Movers and Shakers: A look at some recent hiring moves in the marijuana industry

, Movers and Shakers: A look at some recent hiring moves in the marijuana industry

By Omar Sacirbey

Cannabinoid Drug Developer Lands Star Scientist

Nemus Bioscience, a biopharmaceutical company in Costa Mesa, California, that develops cannabinoid-based medicines, tapped professor David Schubert, head of the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at California’s Salk Institute, as a consultant.

Schubert, a two-time recipient of the Jacob Javits Award for outstanding contributions to neuroscience from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a section of the National Institutes of Health, studies how natural products and their synthetic derivatives can fight Alzheimer’s and age-related-cognitive decline. In 2016, he published research in the journal Science about how THC can promote the removal of amyloid-beta, a destructive protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Nemus CEO Brian Murphy, who recruited Schubert, said the Salk professor will advise the firm on research programs and help evaluate the cannabinoid medicines it’s trying to develop. “We’re a small company, so to have someone like Dr. Schubert is a huge deal for us,” Murphy said.

What does Schubert get out of partnering with a small firm like Nemus? Essentially, Nemus provides a conduit to the industry capital needed to help Schubert develop cannabinoid-based, anti-cognitive-decline medicine and pay for clinical trials. If the trials are successful, Schubert could bring his cannabis-based medicine to market.

“We don’t have any connection in the industry that’s involved in this type of stuff, and they are,” Schubert said of Nemus. “They have a company that’s viable.

“One of the major problems when you do drug discovery is you need a partner to help cover the costs of the trials.” If done well, he added, a Phase I clinical trial costs around $10 million, while a Phase II trial can range from $20 million to $30 million.

“They’ve done this before, so they know the game. Salk does not know the game. We don’t have the people on staff and the expertise at Salk to get drugs into clinical trials,” said Schubert, noting that he has three drug candidates he believes are ready to enter clinical trials. “This was a good opportunity to get somebody interested in what we’re doing, if we are able to move things forward.”

Drug Development Vet Joins Cannabinoid Company

Vancouver-based InMed Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company specializing in the research and development of cannabinoid-based drug therapies, appointed Eric Hsu as vice president of preclinical research and development, giving him primary responsibility for advancing the firm’s cannabinoid biosynthesis-manufacturing process and preclinical research on new drug candidates including INM-085 for glaucoma and INM-405 for pain.

Before joining InMed, Dr. Hsu held various positions with enGene, including vice president of research and vice president of scientific affairs and operations. He has cowritten more than 25 publications and abstracts and holds five patents.

Investment-Operations Company Enlists ER Doc

Toronto-based Liberty Health Sciences, a company that invests in and operates cannabis companies in the United States and Canada, hired Dr. Jennifer Timothee Oliveras as its medical director. Timothee has been a practicing emergency physician in Florida since 2013.

Washington DC Dispensary Hires CFO

Takoma Wellness Center, a Washington DC dispensary, hired Don Grede as chief financial officer. Grede has been in the marijuana industry since 2012. He co-founded Aquarius Cannabis, a marijuana-focused branding and distribution company, and most recently was CEO of Superior Leaf, the manufacturer and marketer of SuperLeaf, an all-natural lettuce wrap for the tobacco and marijuana industries.

British Columbia Grow Hires Two Cultivators

True Leaf Medicine International, a cannabis cultivation firm from British Columbia that is in the final stages of the medical marijuana licensing process, recruited two medical cannabis cultivation experts to develop MMJ products.

Stephen Schroeder, chief cannabis industry advisor, has consulted on cannabis operations in Canada, the United States and several countries in the European Union and South America.

Christian Zofchak, director of horticulture operations, will focus on environmental controls that eliminate the need for pesticides and fungicides during the production of cannabis products. The control of these conditions will enable the team to produce whole-plant medicines and extractions.

New Name, New CFO

Acreage Holdings, a diversified cannabis company with holdings or positions in cannabis businesses in 11 states, promoted CFO George Allen to CEO and hired Glen Leibowitz as the new CFO. Acreage recently changed its name from High Street Holdings.

Leibowitz previously led financial reporting and compliance efforts at Apollo Global Management and led a global IPO team at PwC LLP, the U.S. arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers. He is expected to play a critical role in Acreage’s upcoming IPO.

As CEO, Allen is charged with leading an aggressive acquisition strategy.

Pharma and IP Firm Hires Marketing Pro

Vancouver-based Veritas Pharma, a pharmaceutical and IP development company with a cannabis-focused subsidiary, Cannevert Therapeutics, has hired Justin Kausel as director of business development. He will report to CEO Dr. Lui Franciosi and will be responsible for business development strategy and the implementation of new business opportunities.

Grasslands Makes PR Hire

Denver-based Grasslands, a cannabis-focused communications agency, has hired cannabis industry public relations veteran Shawna Seldon McGregor to lead the public relations department as managing partner.

Spire Strengthens Team

Spire Secure Logistics, an Ontario firm specializing in security, intelligence and compliance, hired Tim Humberstone, a 20-year veteran of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and expert in Canada’s regulated cannabis sector, as chief strategy officer. In that role, Humberstone will lead Spire’s growth in Ontario and support clients across Canada.

Namaste Picks New Board Members

Vancouver-based Namaste Technologies, a vape tech company, appointed Branden Spikes, Laurens Feenstra and Donald William Nickless to Namaste’s 2018 board of directors.

Feenstra is currently product manager at Waymo, formerly known as Google’s self-driving car project.

Spikes in 2012 founded cybersecurity firm Spikes Security, which merged with Aurionpro in 2017.

Nickless worked for 30-plus years in manufacturing supervisory positions with the Seagram Co.

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