Exclusive Interview with CB2Insights Co-Founder and CEO Prad Sekar
CB2 Insights (CSE: CBII) (OTC: CBIIF) is using data and proprietary technology to drive the integration of medical cannabis into traditional clinical practice. Co-Founder and CEO Prad Sekar spoke with New Cannabis Ventures about the three divisions of his company and how he sees the medical cannabis industry evolving.
Sekar and his fellow co-founder Kash Qureshi spent years working in the Canadian healthcare space, primarily consulting on practice management strategies for outpatient medical centers. When Canada introduced the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulation (MMPR), they saw an opportunity to use data to develop clinical guidelines and establish a foundation of evidence-based data to support safety and efficacy claims.
The Three Divisions of CB2 Insights
Clinical operations. CB2 Insights owns and operates a U.S. network of medical centers focused on medical cannabis therapy. Each of these centers is designed to offer medical cannabis patients a standardized and quality practice of care.
Proprietary technology. The company’s clinics use its proprietary technology: an internal electronic health record platform. The platform’s workflows ensure that patients across all of the company’s centers will have the same experience.
The second piece of the company’s technology is designed to monitor patients once they leave the clinic. It collects data on what products patients are using and how it helps them, which in turn can help support physicians’ treatment of those patients.
Data insights. The company’s insights division uses aggregated and anonymized data to drive understanding of outcomes and efficacy in the medical cannabis space. It is this kind of data healthcare stakeholders like physicians, insurance companies, and regulators will need as the industry continues to mature, according to Sekar.
On the Road to Traditional Healthcare
The medical cannabis industry today, both in terms of patient experience and product development, differs greatly from the established healthcare model, but Sekar sees this changing. The shift toward more standardized clinical practices and drug development will be precipitated by data.
Under the current medical cannabis model, patients will see a physician and be recommended for a medical card. After obtaining that card, they are able to walk into a regulated dispensary where they can purchase a product of their choice and receive education from a budtender or other dispensary employee, who likely do not have clinical training.
CB2 Insight’s clinical decision support tool is an example of how data can be used to change the practice of care and patient experience. The point-of-care tool is designed to give physicians the information they need to make informed decisions on medical cannabis for their patients. The tool offers information such as risk factors and drug interactions based on each patient’s specific health profile. It can also offer suggested cannabinoid profiles and titration schedules to help with the prescription process. The tool can be plugged into an existing electronic medical record, serving as an extension designed specifically for medical cannabis patients.
When it comes to developing medical cannabis products, there is no molecular compound to standardize dosage, according to Sekar. But, research will shift the industry toward more precise dosing. Patients will begin to have greater access to cannabis-derived medications – different than the products offered today. Cannabis-derived medications will begin to more resemble the prescription and over-the-counter medications of today. The medical cannabis industry should look at how data is used in traditional drug development methodologies and clinical trial protocols, according to Sekar.
The CB2 Insights Footprint
CB2 Insights has clinics across 14 states, which see approximately 85,000 patients per year. Since inception, the company has seen more than 300,000 patients. Currently, the company has approximately 190 people on its team, and that number will continue to grow as CB2 Insights targets clinical operations growth and M&A opportunities.
When it comes to international expansion, Sekar sees the most opportunity in relation to the company’s insights division. Rather than targeting clinical ownership in international markets, the company will aim to commercialize platforms like its clinical decision support tool in markets around the world.
CB2 Insights has already started forming partnerships around its clinical decision support tool closer to home. Premier Health owns the electronic health record system Juno, which is used by approximately 4,600 physicians. Through the CB2 Insights and Premier Health partnership, the clinical decision support tool will be integrated into the Juno platform.
CB2 Insights has been active in the M&A space this year, acquiring MedEval Clinic, a medical cannabis clinic group in Arizona and Colorado, and Colorado-based medical cannabis clinic group Relaxed Clarity. The two acquisitions align with the company’s mission and culture and offer top-line revenue, according to Sekar. Sekar believes he and Kash will be able to use their years in practice management to further scale both operations. Going forward, Sekar sees the company having an active deal pipeline.
CB2 Insights began as a private company in 2014 and made its public debut this March. Prior to going public, the company raised approximately $14 million through a combination of equity and debt financing since 2014. The company does not have any immediate need to raise more capital, but this could change along with the market and demand, according to Sekar.
The Competitive Landscape
The cannabis industry has a number of data companies focused on areas including point-of-sale, seed-to-sale, and clinical data. Sekar sees CB2 Insights filling a niche space in the market with its focus on data that will be required by phytopharmaceutical manufacturers.
As the company targets becoming the largest source of this type of data in the U.S., Sekar sees the quality of the data and the continued value proposition of that data as vitally important. No data company will be successful if does not have high-quality data effectively aggregated, anonymized, and structured. Plus, data companies will need to anticipate what stakeholders see as the value proposition of that data.
Sekar sees the intersection between medical cannabis and traditional healthcare as a major opportunity. Big alcohol and tobacco have gotten into the space, and he anticipates big pharmaceutical companies are the next in line. More and more healthcare players will join the discussion and drive medical cannabis toward traditional healthcare, but identifying how to get from here to there is a challenge, according to Sekar. Cannabis remains a Schedule I drug, hampering the progress of any significant, scalable clinical trials, and tracking the quality and consistency of a botanical product remains a challenge. Despite those hurdles, Sekar sees medical cannabis inevitably moving away from the wellness space toward traditional healthcare.
CB2 Insights is a client of New Cannabis Ventures client. Listen to the full interview: