INN talks with Dave Berg from Strainprint about the vital role of data collection in the medical cannabis market.
The use of cannabis as a medical tool for patients in Canada has expanded greatly thanks to the advancements of the policy implemented by the federal government as it seeks full legalization of the drug. More and more patients are looking into the potential of cannabis as a legitimate tool for combating several diseases.
With a clearer path towards medical use, data and tests are crucial for the development of cannabis in this industry–an area where the market has been severely lacking. A software company in Toronto is trying to change the shortage of data available to the whole industry.
Strainprint was founded in 2016 by five medical cannabis user under the Canadian Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) program who found the lack of data affected what type of medication exactly they wanted and the effects they could have on their treatment. Now, the company manages a large scale set of data updated on a daily basis by enthusiastic users who want to share their experience.
The Investing News Network (INN) had the opportunity to discuss this project with Dave Berg, Strainprint’s chief technology officer. During the interview, we discuss the potential this data has for patients looking for answers, the use of this data he’s seen and how this information could affect licensed producers (LPs) and medical researchers alike. Berg also expands on the molecular level type of research needed to fully evaluate cannabis, what really matters when comparing different strains and why that alone is so difficult.
Strainprint announced the launch of a new ambassador program across North America, encouraging researchers to take a closer look at their data tools in their paths of medical cannabis studies, with support from the company.
With that in mind, the interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Read on below to find out what Berg had to say.
Investing News Network: Tell me about the idea of Strainprint?
Dave Berg: It came out of frustration with the lack of data that’s available to medicinal cannabis patients when they are on-boarding into the program. Specifically, in this case, we’re talking about the (ACMPR) program.
As patients, if you’re new to cannabis there’s a lot of supply side data in terms of how efficient growers are, how much fertilizer has been used, the relative cost. But when it comes to prescribing guidelines–or understanding the nuances between a specific strain and its effects on a person– it’s all pretty alien, at least for the vast majority of the population.
We [each] started to do some digging for our personal purposes and we were quite shocked that there was no real solution out there that was gathering that data; so we decided that we would build it. We decided to look at it from a patient’s perspective first, [and] from there it went to the other applications for the data within the larger industry.
There’s no really strong observational data set that allows us to make proper decisions.
INN: About the general lack of data, it seems that’s something that’s been slowing down the development of more sophisticated cannabis therapies. Researchers simply don’t have a lot of data to evaluate. Do you think the lack of research is mostly due to the illegal nature of the drug?
DB: That’s in part in terms of the reason why there may not be more clinical or observational studies because it’s a scheduled drug. That’s certainly changing in Canada and the US over time. What became apparent to me is when you’re looking at cannabis as a product–in Canada as an example–there are 1,200 legally grown strains for sale through LPs. So as a medical patient I can go in and get any of those strains. If I order them, if I know what I’m ordering but there were really no guidelines when I got my prescription to purchase. My doctor could tell me if I wanted something that is a non-psychoactive and good for inflammation to try CBD, and if I want to have a good night sleep to try sativa.
What we found is, it’s less about the category of the strain and more about the underlying chemical composition of that strain and that strain itself can vary in composition not only from grower to grower but also in between from batch to batch. Taking an approach that’s more of a molecular approach, which is what doctors and most of us are used to, is increasingly difficult because the compound of cannabis is always changing based on batch to batch.
For that reason, it’s been very difficult for people to study cannabis in a clinical way, but there’s been a ton observational data clearly that people have said ‘you know this is great for my arthritis, this is great for my tendonitis, this helped me through my cancer treatments or others. There’s no really strong observational data set that allows us to make proper decisions.
INN: You guys announced this ambassador research program and the idea is that researchers are using your tools but who are these researchers specifically?
DB: Strainprint as a tool is free to patients across North America and is also free for users to share your data with physicians. So if you’re taking a treatment plan and you want to log your use and share your efficacy, you can show that to your doctor. The doctors that are currently running in-clinic typically gather their data through a personal interview… but they are not gathering real time data.
What Strainprint allows patients to do is chronicle their cannabis use and measure the efficacy based on the way they decide to take cannabis that can be dosing, that’s strain type as well as ingestion method. That builds quite a large data set that we provide back to the patient so that they can make informed decisions about what is working for them and what is not.
What we quickly realized is the data that we’re gathering there that helps individuals en mass, also when it’s anonymized … is a very valuable tool for study. We have the ability to customize the Strainprint product using activation code and what that does it creates a sandbox of data and a customized version of Strainprint. That allows us to specify what type of strains are being studied. We can specify specific type of ingestion methods and also customize the look and feel. That allows people to gather data on a specific subset of users while they still also contribute their anonymous data to the global data.
The ambassador program is about making people aware that we are providing this tool that will help them to guide their cannabis research. We track over 300 medical conditions and symptoms on the tool, we’re approaching 2,000 different strains on our database which is updated on a regular basis. We want to work with leading researchers to help them advance cannabis research so we announced Dr. Michelle Ross she’s with the IMPACT Network and she is our first ambassador.
“It’s not just about identifying the efficacy of a given strain, it’s about understanding what are the chemical constituents”
INN: Have you seen any other rising interested parties or the larger impact from the work that you guys are doing so far?
DB: It certainly exceeded all of our expectations. Strainprint started off as a hobby for the five of us. Based on the general interest of the public in the way this tool is actually helping people, we’ve seen a dramatic uptake in its use. We’ve been out for just over 20 weeks and we’re about to surpass one million independent data records. It’s a lot of data that’s being collected and is making a real difference. We’re seeing commercial producers using this data, LPs [use it] to better understand the need of their patients or their customers. Clinics are also looking at this data to better guide patient care and understand the way people are using cannabis to better their results and then finally researchers are looking at a way to develop the next generation of therapeutics.
It’s not just about identifying the efficacy of a given strain, it’s about understanding what are the chemical constituents, you got the cannabinoids and then you got the terpenes as well. we’re breaking it down into the chemical composition so that when we identify a homogenous group of users in the data set that are getting a systematic release, we can actually look at the chemical composition, which helps guide therapeutic product design and new delivery mechanisms and obviously new compounded products.
INN: Ideally with all these data inputs and records, in the purpose of it is to help patients become more informed of the cannabis products available to them?
DB: It starts with the patient. It always has, that’s where the company came from. We’re all patients and we want to provide value back to help patients navigate and make the right decisions to improve their quality of life. The other side of it is we wanted to make sure there was a tool that enabled these patients to have an open dialogue with their physicians while enabling them to talk in a language that their physicians are used to conversing with. Making it more of a clinical type of discussion by providing the data that they require.
INN: Besides the impact of the network through the ambassadors you mentioned are there any other plans for partnerships you guys are thinking about.
DB: Over the next two months we will be announcing another six large scale research studies. These are going to be in the areas of anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress, Alzheimer’s, oncology as well as inflammatory diseases and autoimmune diseases. This is the beginning of a number of studies.
INN: Thank you for your time today Dave.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Bryan Mc Govern, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in contributed article. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.