You know those phone conversations that last forever, because you and the person you’re talking to is pretty much on the same page on almost everything? Well, this was one of those conversations, and we talked for so long that the phone cut off due to the battery dying on us (and not because the phone wanted to end the conversation for us – electronic equipment may get tired, but it doesn’t get bored!).
Anyway, more about Amy Berliner. Amy is the Founder/CEO of Aegis Biotech, a company that researches the potential medical uses of cannabis, with particular focus on pediatric neuro and opiate abuse studies. They also publish Canna Healthcare Magazine, as well as using blockchain technologies to develop precision medicine. Aegis is one of the many amazing companies in cannabis that are on the cutting edge of scientific research, and as such we are very excited to have Amy talk to us. So, without further ado, here’s more from Amy in her own words …
How did you get started in the cannabis industry?
Shortly thereafter, I discovered that I had melanoma. I had grown up in Loma Linda. Loma Linda is a “Blue Zone” and one of the most regarded in the US in terms of health and life expectancy. This is largely because people are vegetarian and exercise more frequently and so on. So anyway, I was raised vegetarian and thought I looked healthy on the outside. But unfortunately, because I was vegetarian, tall and thin, the fact that I enjoyed sugar didn’t discriminate against me. My pitfalls were sugar and the sun! I’m a very outdoorsy person, so it [the melanoma] challenged me and my health. Certainly compounded with stress, after finding out I had melanoma alongside just having lost my job.
But, I’m a researcher by love. So I went back into study and focused on naturopathic alternatives. I was 6 months away from being an ND, and decided that I wanted to focus on what international research there was that could promote an alternative to surgery, followed by the treatment plans they typically give you.
When I came across a federal patent on cannabidiol (CBD) here in the United States, it was a deal-changer for me. And it followed up with a myriad of international research that just blew my mind. First of all, Israel is so far ahead, and Dr. Raphael Mechoulam is just incredibly progressive in his research, having been one of the first to find the compound within cannabis, anandamide [tetrahydrocannabinol] and CBD following that.
As I started following this research, it lead me into this great opportunity to see that there was something that could potentially impact and work around some of the indications I was working with. One being that I had broke my back horseback riding in the early 90s, C4, C5 and in a lot of neuropathic pain on the left side of my body – fingers, toes, arm … As I began looking at how cannabis was able to impact, I really started to see that it needed to be more focused on the precision of medicine, because cannabis really can’t be created in a one-for-all manner like a synthetic can. You know, in Cannabis they do not weigh people for cannabis dosing.
Certainly, it lead me down the path where I thought there might be an opportunity and some success with it. So I began working with a chemist and created our own transdermal patch, which I applied on my forearm, and took soft oral gels. Which I can tell you, was quite a journey in itself because I had never used cannabis and had nothing to compare this to.
But what I did in the process is journal my story in photos. So every few days, when my tumor would change or alter, I would photojournal that. And so, throughout this process, I was building my company, but not realizing it at the time. But going through these things lead me to bridging a lot of healthcare into the science of cannabis.
So, I got on the other side of my cancer. A clean biopsy. In fact, the tumor had “exploded” pretty much, died on itself, and new skin was formulated on my arm. Which was just a beautiful thing. And then I had begun doing a lot of public speaking, because people had heard that I’d been doing a lot of work with the Medical Cannabis Institute for Continuing Education for Clinicians, and wanted to understand not only for myself, but to find out what the healthcare community knew and didn’t know, and what was in the curriculum and what was not.
I really began to feel it was my role to change the face of what cannabis was, speaking to myself 10 years ago. Saying, “Oh my gosh! What would I say to myself if I was now me, talking to myself 10 years ago? What would that look like?” I think the most important thing that I discovered in this journey was, “We have to remove the culture and replace it with the science”. The science supports the culture, even if people use cannabis on a recreational level. There’s still some medicinal value. We certainly need to educate the public and the community.
And so, I began looking at what the missed opportunities were. As a CEO/business person, I was thinking, “You know, there’s something here. I need to follow this.” People kept pushing me to launch and research and doing something in the media. I had a background in healthcare technology, so I kind of have rooted a lot of different opportunities and a lot of different entry point conversations I could go into.
So I started developing my company, Aegis Biotech, and I really wanted it to be this umbrella brand that would hover over this omnichannel of multidisciplinary studies that would really support the science of cannabis, and not just one product, service or brand. Something that could really be an empire and creating this all-inclusive messaging through product formulations based on science. Educating through the science and our healthcare publication which we’ve launched – Canna Healthcare Magazine – which is designed specifically for a clinical audience. Speaking to them in a language they’re familiar with. They want to see the science support something. That’s the whole reason they’re in healthcare – to be forward thinkers and to be a part of a legacy of finding something that could be critical for future generations.
In less than 4 months, we’ve managed to get a traction of 60,000 global subscribers, with ¾ of them being clinicians. Utilizing that arm to be promotive and steering the conversation to the science. Connecting and keeping both patients and providers engaged in these conversations. I have a lot of M.D.s and PhDs that not only work with me to write the publication, but also to recount and say, “Hey, how can we get involved in cannabis? How can we participate in a way to stay connected to patients?”
