Editor’s comment: In the first part of this series, Green spoke with Drew Hathaway, senior nutrition scientist at Stillwater Brands. Click here to see the first part.
Natural cannabinoid distillates and isolates are hydrophobic oils and solids, meaning they do not mix well with water and are poorly absorbed by the human body after use. By formulating these ingredients with the company’s patented delivery technology, the VESIsorb® brand, Geocann has overcome the common obstacles associated with fat-soluble actives, including poor stability, bioavailability, absorbability and solubility. In addition, Geocann reviewed published evidence of dramatic improvements in Cmax, AUC and Tmax (time to maximum absorption, which is directly related to the benefits of rapid onset of action).
Geocann is a cannabis formulation company headquartered in Fort Collins, Colorado with branch offices in Chicago, Illinois and Zurich, Switzerland. The company is led by an impressive executive team of scientists, pharmacists, researchers and leaders in the natural products industry. Geocann’s technology platform has been successfully applied to a variety of cannabis product applications, including soft gel and hard capsules, functional foods (e.g. gum) and beverages, powder systems, infusions, sublingual sprays and topical formulations. Brand partners in the US using Geocann technology for cannabis production are Nestlé Health Science, Cannaray and Onnit, and brand partners for medicinal cannabis and adult-use cannabis production are Curaleaf, Sunderstorm and CannaCraft.
We spoke with Jesse Lopez, CEO and Founder of Geocann, about his cannabis formulation technology and working with partner brands in the US and abroad. Lopez founded Geocann in 2018 alongside his success at SourceOne Global Partners (founded by Lopez in 2003), a leading dietary supplement formulation company known for developing innovative products that combine science-based ingredients with proprietary drug delivery system technologies to address consumers’ most pressing health concerns, including. B. heart health, cognitive function, inflammatory response, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, to name a few.
Aaron Green: Jesse, first of all, how did you get started in the cannabis industry?
Jesse Lopez: SourceOne Global Partners has focused on natural products for nearly two decades. Some people who were in the natural products business decided to get into the cannabis business and asked for my support at the advisory board level. I agreed and decided I needed to learn more about the cannabis industry! We realised there was a huge opportunity to use our drug delivery system technology to add value to these cannabis-based products. With a regulatory framework, strategic legal advice, and the new investments needed to immediately become a leader in the cannabis industry, we launched Geocann in 2018 with an office in Colorado that was then in a fully legal position.
Green: How do you choose the natural products you work with at SourceOne?
Jesse Lopez, CEO and founder of Geocann
Lopez: We focus on natural, science-based ingredients that may require high doses to achieve therapeutic blood levels. By combining these scientific ingredients with patented technologies – to which we hold the worldwide rights – these products offer the desired differentiation for leading brands such as… B. Significantly improved digestibility and bioavailability, patent protection and branding with the intel inside brand.
Green: What other natural products do you have experience with?
Lopez: We work with some of the most popular nutraceuticals, like coenzyme Q10 and omega-3 fish oil, to more innovative natural products like resveratrol. We are also working on vitamin D and other immunological ingredients that can be enhanced through our delivery system to provide greater benefit to those taking these products.
Green: What is technology and how does it work?
Lopez: I think it is important to acknowledge our technology partner Vesifact in Zurich, Switzerland. Vesifact is the inventor of the VESIsorb® technology platform and serves as the research, technical support, manufacturing and product development arm for SourceOne and Geocann. We are very proud of this symbiotic relationship where our role at Geocann and SourceOne is to provide business development, sales, marketing and strategic distribution infrastructure. We openly promote our partnership on our website and in our marketing materials because of their unparalleled leadership in the global marketplace.
It has been consistently recognized as one of the top ten organizations for nanotechnology patents in the health field, ahead of many of the world’s best-known pharmaceutical companies. It is a portfolio of intellectual property that has been used over the years to address the most complex product formulation challenges in pharmaceuticals, medical devices, nutraceuticals, cosmetics and now cannabis. Together we focus on developing new solutions for these different applications and products based on the VESIsorb® formulation technology.
