As the global medical cannabis market continues to expand at a rapid pace, Australia’s fledgling market is now beginning to take off. At the forefront of this medical revolution is the Australian Natural Therapeutics Group (ANTG).
Founded in 2015 by local entrepreneur Matt Cantelo, the small yet ambitious company is powered by a team that has witnessed firsthand the power of medicinal cannabis in relieving chronic and debilitating disease symptoms in areas where traditional treatments have failed to deliver comprehensive results.
An entrepreneur from a young age, Matt launched his own travel company in Melbourne at age 23. He then went on to become Director and COO of one of the world’s leading travel management companies, Corporate Travel Management (CTM), which he led to an IPO in 2010.
“While I was living in Denver in 2012 to establish CTM’s presence in the US, medical marijuana was legalised. I was touched by the story of a young girl named Charlotte who had been suffering from regular intense epileptic seizures. Scientists were able to breed a specific strain of cannabis for her and the seizures stopped instantly, saving her life,” he remembers.
“Having a daughter of a similar age, this story struck a chord and motivated me to move back to Australia, step down from the executive team at CTM and form ANTG.”
Matt spent the following years investing in and advising various successful ventures across sectors including technology and security, social media, nutrition and fitness, and real estate.
“You have to chase your dreams, not the money. I made the decision to invest in people and I founded ANTG with a mission to put the needs of the patient first,” he says.
“I knew that the medical cannabis industry was set to flourish globally and I saw the opportunity to explore the medical possibilities of the plant.”
ANTG combines research with best-in-class cultivation and extraction methods to develop cannabinoid medicines that offer safe and effective therapeutic benefits to meet the needs of individual patients. “Research and development is at the core of this company, and we see it as our responsibility to provide robust evidence to healthcare professionals and the public,” Matt explains.
“Medical cannabis can be used to treat everything from pain and inflammation all the way through to epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease – the body of evidence is extraordinary and it’s growing by the day.”
“Medical cannabis can be used to treat everything from pain and inflammation all the way through to epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.”
Cutting the red tape
Community support for medical cannabis is growing in Australia, but patterns of use and consumer views are poorly understood. While Australian regulations allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes, Matt explains that access for patients is still more challenging than it should be. Some patients are heading overseas to countries such as Canada for treatment instead.
“The industry is constantly evolving, yet Australian regulators are still being cautious about allowing widespread use,” he notes. “Although there is plenty of evidence supporting the medical use of cannabis, there is still a stigma attached to it, generally due to a lack of awareness of the research and clinical outcomes that exist.”
ANTG hopes to break down this stigma by investing in R&D to expand society’s understanding of medical cannabis and support the education of healthcare professionals nationwide.
Pioneering countries such as Israel, Canada and America are leading the way in growing the body of evidence surrounding the applications and benefits of medical cannabis, and Matt believes that Australia is perfectly poised to add to this growing knowledge base.
“Australia is finally starting to catch up to the rest of the world. The Therapeutic Goods Administration wouldn’t have legalised medical cannabis if it didn’t have the potential to change millions of lives,” he argues. “To expand our understanding and shape the industry as it grows, we’ve partnered with various medical institutions including the University of Newcastle, Western Sydney University, and the National Institute for Complementary Medicines.
“Australia is finally starting to catch up to the rest of the world.”
These investments will drive results for ANTG and patients across the country in the medium to long-term.”
Partnering for growth
As one of the fastest-growing medical cannabis markets in the world, Matt knew that Europe would provide endless possibilities to enhance his Australian business. Last year, ANTG announced an exciting partnership with leading independent cannabis wholesaler, Cannamedical Pharma, to export Australian-grown cannabis to the expanding German market from 2019.
Since the legalisation of medical cannabis in 2017, Germany’s market has grown rapidly. Today, Cannamedical Pharma supplies more than 20,000 pharmacies with cannabis and imports about 22,000 kilograms per year to meet the demand of some 691,000 patients.
“While our top priority is to serve the local market, this export opportunity has allowed us to scale up our operations and gather learnings that we can bring back to benefit the Australian market.
“The demand in Europe is phenomenal and, as part of our 10-year agreement to supply cannabis to Germany, we had to upgrade our cultivation facilities to the point where they now exceed Australian standards,” Matt explains. “This is the first of many international export partnerships to come.
It’s a perfect demonstration of our commitment to producing high-quality products and it puts us ahead of much larger companies globally.”
ANTG is committed to quality control at every step of the cultivation, extraction and production process to ensure optimal quality and medicinal benefit. This includes chemical-free CO2 extraction, high-performance liquid and gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, cutting-edge distillation tools and complete traceability through the end-to-end production process.
To reduce ANTG’s carbon footprint, Matt has equipped every facility with green water systems and specialised waste treatment procedures. Comprehensive security measures are also of high priority, and Matt has installed high-tech protection systems, cameras and state-of-the-art fencing to prevent intruders accessing the crops.
Bloomberg predicts the global medical cannabis market could be worth more than A$69 billion by 2025, up from A$11 billion in 2017.
Planting seeds for the future
ANTG’s goal is to develop evidential and technological capabilities to instantly identify the right strain and dose of medical cannabis to treat specific health conditions.
“We hope to be able to guarantee a superior-quality supply of medical cannabis for Australian patients suffering from a range of diseases and illnesses. This mission is shared by every one of our growers, extractors, scientists and administrators,” says Matt.
“Our commitment to our core values and ethics is driven down through our entire supply chain and we have specialists in place to ensure that our products are of high quality and well researched to deliver the maximum results for patients. The team at ANTG is united in their ambition to change lives through medical cannabis.
We are constantly learning and we’re motivated by the patient along every stage in our journey.”