MGC Pharma has been on a tear lately, with over $300,000 worth of prescription orders in Q1 and achieving a listing on the LSE. We decided to chat with two of the company's star players; Operations Manager Blaise Bratter, and General Manager Keren Bar-Zakay.
Just last August, MGC Pharmaceuticals (ASX:MXC) announced that it had reached the milestone of prescribing 100 patients. Less than one month later, and the company's prescription numbers rose to 200 patients.
It's clear the company is doing something right, as it continues to move toward its goal of being a world-leading bio-pharma company, supplying phytocannabinoid derived medicines to patients across the globe.
MGC Pharma operates on a "seed-to-pharmacy" model, which involves researching, developing, producing and distributing cannabinoid medicines for commercial sale.
Their current commercialized drugs include CannEpil, an oil-based oral solution for drug-resistant epilepsy, and MXP100 which is a pure cannabidiol (CBD) solution.
Though on top of ensuring MGC's prescription numbers keep climbing, the company is also in the process of developing many more ground-breaking cannabis products to treat diseases like brain cancer and Alzheimer's.
For this reason, the company is split into two factions, with one half focusing on research and development, while the other side handles supply and distribution.
Disclaimer: Past performance is not an indicator of future performance.
The supply and distribution side of the company is where Operations Manager Blaise Bratter and General Manager Keren Bar-Zakay come in, ensuring that Australian patients have a ready supply of MGC's medicines whenever they're required.
Bar-Zakay explains—dealing with cannabis can have its complications.
"There are restrictions when dealing with medical cannabis… From the clinics to the distributor, to every middleman on the chain."
"Getting the product from us to the patients is not straightforward to start with," noted Bar-Zakay.
And there are certainly added steps along the journey for MGC, who source their cannabis from their European facility in Slovenia.
While this may seem to be a circuitous route, there is a method to the madness; GMP certification.
The company secured its Goods and Manufacturing Practices certification for MGC's Slovenian Facility last July, which puts MGC into the minor handful of companies worldwide with the same credentials.
GMP certification is the gold standard for cannabis manufacturers and is quickly becoming a prerequisite for companies to have any legitimacy or leverage over their competitors. And with operations in Australia plus several facilities in Europe, GMP certification will help certainly MGC on its way to global commercial distribution.
Once the product comes in from their Slovenian facility, the company then has a series of Australian distributors they work with to ensure their product continues to be prescribed.
"We're working with mainly with Cannvalate – Australia's largest cannabis distribution network, and Health House International who are our two distributors," Blaise Bratter explains.
On top of having distribution partners, MGC works alongside Tetra Health, Cannabis Access Clinics and National Cannabinoid Clinic, to ensure that doctors are educated on the benefits of MGC's unique products.
This is especially necessary, Bar-Zakay informs us, as companies cannot legally advertise their medicinal cannabis products in Australia. Though for MGC, this "silent marketing" may be a benefit.
"The only thing we can do once we're approached by a clinic is to provide them leaflets, product sheets and product catalogues with all the information that the doctors will require," Bar-Zakay said.
"The doctors can then compare it with the rest of the products they could prescribe, and if they like MGC's products, they can prescribe ours."
"That's why I'm all up for, call it, silent marketing. At the end of the day it's a medicinal product, so it works or it doesn't, marketing or otherwise."General Manager of MGC, Keren Bar-Zakay
And while Bar-Zakay may seem overly confident, it's clear that MGC puts their money where their mouth is. Despite this inability to advertise, MGC's patient count doubled in this last month alone, which Bar-Zakay attributes to the quality of their products.
"Patient number one comes and gets it either for pain or epilepsy. They get good results, return to the doctor and tell their friends. For me, that's the full certificate that our product works."
"If a patient was prescribed, used it and returned for another bottle, that, for me, is the best marketing. It's just organically growing," she said.
This organic growth solidifies MGC's spot as a key player in the Australian landscape, which is growing rapidly itself.
What's Cooking for MGC?
The climbing prescription numbers mean one thing for MGC, which is that their products work. This is crucial for the company, as it has several projects in the pipeline that are headed toward commercialization.
Firstly, there's CogniCann – a cannabinoid formula designed to assist those with Alzheimer's and dementia.
"CogniCann is at phase 2B, being studied at the University of Notre Dame. We've started recruitment, and I think we'll have our first patient starting treatment in two or three weeks," Bratter explains.
"We're just waiting for the shipment of the products and the placebo to get here from Slovenia. We're going to recruit 50 patients and try to do five a week until it's done. That should be done early next year."
If CogniCann proceeds through the research pipeline and into commercialization, it would be a revolutionary feat for MGC, as dementia is the single greatest cause of disability in Australian's over the age of 65 years – and Australia has an ageing population.
On top of this, MGC has a partnership with RMIT University, which gives them access to a $1.5M facility that houses two grow rooms and a room for extraction and research.
The company recently received its research license and is now awaiting a permit from the ODC before it can begin conducting trials.
Once the license comes through, Bratter explains, MGC will be "launching into preclinical research on melanoma and prostate cancer in order to determine the effect of cannabinoids have on cancer cells."
"There's a huge gap in the data when it comes to the preclinical stuff and how it interacts with cancers. What cannabinoids interacts with the cancers, and at what ratios?"
At the moment, most people are just throwing strains at cancers and hoping that it works, rather than doing anything that's structured.Blaise Bratter, Operations Manager MGC Pharma
In most countries, including Australia, if you're caught with any level of THC in your system while driving, you're committing a crime – even if it's THC prescribed by your doctor.
Driving is a huge part of daily life, and so doctors may opt for drugs that don't put their patient's criminal records on the line. This is a hurdle that MGC is attempting to overcome according to Bratter, referencing driving trials that are currently being conducted at the University of Swinburne in Victoria.
"Swinburne has a driving simulator, which was used to do all the studies to back up the alcohol limit in Australia. Prior to using the simulator, we'll give individuals CannEpil or a placebo, in order to show that given the low THC levels in CannEpil, there's no impairment."
"We can then use that data to push regulators to allow people to drive, at least on CBD products, or high CBD products."
If MGC proves that CannEpil doesn't intoxicate drivers, you can bet the company will move up the ranks, yet again, in Australian prescription numbers.
If they can change legislation surrounding weed behind the wheel... that's a game-changer for the entire globe.
MGC Pharmaceuticals is ticking all the boxes; getting certified, doing the right research and making products that work. And as their prescription numbers show, it's clearly working for them.
On the future of the company, Bratter explains that:
"MGC's in it for the long game. MGC, as a company, isn't here to take advantage of the market and take advantage of patients or from retail investors buying and selling our stock, and pumping our price up."
"We're here for the long run in order to get products registered, get products on the market in a much broader fashion than what any other cannabis company is going to be able to do in any reasonable timeframe."
"This will turn our company from, a $60 million company to a multi-billion dollar company," he said.
To learn more about MGC Pharma, visit them here.
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