A part of my app development is a wellness tracker, but it’s also a platform for M.D.s and patients to stay engaged in the clinical conversation with medical oversight, but independent of healthcare, simply because we can’t integrate yet to healthcare. Again, really bridging something that’s really going to be severed, especially in the United States. If the white flag isn’t flown between traditional and alternative healthcare and saying, “We need to bridge this conversation, because otherwise you’ll find communities siloing themselves.” We’re finding this already with cryptocurrencies and things like that, where they’re frustrated with the system.
People are saying, “Hey! We’ve exhausted all traditional treatments with you. Now what are we going to do? Oh, now we have to become researchers. Now we have to go out and find things for ourselves.” This could be in the form of a medical vacation outside the country. Maybe it’s a clinical study outside the country. But to not even have an M.D. be able to have a clinical education 101 for a product that is now legalized medically in 29 states, that a patient could find cannabis, utilize it, treat themselves, and disconnect completely from healthcare.
So this is what we don’t want to see. We want to still see that there’s this opportunity to keep engaged. This is how we want to be able to participate. Not let it be an issue of left or right, but to focus on the science. Putting together multidisciplinary approaches to how we handle this going forward.
So what about cannabis use in pediatrics?
I became familiar with a family that had reached out to me who’s son had just been diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG – an aggressive brain tumor). If you’re familiar with childhood cancers, you’ll know that it’s the worst one. And so, when I hung up on the child’s father after talking to them, I immediately went through my rolodex and said, “I know all of the heads of oncology and pediatrics … I’m going to meet with them, because I want to be able to take a catheter to the brain.”
So I had begun studying and following the physician and professor, Dr. Manuel Guzman from Spain, who had successfully treated an adult glioma patient. Now, this is very uniquely different to childhood glioma, but at the same time, in theory it’s a similar approach. So, when I approached this Professor of Neuro Surgery, he said, “Oh my God, Amy. We need to do an institutional review board. This would be fantastic.”
This is because the beautiful thing about approaching DIPG is that we’re not taking away from treatment protocols and modalities that traditional care has found successful or could even do, for example the surgery which can shorten the diagnosis time due to the placement of the tumor located in the Pons. The surgery for a pediatric patient with DIPG is highly suspect to cutting short the duration of life, when already it’s 9 – 10 months from diagnosis to death, typically.
When we saw an opportunity, I said, “One, these children are only subject to radiation treatment, after which the tumor always grows back. Largely they’re sedated. They balloon, and life is just existence for both patient and parent. But if there’s a way we can integrate a study and we could work with DIPG patients specifically in this orphan way, not only would we be able to capture and collect information and research on the tumor itself, but also information on the effect of cannabis on the developing brain.”
That is huge. So many people in the US say, “Wow, we’re on such an incline on autoimmune diseases.” So I say, “Forensically, you look back and you walk back to the cause. Alternative care looks at the identifying cause, and then works to impact in a positive way a result that maybe otherwise medication resistant treatments have not been impactful now leaving Patients seeking alternative when a Patient is out of time, again many for the mere sake of trying many feel they have nothing left to lose, and in data I say we have everything to gain by connecting the data with science in real time with a wellness tracker we will offer both Patients and Providers and where Clinicians can participate in the dialog, and education as to where the local and International research communities are today. What causes the disease in the first place?” When I looked at it from a forensic standpoint, I said, “Well, in the US, feedstock was given to cattle.” It was a byproduct of CBD that then mothers were able to incorporate the same chemical compound in colostrum that’s able to stimulate nursing and encourage hunger and appetite.
So, I said, “Look back 100 years ago into US history. Prior to that, we never had any indications, symptoms and diagnoses for autoimmune diseases.” So when you look at productions of those types of deficiencies, of course we’re sitting in a petri dish full of diseases when immune systems aren’t supported. We know that CBD has strong indications to support immunity. Oxygenating blood and so on. But of course, there’s a lot to be shared and a lot to be bought to market. Most people don’t look at that and, prior to my cancer, I didn’t look at that either. The research continues to matter and in order to keep pace with the communities to partcipate in medical vacations, or go into an International Clinical Study, we see how valuable that information can be to further the research and discovery of pursue things we find demonstrate a positive value, and identifying those that do not, this is what Cannabis research is about, determining what Patients are telling their friends everyday that there is something to Cannabis, and those who might otherwise never considered Medical or Clinical Cannabis certainly pivot when options are out. I believe research is always leaning forward imagining innovations that identify and remove barriers to progressive treatments that can even if at bare minimum impact a pain indicator that is more than we have know in years past, so again the science and the data certainly matter.
We know what you’re thinking. “Only two questions? I’ve been ripped off, and I want to learn more!” To answer you, remember, we were chatting for a long time, and we talked about many things. We talked about the research and medical potential of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), as well as raw cannabis juices. We talked about cannabis safety profiles, cannabinoid-terpenoid interaction and many other geeky, sciencey things besides.
If you want to learn more, and we know you do, then check out Elevate the Conversation this Wednesday 12/16/2017 at 6 pm. Amy knows a lot behind the science of cannabis, and we recommend anyone with a curious mind to listen in and check it out. Nowhere else in the media will you get this sort of cutting-edge information. Be the first one to know about it all!