Each identified compound with its own range of formulations, absorption and bioavailability requires a tailored solution that allows the potential health benefits to be fully realized, from success in the laboratory to commercial scale-up. It’s a process, and we’ve been successfully delivering unparalleled solutions for nearly two decades, from coenzyme Q10 to psychoactive and non-psychoactive cannabinoid drugs in a wide range of product applications.
We have seen an explosion of interest in CBD from our nutraceutical partners and discerning consumers around the world, but we decided to create Geocann to serve these markets separately. We believed that the VESIsorb® technology would provide much needed solutions for CBD as a wellness product, as well as for adult-use cannabis products and medical cannabis, in response to the need for fast and stable products.
Green: What is the problem of cannabinoid bioavailability that Geocann technology can solve?
Lopez: It is well known in the scientific literature that CBD, THC and other cannabinoids generally have limited bioavailability due to their lipophilicity, low water solubility and extensive first pass metabolism.
Our VESIsorb® technology was developed to address the low bioavailability of pharmaceuticals and natural bioactive substances, such as cannabinoids, which are poorly water soluble but have high membrane permeability (biopharmaceutical classification system: class II compounds). The VESIsorb® technology is a lipid-based formulation which self-assembles into a colloidal delivery system upon contact with the aqueous phase. This colloidal solubility promotes the transport of cannabinoids through the aqueous phase of the gastrointestinal lumen to the absorption epithelium, thereby significantly improving bioavailability.
VESIsorb® is commonly referred to as SEDDS (Self-Emulsifying Drug Delivery System). The uniqueness of our VESIsorb® EDMS lies in its long history of safe and effective use around the world and the large number of products we have successfully developed over the years. Thanks to our many years of experience in developing new formulations, we have extensive and valuable know-how that we bring to every formulation task. For example, this expertise allows us to develop cannabinoid preparations that utilize the lymphatic absorption pathway in addition to normal gastrointestinal absorption, optimizing therapeutic blood levels for maximum benefit.
Needless to say, there are several methods to address the low bioavailability of cannabinoids. Unfortunately, all too often companies claim to have water-soluble cannabinoids, but provide insufficient evidence to support their claims. A common misconception is that a certain degree of water solubility always leads to better bioavailability. That’s clearly not right. We know scientifically that pharmacokinetic parameters vary widely. A review article I read recently comparing different formulations of water-soluble delivery systems illustrates this. The difference in bioavailability between the different water-soluble formulations is more than eight times greater.
Green: Can you give me some details about your global license with Vesifact?
Lopez: The exclusivity of our technology is based on these categories. So when we say we have global exclusivity for nutraceuticals, as I said earlier, it could be, for example, omega-3, coenzyme Q10 or resveratrol, and that business is managed by SourceOne. With respect to our global exclusivity for cannabinoids and terpenes – whether we are developing these ingredients to make a functional beverage, or an adhesive, or a softgel capsule, or a hard powdered capsule, or sublingually, or topically – all of these product applications are covered by the exclusivity of the technology and managed by Geocann.
The beauty of our technology is that we have already succeeded in all these applications. This is one of the main advantages of our technology over other approaches that seek to improve the bioavailability of cannabinoids.
Green: What kind of validation and clinical studies have you done so far in the field of cannabinoids?
Lopez: We were the first to obtain stability data by developing our formula in a soft gel capsule with CBD. We have recently submitted an application for a new food product on the European market. We have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in our own safety research, which is required to obtain novel food status in Europe and FDA GRAS status in the US. We have our own stability data and toxicological data from numerous clinical studies that we have funded ourselves. Many companies submitting novel food applications in the EU refer only to existing scientific literature on the pharmacokinetics of cannabinoids, whereas we have our own peer-reviewed and published research. In our study, we compared the composition of VESIsorb®-CBD with the industry standard MCT-CBD oil in a crossover design, and demonstrated how to significantly improve the bioavailability of CBD.
