TURNING OVER ANEW LEAF
In Conversation with Medical Cannabis Pioneer Brent Zettl
2020 marks the 20th anniversary of the court ruling that Canadians have a constitutional right to use cannabis as a medicine. Long before the legalization of recreational cannabis, Canada had an established governmentregulated cannabis industry solely focused on serving the needs of medical cannabis patients. Over the past two decades, this industry has grown and evolved to keep up with the needs of patients, new innovations – and to reflect the new regulatory framework that allows for both medical and recreational cannabis use in Canada.
As we look back on 20 years of medical cannabis in Canada, Zoomer sat down with a true pioneer of the industry, Brent Zettl, CEO of Saskatoon-based ZYUS Life Sciences to learn about the progress he has seen in his two decades in the industry, and how he and ZYUS are working to improve lives through plant-made therapeutics.
Q: You were one of the first to enter the cannabis space in Canada and have been involved for 20 years. What makes you so passionate about this industry?
Brent: “I’ve always seen extraordinary potential in cannabinoids – the compounds within the cannabis plant – for use in medicine. What makes me passionate about this industry is helping patients. Hearing how much their life, or that of a loved one, has been transformed is the best motivation to keep moving forward our research into plant-made medicine.”
Q: How much progress do you think the medical cannabis industry has made since 2000?
Brent: “Even after 20 years, the mission is not over yet. The government’s Pain Task Force recently reported that 1 in 5 Canadians lives with chronic pain – until we can help address and improve quality of life for these 7+ million people and the millions of other people around the world who live with pain or rely on opioids, we still have work to do. People are sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Q: What do you think the biggest change in the industry over the past two decades has been?
Brent: “In the early 2000s there was one legal cannabis market – the medical market. Now there are recreational, wellness and medical markets. While this growth has provided more choice, it has also opened the door for people to try to address their symptoms with recreational products that are not designed as medicine. This shift has made research and development even more important for companies like ZYUS – we have to go further with research, clinical trials and studies to develop a science-based approach to plant-made therapeutics to move forward the understanding of cannabinoids.”
Q: Can you tell us a bit about ZYUS and the company’s mission?
Brent: “ZYUS is solely focused on serving the needs of medical patients. We do not grow cannabis, instead we extract compounds from the plant for use in medical formulations. Our mission is to help all patients improve quality of life through the power of plantmade medicine, and to be a world leader in innovative cannabinoidbased therapeutics. Part of this includes investment in research and clinical trials to help improve understanding of the potential of cannabinoids in healthcare.”
Q: Are there any specific areas of medicine that ZYUS is focusing on?
Brent: “ZYUS’ research is focused in two areas: pain management (chronic and neuropathic) and brain disorders. The opioid crisis drove home the need for more research and development into medicines that offer other treatment options to manage pain – and our team of experts in research and development and pain management are working to develop cannabinoid-based formulations to help patients improve their quality of life. We are also working with the University of Saskatchewan to determine
the impact of cannabinoids on brain disorders, as more evidencebased research and development is needed in this field.”
Q: What would you say to readers who are hesitant to try medical cannabis as a treatment option?
Brent: “Talk to your healthcare practitioner! Seeking qualified medical advice on whether cannabinoid therapy is right for you is the first step.”
Q: We’ve heard that ZYUS is collaborating on a vaccine for COVID-19. Can you tell us more about this?
Brent: “This is a great example of the potential of plant-made therapeutics to improve lives. ZYUS has best-in-class technology to reproduce specific proteins in plants and extract those proteins for use in medicine.”
“As the COVID-19 virus swept across the world, we quickly realized that our technology could be used to help scientists and researchers understand if plants can be leveraged in the global fight against COVID-19. This summer, our team worked to reproduce proteins in Nicotiana benthemiana (a variety of the tobacco plant) and extract them for development of a potential vaccine.”
Q: What is the most important thing that our readers should know about ZYUS?
Brent: “Integrity is key to everything ZYUS does. Throughout our team of scientists, researchers, and healthcare practitioners, quality and integrity guide our research and mission to improve lives by advancing the understanding of cannabinoids and their medical potential.”
Q: Where do you see the future of medical cannabis going?
Brent: “A research and development led approach, creating evidence-based formulations through clinical trials is the future of the industry, and our focus at ZYUS. Science has barely scratched the surface of cannabinoids and how to leverage them to treat a wide range of conditions. ZYUS is working to harness the power of these cannabinoids to make life more livable for everyone and we have invested in medical research and clinical trials that will potentially establish new treatment guidelines and set standards for the effective use of cannabinoids in healthcare.”
Q: What next for you and ZYUS?
Brent: “ZYUS’ short term focus is getting much-needed relief in the hands of patients. But that is just the beginning for ZYUS as we work to expand the understanding and potential of plant-made medicine to transform patients’ lives both here in Canada, and around the world.”
“What makes me passionate about this industry is helping patients.”