Medical cannabis specialist Apollon Formularies has been admitted to the AQSE Growth Market this week following regulatory approval for its acquisition by already listed AfriAg Global plc. Approval was granted on Monday.
Apollon Formularies is based in Jamaica but is making big strides in the development of medical cannabis solutions. The business is being spear-headed by CEO Dr Stephen Barnhill, a life sciences specialist who is working on formulas for a number of ailments, among them cancer, opiod addiction, chronic pain and anxiety.
Barnhill has a track record of developing successful businesses in the pharma space – he was an early pioneer of machine learning in medicine and the inventor of more than 40 international patents on artificial intelligence techniques in medicine, mainly around cancer diagnostics. Some of his early patents were acquired by Johnson & Johnson, for example.
Important licenses granted for R&D and testing in Jamaica
Apollon has been given a federal license to develop treatments for paying Jamaican patients, which in turn means that it is generating a record for patient testing and evaluation that can be used as the basis for successful regulatory applications, especially in key medicinal markets in Europe and North America.
Barnhill is focused on formulas that can be exported globally and is drawing on local medical expertise including from the University of the West Indies, to help achieve this. The company is accumulating vital clinical data that can pave the way for key strategic partnerships with Big Pharma organisations. The company has been busy funding the development and expansion of its medical facilities in Jamaica.
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The company has established a centre of excellence for cannabis-related treatments in western Jamaica for patients who need access to prescribed medicine. While lockdown has slowed down treatment and testing as it has globally in 2H 2020, Stene Jacobs, Head of Business Development at Apollon, told us things were back on track.
The company is also leveraging artificial intelligence processes to analyse plant genetics and phenotypes that will help it to optimise cannabis-derived medicines for treating various diseases and conditions.
Psychoactive medicines will provide a competitive edge
Apollon Formularies has already been hard at work positioning itself to acquire the licenses to create and distribute its proprietary products in the tough to crack THC market.
Apollon is working with the psychoactive element of cannabis, in addition to the CBD element with which investors will be more familiar. This THC component (tetrahydrocannabinol) is being explored as an important ingredient in the treatment of a range of ailments, but because it is psychoactive, it is much harder to get these products approved. Taking the UK as just an example, only two licenses have been granted for THC cultivation in the last 20 years.
The existing management team of Afriag is stepping down, including David Lenigas. A new board is in the process of being appointed and will include Stephen Barnhill.
“Apollon currently holds a unique position as one of the few listed European companies able to undertake medically supervised treatments inclusive of utilising THC to allow for drug discovery and the development of additional formulations to add to our already successful product line range,” Dr Barnhill said. “This listing in London offers investors the opportunity to be a part of a full spectrum medical cannabis company as it moves to implement its international growth strategy.”
We think this one is worth keeping an eye on. Barnhill’s involvement is of course critical. He has a track record of successful sales of cutting edge medtech to pharmaceutical companies and has an eye for what they like to buy, so this looks like much more than a shot in the dark. His expertise with cannabinoid medicine is also considerable (he has won several awards for his work), and given cannabis’ increasing popularity with investors, we’d expect Apollon Formularies to be getting more attention as it starts to lay out its store front.