MGC Pharmaceuticals has a vantage position in the global cannabis boom

By Zoe Gross. Published at May 18, 2018, in Question and Answer

Earlier this week, we caught up with CEO, co-founder and managing director of MGC Pharmaceuticals (ASX:MXC), Roby Zomer, to look at MXC’s medicinal cannabis big picture and where the company stands in relation to this buzzing industry. Today, Finfeed’s Zoe Gross speaks with Keren Bar Zakay, MXC’s newly appointed Australian General Manager, about the thriving Australian corner of this market.

Keren Bar Zakay MXC asx

FF: Thanks for joining me today, Keren. First off, could you tell me a bit about your background, and about your role at MXC?

My long-term interest in biology, combined with a dual degree in international commercial law and business from Israel's IDC, led me to four years of fascinating work with one of the leading medical cannabis companies in Israel, dealing with legal and commercial aspects of patient-facing medical cannabis distribution, global expansion and implementing legislation. I'm excited to apply these skills to the rapidly growing Australian market with all of its challenges. I’m here in the capacity of project manager, facilitating MGC's Australian research and development agenda, commercial and medical collaborations, and ensuring we are firmly placed within the Australasian market.

FF: In light of recent changes to Australian legislation allowing the export of certain cannabis products to international markets, MXC has said that it's now looking to develop a cultivation and manufacturing strategy here to complement its existing operations in Europe. Could you tell me more about these plans and what these changes mean more broadly for MGC Pharmaceuticals?

Keren: MGC is an Australian company, and we have a duty to our shareholders and to Australian patients to ensure we are operating at the highest level in our own backyard. With that in mind, we also see Australia as a key factor in being prepared for a market we believe will eventually be a significant one — the Asian market — and are very mindful of the respect Asian economies and legislators have for Australia.

The other important thing to remember is that we are creating a global supply chain for our products, and in the business of cultivation, there is no better way to ensure your supply chain than to have it operating in multiple geographies, with the ability to complement and be empowered by the strengths and abilities of each site.

FF: What's the size of the market we're looking at here, and what do you think the future holds?

Keren: When we speak about the Australian market, we are looking at the Australasian market — as such, it constitutes a massive one. We are currently building our facilities and perfecting our procedures overseas, and with our emergence in the Australian industry, we will be streamlined and ready to combat the global cannabis market.

Social factors such as ageing populations, accompanied by medical advancements, ensure that the medical market as a whole is growing. Our aim is to provide products that simplify the treatment process and provide relief to suffering patients.

Recent changes in Australian law give an encouraging sign of how mindsets and views on cannabis as a whole are changing — this paints a very positive picture for global adoption of the kind of products MGC is focused on producing.

In addition to this, the recreational market is growing in various ways worldwide, and also has potential to be bigger than anyone ever first anticipated, with the added benefit of easing restrictions on research and development. There are also tertiary industries that are starting to thrive, from agro-tech companies with cannabis-focused products, to huge companies like Scott’s Miracle Grow investing significant resources on this market flourishing in the coming years. The future is big, the impact is global, the potential market is huge, and we at MGC are taking care to ensure we are at the forefront, in various verticals and multiple geographies.

Of course, how much of the market MXC is able to attract is yet to be determined, so investors should seek professional financial advice if considering this stock for their portfolio.

FF: This year, MXC is bringing CannEpilTM to the Australian market, building an Australian patient base through your relationship with Epilepsy Action Australia (EAA). Tell me more about that.

Keren: Relationships with patient groups such as EAA are a crucial element in the introduction of our products into new markets. They provide access to the patients most in need and open doorways to wider indications and possibilities for treatment, as well as assisting in the types of clinical trials and testing that are necessary with products of the caliber MGC is bringing to the market.

We are collaborating directly with EAA to ensure epilepsy patients have access and the financial ability to start using our products, and hopefully to never stop using them, having found the relief they need. We are able to collaborate with EAA to gain meaningful insights into the patient experience, allowing us to streamline it and make it more effective for future patients.

Additionally, MGC is involved in the co-development of medical cannabis educational resources, to provide tools for epilepsy sufferers, and assist them in making informed decisions, as well as to provide healthcare professionals the information and resources they need in order to effectively treat their patients.

FF: You’ve also been working on a collaboration with RMIT on several key project initiatives over the past six months, including the world-first Library of Cannabinoids. What kinds of implications does this have for you?

Keren: The library is a project with global aspirations and relationships set in place to allow cannabis research on a global level, to become a more collaborative and established process.

Working with an academic institution like RMIT is a pleasure, and a significant means for achieving many of our research goals — not just for ourselves but for the industry as a whole. Collaborating with a world-class institution with world-class researchers and resources means we can cement our role as a trailblazer and thought leader in this emerging industry, and that we are bringing the best minds on board.

FF: What are some of the challenges that the Australian market faces?

Keren: The primary difficulty is overcoming the initial hurdle of the cannabis stigma. The Australian market needs to undergo vast educational processes to ensure a radical change in perception around medical cannabis, aligning patients' needs with companies’ abilities to provide pharmaceutical products.

Australia has a unique opportunity to show how a truly comprehensive medical program can be efficient in addressing the need for new and innovative medicine from unconventional means. That’s one of the reasons we work with groups such as the Medical Cannabis Council to ensure a responsible and well thought out agenda of progress, which includes government, doctors, patients and companies in the dialogue and process.

FF: When compared to its cannabis peers on the ASX, what advantages does MXC offer Australian investors?

Keren: Our main differentiator is that we are a bio-pharma company with a global footprint. We have brought a wide complement of advisors and experts from across the globe to ensure we operate at the highest levels of professionalism in every market we enter.

A key advantage is that our focus is on cannabis research and development to provide pharmaceutical products to those in need. We have collaborated and partnered with global experts and leading institutions, placing us at the forefront of product development and implementation. This is accompanied by our consistent investment in R&D, which we believe works to the benefit of not only our company, but the entire industry.

Working closely with academia to ensure a future where doctors, pharmacists and scientists understand the value and importance of phytocannabinoids is crucial to ensuring that the industry, and our company, grows. Our engagement with leading universities in Australia, our joint project with RMIT, our clinical trials in Europe — these are all part of ensuring we are at the front lines of this shift, and consequently lead the market.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the interviewee and not of S3 Consortium or its licensee. As always, you should undertake your own due diligence with regards to these views and opinions and seek professional financial advice if considering this stock for your portfolio.

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