Green: Can you tell us what the advantages of your technology are in terms of bioavailability and start-up time?
Lopez: When we start talking about starting times, we get into a broader discussion about cannabinoids. We have had great success with marijuana, especially with THC, because the time to reach Tmax has improved dramatically and we reach Tmax much faster than with the standard THC formula. Our formulations are generally four times faster than standard formulations.
In terms of area under the curve and Cmax, we show a four- to sixfold improvement over the standard THC or CBD product. Moreover, when we begin to look at the differences between other published studies, we show an even greater improvement over other studies, even over products such as GW Pharmaceuticals’ Sativex oromucosal spray.
Green: Can you refer to the formulation of SEDDS and liver metabolism?
Lopez: We overcame the challenges of the first inning effect in a big way. We have also formulated our products for lymphatic absorption. So we approach it from different angles.
We disagree with people who talk about water solubility as the ultimate solution. If you look at the range of studies that have been published, whether it’s nanoparticles, liposomal systems, or microemulsions, they are all water-soluble systems, but the data shows that there are large differences in the actual efficacy of these approaches and the actual improvement in blood levels. Ultimately, these blood levels represent the potency of the products, be it CBD or THC.
Green: As a Colorado-based company, you work with cannabis partners across the United States. Can you tell me about your relationships with marijuana manufacturers and brands and how you structure your licensing agreements across state lines?
Lopez: In a recent article on the best fast-growing gummies, the two companies looked at were Sunderstorm with its Kanha Nano gummies and Curaleaf with its Select Nano fast-growing gummies. Both companies use our VESIsorb® technology. We are very proud of our relationship and the success it has had as the market leader in most dominant states for this particular product application.
Beginning time has always been a problem with gum. And we had a much better start. In a recently published peer-reviewed study, we were even able to demonstrate statistically significant improvements in all measured pharmacokinetic parameters. We showed that total intake at maximum plasma concentration (Cmax), total exposure [area under the curve (AUC)] and time to maximum concentration (Tmax) were significantly higher.
We claim that the product is faster, stronger and more durable thanks to the VESIsorb® technology.
Green: How is the experience different from a standard oil or isolate formulation?
Lopez: The only way to answer this question is that we have had complete success with the companies we worked with in the initial trials. If someone tells me that a group of colleagues are going to try this product and they are heavy cannabis users and they smoke, I think the gum must be very well formulated for that person to be happy that they are getting high. Then they come back and say: This is the best thing I’ve eaten in four years! And they’re all blown up. That’s very different from a published, peer-reviewed study, but it’s certainly the kind of feedback and anecdotal evidence we get. I think that’s why this application is growing so much faster now, because we’ve overcome that initial problem.
Green: Do you offer exclusive rights at the state level?
Lopez: We are very selective in who we work with. Exclusivity is always part of the discussion. But at the same time, it’s more about protecting the investment in the people we work with than cannibalizing this or that market. So there are exclusive relationships in the US and abroad, like Heritage Cannabis and Pathway Health Corp in Canada, but for the most part I would just say we are very selective about who we do business with and we are open to new partnerships.
Green: What support do you offer to your license partners?
Lopez: We offer 100% formulation and technical support. We provide the SEDDS and then they use their own legal and licensed cannabis and equipment. Our system requires no special equipment or investment to adapt your process. So not only do we offer expert knowledge of formulations, but our system is also very easy to use, both in the laboratory and in large-scale production.
Green: What areas are you currently working on with cannabinoid formulations?
Lopez: We are worldwide. We are fortunate to have success not only in the United States and Canada, but also in Europe, Brazil and Australia. Our level of involvement varies depending on whether it is medical marijuana, adult use, or cannabis and CBD extracts.
Green: If someone is interested in learning more about your product or becoming a potential licensing partner, how can they contact you to set this up?
Lopez: If they go to our website, www.geocann.com, it’s pretty easy to contact us, and I’m grateful that so many companies do.
Green: Great, thanks to Jesse for hosting the interview!