the cannabis world bringing all of their knowledge to make the cannabis world a scientific world.

T&T: Right, right.

Inbar: Yeah.

T&T: Um, so tell me a little bit about Dr. McKay. What’s his role with iaso or what is he doing in general?

Inbar: So he’s you know, he’s an expert chemist and he’s an expert in extraction methods and understands actually how to measure the cannabinoids and how to understand exactly what you have in each plant. So he has a lot of knowledge and sits on the advisory board of many companies. I don’t remember the names right now but…

T&T: Oh, that’s fine.

Inbar: Yeah, really interesting companies and he has a lot of knowledge and a lot of years of experience in extraction methods and understanding the cannabinoid system.

T&T: Sure, sure. Which of the presenters at the conference seem like they’re doing research that may be some breakthrough treatment for a disease or condition. Or even something in Israel that you can say, “Okay, here is a breakthrough that may be coming soon with some disease or some condition?”

Inbar: Yes, so there are two points to this answer. The first one was that there’s a Dr. Markus Roggen. He’s also a chemist and he’s doing many extraction methods and he knows how to do it very well. So again if we are talking about a medicine and treatment, you know, to illnesses, this is the right way. I heard his lecture and it was really impressive. So you can check him out.

T&T: Okay.

Inbar: And the other thing is actually the presentation that I gave about the research that they are doing in Israel.

T&T: Mhm.

Inbar: About cancer. Because you know that right now cannabis is really good for pain relief and for anxiety.

T&T: Yeah.

Inbar: But cancer you cannot say that cannabis cures cancer because there are many many kinds of cancer. You know, there are also many many strains of cannabis. So now in Israel they are really trying to understand which cannabinoids are specific to which type of cancer.

T&T: Sure, sure.

Inbar: So in the moment that we will understand which cannabinoids affect which kind of cancer, then we will have a medicine [for that].

T&T: Yeah.

Inbar: And we’re on the way so it’s really important and…

T&T: That’s great, that’s very good news.

Inbar: Mhm.

T&T: So what did you feel was missing from the conference if there was anything?

Inbar: So, I don’t know. The conference, you know, it was the first time. It was interesting. Uh, since again I was with the iaso group. It was different for me because, you know, usually I would only come as the speaker so I have the chance to talk with a lot of people.But I don’t think that something was missing. It was really well organized. The presentations were very interesting. I believe it was really good.

T&T: Were there any topics that you’d like to see added to the next years’ agenda for that conference?

Inbar: Yeah. So there was a topic that they did touch actually. It was women’s health and cannabis. So there was only one lecture about it and I would love to see, you know, more research, more people talking about it.

T&T: Was that Dr. Michelle Ross’s presentation?

Inbar: Yeah. Exactly. Yes.

T&T: Yeah. She was great. She’s actually moving to Los Angeles believe it or not.

Inbar: Really?

T&T: Yeah.

Inbar: Nice.

T&T: Did you know Nadav Eyal, another presenter from Israel, before?

Inbar: Yes. I knew him before. Yeah. He was from Israel. We’re not so many you know. It looks like we are a lot of people but [laughs] we’re not yet.

T&T: So I mean, did you know about his presentation or what he’s up to?

Inbar: Yes. So they’re a really interesting company [Eybna]. They started with, you know, terpenes and trying to do like recreational but legally because terpenes are legal. They started with that but now they’re also combining forces with Steep Hill.

So they have a really interesting business model to try to see how they can extract the terpenes. That’s something that’s super important. You know because it’s very hard to extract the terpenes because once you extract them they vaporize in the air.

So I don’t know exactly the details but the thing that they are doing with Steep Hill looks really interesting.

T&T: Cool. So okay, Last couple of questions. Who is or was your mentor?

Inbar: So I have several mentors. Uh, it doesn’t have to be just cannabis right?

T&T: No.

Inbar: So my first mentor is my professor from the University where I did my PhD. His name was Professor David Vise and his really is, you know, a very smart man.. When he does the research he says that it’s not enough to get the real answer the first time.You need to repeat it so many times and to have all the controls in order to know that it’s the real thing. So that’s something that they always check. Uh, and that’s it and I have a lot of mentors but let’s leave it for another interview.

T&T: Okay. But then are you mentoring anyone currently or have any interest in mentoring or training someone to kinda…

Inbar: Yes. So I’m not calling it mentoring but I do help many startup companies in order to understand how to enter this business because you know that you can have like, two guys with a laptop with a great idea. But if you want to take it then and make it a real thing, a real product, you need to understand how to do it.

It’s not enough to have a great idea. So from my knowledge and my know how and the use that they’ve been in the Academy and in the industry and startups, I try to help those people strategically to take their idea and make it to something real.

T&T: Sounds good. Sounds like you’re a good person to have on the team.

Inbar: Yeah. I hope so.

T&T: Are there any good conferences coming up in Israel that you’re going to or that you’re gonna be speaking at?

Inbar: Actually, yes. There’s a conference in Israel in October called CannX. It’s also more of a scientific conference. That’s cannX.org, so you’ll find it.

T&T: I’ll look that up. All right. Great. Well, thank you so much about for your time Inbar and have a lovely evening.

Inbar: Thank you. You, too.

Mike Pensive is a photojournalist based in the Los Angeles area. He is a long-time advocate in the cannabis industry and enjoys photographing and writing positive stories about cannabis events and the professionals and organizations that comprise the cannabis industry. Mike has been published in Get High, as well as Cannabis Now and Terpenes and Testing. Mike also likes to write and record songs and to rock out at concerts.

About the author

Mike Pensive

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