April 6, 2021
Expert Interview: Michael Sassano, CEO Somai Pharmaceuticals
An interview with Michael Sassano CEO of Somai Pharmaceuticals an international company focused on the extraction of the Cannabis plant and making formulations for the EU market.
Who are SOMAÍ Pharmaceuticals?
SOMAÍ Pharmaceuticals is an international company focused on creating unique cannabis formulations for the EU market, developed and manufactured inline with EU GMP regulations for pharmaceutical products.
With a state-of-the-art extraction hub currently under-construction just 30 minutes from downtown Lisbon, Portugal, and numerous biomass and distribution deals already signed with future partners, SOMAÍ is well-positioned as one of Europe’s largest cannabis manufacturers.
SOMAÍ Pharmaceuticals leadership has also been active in the American market through Solaris Farms. What inspired this move to Europe?
Over the next few years Europe is projected to become the one of the world’s largest cannabis markets, second only to North America. And unlike North America, which is segmented state-by-state into patchwork of different regulations, the EU affords the potential for a much more unified market.
US MSO’s are already coming to the European market through merger and acquisition activity — exemplified by Curaleaf’s recent acquisition of Emmac Life Sciences — and so by establishing SOMAÍ today in Portugal, we can be sure we will be ahead of the curve and be best placed to serve the demands of the EU marketplace as it expands.
What experience does SOMAÍ bring from the USA, and how advantageous is that for operating in the European market?
Doing extraction on the West coast for over eight years, we have overseen huge advancements in technology, formulation science, and drug delivery systems. And having already managed successful roll-out and expansion in the United States, the SOMAÍ team has the real-world knowhow needed to create realistic development timelines that can flexibly adapt to the European market as it goes through its own period of development and expansion.
In terms of our operations, SOMAÍ comes with an expert knowledge base that has already learned how to optimise extraction operations to realise their peak efficiency, and crucially also their peak profitability. This is rare in the European market where many start-ups are learning the craft for the first time, and so SOMAÍ stands out.
Why Portugal, specifically?
Back in 2019, started off in Greece, but after visiting in Portugal in 2020 we saw just how progressive INFARMED — Portugal’s National Authority of Medicines and Health Products — was, and it became clear to us that Portugal would become a leader within the EU cannabis market.
Portugal has some of the most advanced rules in the EU that allow for easy import of materials from non-EU countries to be used as biomass for extraction, and the Portuguese health ministry fully supports the pharmaceutical advancement of cannabis. Portugal has also already awarded many licenses to cannabis producers, and large companies like Tilray continue to pave the way in terms of receiving marketing approval for medicinal cannabis products. For us, Portugal’s sensible approach to regulation, it’s geographical location as a doorway to Europe from the United States, an internal market and Lisbon’s renowned pool of highly educated biomedical professionals makes it a perfect fit.
With the construction of this extraction hub in Lisbon, it would appear that SOMAÍ Pharmaceuticals is initially focussing on manufacturing rather than cultivation. Why is that?
Europe is already full of cannabis cultivators who, to their credit, do an excellent job. But the current European market does not have enough qualified manufacturers of pharmaceutical and medical cannabis product formulations, and that is where SOMAÍ can really demonstrate our skills.
By choosing to invest in manufacturing over cultivation, we are able to concentrate our spending on the development of innovative products and novel cannabinoid formulations, without the added capital drain that comes with implementing vertical integration. SOMAÍ with construction already underway on the Lisbon extraction hub, fundraising remains open to prepare for an uplisting. With this, SOMAÍ will be able to pursue even greater European expansion, and to invest more heavily in the development of advanced product lines.
Can you expand on the cannabinoid formulations being developed by SOMAÍ Pharmaceuticals?
At this early stage, the focus is on creating extracts for pharmacological applications, such as >90% THC distillate and 99% THCA isolate for the formulation of cannabis-based medicinal products. These are extracts that we are familiar with from our experience on the West coast, and we want to bring that manufacturing expertise to the EU market.
As our capabilities expand, we will leverage our expert manufacturing knowledge and strategic partnerships to create innovative, tailor-made cannabinoid formulations in the shape of oral drops, pills, topicals, and possibly edibles plus, vape oils in the future. As the EU market develops, SOMAÍ will respond in kind to meet the demands of this bloom- ing industry.
How do you see SOMAÍ Pharmaceuticals evolving over the next few years? Presently we are looking for pharmaceutical partners that will allow us to manufacture more novel formulations for the future EU market. We anticipate that we will be able to start producing test batches in early 2022, with the site fully operational and EU-GMP certified soon after.
Our initial 3,700 sq m. facility in Lisbon has the availability to expand to up to 12,000 sq m. as the operation scales up, which would make it one of the largest manufacturing facilities in Europe. As the EU market broadens, we also plan to establish additional SOMAÍ extraction hubs in other promising locations around Europe.
All of this, in combination with our strategic partnerships and highly-knowledgeable staff means that SOMAÍ has the potential to dominate the market in terms of manufacturing and product formulation, and that is what we intend to do.
LinkedIn: Somai Pharmaceuticals
The European Cannabis Report: 6th Edition takes a deep dive on the current social, economic, regulatory and health trends. The report also includes sales forecasts of medical and adult-use cannabis in the US and Canada.
Expert Interview: Michael Sassano, CEO Somai Pharmaceuticals
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