October 3, 2018
From world’s first e-commerce cannabis app to DNA testing for safer consumption, cannabis companies were in the spotlight at one of the largest tech fests in Canada
The cannabis industry is one of the fastest growing industries in Canada, so it wasn’t surprising to note that it got its own track at one of Canada’s biggest tech conferences—Elevate, a four-day tech festival that celebrates the best of Canadian innovation with Toronto’s startups, investors, and TED-style discussions.
Elevate Cannabis took place on September 26 and included companies such as Aurora Cannabis, Strainprint, Lobo Genetics, Vapium, Resolve Digital Health, Hill Street, Province Brands, and Reformulary. Two speakers to watch out for were Jess Latimer, one of the creators of Aurora’s e-commerce app that aims to make the purchase and use of medical cannabis convenient; and Karan Wadhera, Managing Partner, Casa Verde Capital, a venture capital firm co-founded by Snoop Dogg.
Here are other top highlights from the cannabis track:
DNA testing to enable safer cannabis use
One of the star attractions at the cannabis track was a DNA testing device. Developed by Lobo Genetics Inc., the cube is the “world’s smallest DNA testing device,” as noted in the company press release. The Toronto-based company develops rapid genetic testing for medical clinics, dispensaries, pharmacies, and other medical, retail and online outlets. By collecting samples with a simple cheek swab, consumers can discover their cannabis risk profile—which comprises individual genetic makeup and how it interacts with cannabis—in less than an hour.
Upon undergoing a test at the conference, our results revealed the presence of CYP2C9*1/*3 genotype. “This means that you’re part of the 15 percent of individuals who metabolizes THC up to two times slower than average. THC (and its psychoactive effects) will hit you up to twice as hard and last longer in your system. You may, therefore, be more prone to negative reactions like anxiety or paranoia,” explained Dan Skilleter, Director of Policy and Communications, LOBO Genetics.
Beverage and skincare line addressing social issues
Turns out, many people are not okay with cannabis in their beauty products. So as a cannabis-based skincare company, how do you tackle this challenge? “You get innovative,” said Brandi Leifso, CEO of Evio Beauty Group Ltd., a portfolio of conscious lifestyle brands. In collaboration with Aurora, the company will develop a line of hemp seed oil cosmetic products and a collection of CBD infused cosmetic products.
“When we conducted a survey, in partnership with Sephora, we learned that majority of people didn’t want cannabis in their beauty products,” said Brandi. But what the team soon learned was that people are receptive to solving a problem—whether that’s reducing the use of plastic or animals cruelty. “Consumers want to support a cause, and it’s our strategy to make them aware of that through our products,” said Brandi, adding, “By utilizing hemp seed oil and cannabis derivatives, we can enhance ingredient transparency, reducing the use of hurtful animal by-products and ecologically unsustainable inputs.”
Then there was Hill Street Beverage Co., an award-winning alcohol-free cannabis-infused wine and beer that “supports people who suffer from conditions that conflict with alcohol consumption,” as noted on their website. The company has won the Retail Council of Canada’s Grand Prix, including three gold medals, two silvers and one bronze at the U.S. Open Beer Championships and a double gold medal at the San Francisco International Wine Challenge. Proceeds from their profits ($1 million so far) have been donated to charities and medical foundations.
‘Genome revolution is underway’
“The plant is always first and that plant needs science; it’s been out of the mainstream study for so long that there are gaps that need to be filled in,” said Dr. Jonathan Page, co-founder of Anandia Laboratories Inc., in a TED-style talk. Anandia Laboratories was bought by Aurora in an all-stock deal valued at $115 million earlier this year.
A pioneer in the cannabis space, Dr. Page co-led the Canadian team that first sequenced the cannabis genome—genomics is the science of recording an organism’s genetic makeup. His work has helped discover the biochemical pathway of the major cannabinoids. “Genome revolution is already underway as it’s the need of the hour to fully understand the complexities of the plant,” he continued.
Interestingly, Dr. Jonathan Page also mentioned the transition that will soon take place in the industry. “Terms like ‘strain’ names, or indica/sativa will gradually disappear,” said Dr. Page, who added, “Strains are nothing but the varieties; when you talk about the varieties of roses, you don’t say, ‘strains’ of roses. It’s only natural that in the future, such terms will be replaced with more widely understood names, one people can recognize in stores.”