A PotNetwork Exclusive
Seeking capital is GemmaCert, the Israeli private biotechnology firm who announced on Monday the opening of a new round of funding seeking nearly US$6 million to push commercialization efforts for their cannabis composition and potency testing device known as the “lab-on-a-desk.” The tabletop testing device, a hybrid testing solution combining near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) technology with visual image analysis, extensive data science, and machine learning has so far brought the company US$3 million in funding to date, with orders coming in from around the globe. According to a statement released earlier this week, the company plans on shipping out first orders of the product to early adopters in the coming weeks.
Based in Israel since 2015, GemmaCert utilizes a team of chemists, molecular biologists, biotechnologists, data scientists, and programmers to develop high-tech solutions in cannabis composition and potency analysis. The NIRS technology at the cornerstone of their “lab-on-a-desk” testing device is an innovative scientific measurement technique endorsed by the Food and Drug Administration. It looks at how “the near-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum is emitted, absorbed, or scattered through a cannabis sample.”
Speaking exclusively with PotNetwork, GemmaCert’s co-founder and CEO, Guy Setton, Ph.D., spoke about how both the company and their flagship product grew out of a need for cannabis to gain widespread regulatory acceptance. He noted that while accurate product labeling will become critically important in the future, with comprehensive testing needed across the supply chain, that companies cannot depend solely on third-party laboratories.
“There is a need for a truly non-destructive, reliable, affordable and easy-to-use means to test cannabis potency, and do so with high frequency, which is precisely what GemmaCert offers,” Dr. Setton said via email. “Demand will increase even further as companies adopt Good Manufacturing Processes to ensure regulatory compliance. GemmaCert started off as a project in collaboration with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. That is the same university in which Professor Raphael Mechoulam conducted his groundbreaking research on THC.”
Mechoulam was an organic chemist as well as a professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem whose work with cannabinoids is unparalleled. He was the first researcher to isolate Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, leading many to dub him “the grandfather of marijuana.” In fact, Mechoulam is one of the reasons why Israel remains at the forefront of cannabis research today, and why it is so friendly to the marijuana industry.
“Israel has been a pioneer in cannabis research going back to the groundbreaking work by Prof. Raphael Mechoulam in the early 1960s,” said Setton. In sharp contrast to most countries, entrepreneurs in Israel benefit from a cannabis-friendly and supporting ecosystem, which enables collaborations among academia and leading scientists, health institutions, and medical experts, backed by the government.”
GemmCert’s product is unique in that it never requires any grinding of the testing sample, nor does it use solvents or any consumables. In other words, there is no need for sample preparation nor is there any disposal of hazardous waste afterward. Moreover, GemmaCert notes that their product never destroys the sample, which, in their words, preserves both “efficacy and commercial value.”
Dr. Setton stressed the importance of GemmaCert’s simplicity, combined with its efficacy. “GemmaCert is designed for professionals along the legal cannabis supply chain seeking an affordable, reliable and easy-to-use solution for testing potency onsite,” he said. “Our early adopters are primarily growers and producers of cannabis products around the globe. We’ve received orders from North and South America, Europe, Israel and even New Zealand.”
“Current laboratory potency tests are lengthy and costly, making multiple tests impracticable,” he added. “By contrast, GemmaCert offers a quick and cost-effective way to leverage multiple tests.”
The company designed the product for its ease of use while still giving customers a comprehensive testing device. After placing whole flower bud into the “lab-on-a-desk” device, an accurate result is returned in minutes. Data is then captured in the cloud, sent via a network connection to secure servers for a quick analysis. Users receive their results in minutes through an app on their smartphones.
It’s an elegant solution to a complex problem. As marijuana legalization spreads across the globe, most notably in Canada with the recent passing of Bill C-45, tighter regulations will force the cannabis industry towards higher standards of quality. Where the illicit cannabis trade was a seller’s market, legal marijuana gives consumers much more buying power.
As Dr. Setton put it, anyone across the supply chain may be liable for potency labeling errors. “One cannot rule out class-action legal suits against improper product labeling,” he remarked. “Therefore, as cannabis comes under greater regulatory scrutiny, labeling will naturally be held to the same or higher standards common to mainstream nutritional and health products. In this context, Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP) are expected to become the industry norm. Understandably, accurate potency labeling will be a priority for retailers, if only for the reason of self-preservation.”
As for the funding, the company has aggressive plans for the future. Along with marketing and sales efforts, GemmaCert plans to use the capital infusion for new features that are being engineered for the product, hoping to deliver new capabilities to their original units. They also plan to integrate its NIRS technology into commercial cannabis grow and manufacturing operations.
“GemmaCert’s analytical capabilities will be expanded over the near term, including additional cannabinoids and select terpenes,” Dr. Setton said of the company’s future. “In the long-term, GemmaCert’s technology will be the standard for GMP compliant onsite potency testing. As the industry matures and consolidates, companies will adopt automation solutions for their production lines in order to achieve efficiencies and benefit from economies of scale.”
He added, “In this context, GemmaCert’s technology will be the foundation for automated sorting of cannabis-based on potency.”