A business alliance that seems to symbolize the fast pace of the cannabis industry’s globalization is wedding a Canadian cultivator with one of the world’s largest drug and agro-chemical companies.
The firm Tilray, one of the top Licensed Producers under the Canadian medical marijuana program, on March 18 announced that it has signed a binding “letter of intent” to form a “strategic partnership” with Sandoz Canada, an arm of Sandoz International GmbH. The Switzerland-based giant is, in turn, a wing of Novartis International, the fourth-largest pharmaceutical company in the world by revenue.
Canada’s Financial Post reports that the partnership will see co-branded products, joint research and development, and Sandoz Canada’s sales department working to place non-smokable Tilray products in pharmacies and hospitals across the country — pending regulatory approval. The Financial Post hails the arrangement as “the first deal between a major pharmaceutical company and a Canadian cannabis producer.”
Tilray, headquartered in the Vancouver port city of Nanaimo, is owned by Seattle cannabis-industry investment firm Privateer Holdings. In 2014, it became the tenth company to secure a license under Health Canada‘s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations.
Tilray is also the first company worldwide to legally export medical cannabis into the European Union. It achieved this position after winning a Good Manufacturing Practice certification under European Medicines Agency standards in December 2016, as the In-Pharma trade publication noted.
A Tilray press release calls the pact with Sandoz a “major milestone in the recognition of medical cannabis and cannabinoids as conventional medicine.”
It boasts that Tilray “currently supplies tens of thousands of patients with high-quality, cGMP-certified products in ten countries spanning five continents.”
Tilray’s global operations are expanding fast. Last year, it received a license to cultivate cannabis and process medications in Portugal. The company is hoping to begin operations in the Iberian peninsula country this year, according to a February press release. Tilray will now be cultivating at the BIOCANT Research Park in Portugal’s coastal town of Cantanhede, as well as its own Vancouver Island facilities. An indoor laboratory and genetics bank is already complete at Tilray’s BIOCANT center, with an expansive greenhouse under construction. Tilray products are now available in Germany, the Czech Republic, Croatia and other European countries.
Tilray also just became the first company to export medical cannabis products to South Africa “for nationwide distribution to qualified patients through pharmacies.” A press release from the company noted that this marks the first such exports to anywhere on the continent of Africa. In a partnership with South Africa’s BGM Pharmaceuticals, Tilray is providing orally administered extracts, soon to be available in the country’s pharmacies.
In general, Canada’s Licensed Producers increasingly seem poised to dominate the country’s coming adult-use market, as well as the medical industry, after legalization takes effect this year. For example, another Licensed Producer, Cronos Group of Toronto, last month became the first corporate cannabis cultivator to be listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange.
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