EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Gabriel Theron CEO of Cilo Cybin: The company made history by acquiring a full license to grow and manufacture cannabis products for local and export markets, making it the first SA company to achieve this feat in the sector.
By Edward Tsumele, Cannabis Business Africa/CBA Editor
A South African biomedical company Cilo Cybin Pharmaceutical has been awarded both a grow and processing cannabis license by the South African Health Product Regulatory Authority,(SAHPRA), effectively becoming the first South Africa, company to be awarded such a license.
All along since the process of awarding cannabis licenses commenced, authorities have given companies either a grow license to grow and harvest the cannabis plant, or a processing license for manufacturing products, and never for both until now.
Cannabis Business Africa/CBA had an exclusive wide ranging interview with the Chief Executive Officer of Cilo Cybin Pharmaceutical, Gabriel Theron this week, to unpack this huge breakthrough in the local cannabis sector for his company and what this entails, as well as mapping the future
CBA:. How would you describe your company? Is it a biomedical company or a cannabis company?
GT: Cilo Cybin combines Biohacking, Biotech and Pharmaceutical methodologies to deliver a holistic and individualised solution that enables our customers insights into their health, performance, and longevity, that they never had before.
CBA: What is Biotech & Pharmaceutical:
GT: Biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies both produce medicines, but the medicines made by biotechnology companies are derived from living organisms while those made by pharmaceutical companies generally have a chemical basis.
CBA: What is Biohacking?
GT: Biohacking is the constant pursuit of better heath, performance and longevity through the use of technologies, apps, devices and supplementation.
CBA: . Your company has been awarded both a grow and processing cannabis license by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, effectively becoming the first South Africa company to be awarded such a license.
All along since the process of awarding cannabis licenses commenced, authorities have given companies only either a grow license to grow and harvest the cannabis plant or a processing license to manufacture products, and never for both until now.
GT: SAHPRA has issued around 28 cannabis cultivation licenses to date, also known as a GACP (Good Agricultural and Collection Practises) license. Under this license the licensee is allowed to grow, dry and bulk package cannabis flower for the export market only. This is why you will not see legal cannabis flower being sold, or at least it should not be sold, as the company will need a cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practises) license in order to be allowed to do final packaging and labelling. This GACP license does not grant you the right to extract into oil form or process the flower in any form other than trimmed flower.
There are a few GMP facilities that are allowed to further process cannabis in South Africa, but not one company currently other than Cilo Cybin that has both GACP and GMP licenses.
Having said that, SAHPRA have issued cultivation (28 companies) with an addition letter/Licence that says that your GACP facility conforms to the minimum requirements to have your drying and packaging portion of your facility EU-GMP compliant. BUT this license still limits the licensee to the terms of the GACP license- which means you are still only allowed to process bulk. The reason for this additional license was to assist cultivators to obtain take-off agreements outside of South Africa, as most countries did not want GACP flower.
This has created a little bit of confusion in the market as a lot of cultivators not believe they are GMP licensed where they are only compliant and not licensed for further manufacturing, packaging and final labelling.
CBA: However the company insists that they would not want to be regarded as a cannabis company, but a medical company, which in fact looks in the near future to explore magic mushrooms as possible medicine for quite a number of ailments such as a treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
GT: Magic mushrooms, or Psilocybin is making a huge uproar in the international space. Companies such as MAPS based in America received FDA approval for treating PTSD and depression with MDMA, and soon they will also get FDA approval for Psilocybin, as well as LSD. Reports show that 76% of people treated for PTSD on MDMA wres cured.
Depression pre-COVID is estimated at 350 million worldwide diagnosed, and 1 suicide every 40 seconds. That’s 1 million suicides every year. In perspective almost 25% of people that passed away the last year for COVID. Depression is estimated to affect :
– USA :26%,
– Australia : 20% and
– Europe 27% of adult population
That’s just some stats, but the world for psychedelic is opening up. Canada, same as when cannabis started its legalisation journey, already moved on making magic mushrooms legal. Jamaica the same, and certain states such as Colorado decriminalised plant based substances. The world is opening up to treatment of various brain related conditions and even “Micro dosing” which is very common, and used to enhance your brain’s focus and creativity.
CBA: Can you explain the reason for the company to want to focus on magical mushrooms instead of cannabis?
GT: Cilo Cybin, does not want to be seen as neither a cannabis nor a magic mushroom company. We are looking much further down the rabbit hole. We believe the time for individualised treatment is here, where you can monitor your own wellbeing with devices, and feed and treat your body to what it needs as an individual.
Our focus is much larger than only those two product lines. We will be bringing various other products to market, but the secret is not the product lines. It is how you integrate all the various products to become one health, performance and longevity solution.
CBA: . Is your company now ready and looking forward to grow, manufacture for both local and the export market?
GT: Most definitely, we are in our cultivation cycle and will soon be able to supply final packaged and labelled cannabis product to the international markets. We are engaging with SAHPRA on how and what they will allow us to take to market in South Africa.
CBA: What products do you look forward to producing for the local market, and what products does your company intend to export?
GT: For the export markets initially we have signed bulk and final packaged flower contracts with companies in UK and Australia.
We will also be exporting Aunt Zelda’s (As seen on Netflix) to Brazil. We obtained the Global manufacturing and distribution rights for this brand.
We have also partnered with a Swiss CBD brand and will be packaging and do final labelling their products for the South African and international markets.
CBA: Cilo Cybin Pharmacetical has been awarded both a grow and processing cannabis license by the South African Health Product Regulatory Authority, effectively becoming the first South African company to be awarded such a license. What do you think worked as an advantage to your company in its application process to SAHPRA?
GT: Hard work, long hours, patients and the best team of people…
CBA: All along since the process of awarding cannabis licenses commenced, authorities have given companies either a grow license to grow or to manufacture, and never for both until now. When will the growing and then the manufacturing process start?
GT: We are already in cultivation, and we have started out validation runs in the manufacturing side. Once the validation process is complete we will then start manufacturing, which we estimate to be October 2021.
CBA: However the company insists that they would not want to be regarded as a cannabis company, but a medical company, which in fact looks in the near future to explore magic mushrooms as possible medicine for quite a number of ailments such as a treatment for depression and cancer. Why is the company going in that direction when the low hanging fruit appears to be the cannabis for which it has a full license to grow and process?.
GT: We are most definitely not abandoning cannabis. It has a place in our range of products. We are merely adding additional product lines in order to provide a more holistic product service offering.
CBA: Cilo Cybin Pharmaceutical has become the first SA company to win the right to grow, process and package marijuana products. What quantities are we looking at once fully operational?
GT: If we are looking at the raw material only, the facility can produce between 80-120kg of dried trim flower monthly, depending on strain of cannabis we decide to cultivate in that cycle. This is also high THC, product.
On the cannabis side we are estimating that we would be able to get to about 20,000 units of oil per month, and can scale from there if we add shifts.
CBA: Have you clinched any export deals yet and If so to which countries.
GT: Yes we have, we have contracts for final packaged and labelled flower product to Australia, Oils to Brazil, bulk flower to the UK.
CBA: Are you looking at listing at the JSE at some stage and what time frames are we looking at?
GT: Most certainly, we hope to start the process during the second quarter of 2022, with a primary listing on the JSE, and a secondary listing in Luxembourg or Netherlands
CBA: Where are your grow and processing facilities with regards to province or city, and not specifically the address?
GT: Gauteng, Centurion.