The next act on the world business stage is playing out for a Barrie-based company.
MediPharm Labs has just achieved a major pharmaceutical manufacturing milestone since starting up about six years ago.
“The latest news for us is we just received our Health Canada licence for GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices), a pharmaceutical designation that’s recognized around the world,” MediPharm Labs president and interim CEO Keith Strachan tells BarrieToday.
The company, which produces concentrate cannabis products, is part of a pharmaceutical inspection co-op that has more than 50 countries in it, meaning it’s an internationally recognized standard.
Here in Canada, the industry is governed under the Cannabis Act and a general cannabis production facility would have what’s called a good production practices designation.
“So, we have taken it to the next level by getting this pharmaceutical licence,” he says. “We’re actually the first in North America to have a pharmaceutical production licence for the extraction of cannabinoid, a very unique licence not only for Canada, but for Canada and the U.S.”
Strachan says the new certification will make some major changes in what the company does.
“We can now provide cannabis for pharmaceutical drugs,” he says. “Being a traditional pharmaceutical drug means access is easier, so you can pick it up from the pharmacist as well as doctors being able to prescribe it easier.
“There is some data behind it, so it changes our business a lot in the products we can make.”
MediPharm Labs, headquartered and started in Barrie, has about 120 employees based here with another 25 or so working from home.
“But we also have a factory just outside of Melbourne, Australia, with about 45 staff there today. We supply the Australian market and European market from there,” Strachan says. “What this new certification does for us here in Barrie is now we can make more products internationally.
“Today, we ship products to Australia from our facility, as well as places like Peru, but this will open the doors for us to sell products all across Europe as well eventually getting into places which have medical programs, such as Mexico and Brazil.”
What’s important about MediPharm is that it's “pharmaceutical and medically focused,” Strachan says.
“It was founded in 2015 on the basis of it being a pharmaceutical company,” he says. “We just entered into a joint research agreement with McMaster University where they’re using our CBD (cannabidiol) oil to do studies on post-surgery pain.
“That’s research that’s been approved by Health Canada and being done by experienced researchers. It could be a different option for pain management,” Strachan says.
The company’s nondescript John Street building houses pristine high-tech labs and security, spotless sorting and shipping areas and, of course, boxes and boxes of various strains of raw herb waiting to be transformed for various purposes.
“It’s an old building that we completely renovated and purpose-built for our use,” says Strachan. “It contains multiple ISO (International Organization for Standardization) clean rooms that you would see in any pharmaceutical facility.”
COVID-19 has been challenging for MediPharm, he adds.
“As an essential service, we never closed so our staff did different things like shift segregation so the night shift would never meet the day shift,” he says. “We put a number of protocols in place here to ensure it was a safe environment.
“It did cause a slowdown in sales as we saw some of our regulatory pathways come to a bit of a halt while international health authorities dealt with the pandemic at hand. But we’re seeing a lot of that get better now.
“There’s a lot of promise coming through the other end of COVID, but we worked really hard to make sure we got through it.”