Israel’s medicinal marijuana business is booming. Incidentally, Israel is also home to some of the most advanced 3D printing technologies around. One startup, Syqe Medical leveraged both these evolving market segments to bring its unique Syqe medicinal plant 3D printed inhaler to market. A partnership signed in late 2015 with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries provides distribution, while the use of innovative 3D printers, such as Nano Dimension‘s Dragonfly, helps with the development process for this innovative – and stylish – product.
While recreational use remains illegal, weed’s now widely recognized medicinal properties have led local authorities and startups to invest into this rapidly growing market. Local legislators are now currently considering legislation to allow medical marijuana to be exported.
Syqe uses 3D printers to prototype and produces inhalers, which have been used in Israel’s Rambam Hospital for almost two years since the first successful pilot project. Syqe Medical joined the growing ranks of Nano Dimension’s beta clients in 2016 and plans to use Nano Dimension’s technology to further develop its 3D printed inhaler.
The company was founded by Perry Davidson, an inventor of patents in various fields, including the company’s core technology. Perry was Co-founder and former CEO of Israel’s largest medical cannabis production company. He has more than a decade’s experience in controlled substance regulation and state implementation.
Syqe Medical is transforming cannabis and other plants into standard prescription medicines. The first plant the company enabled for use in its 3D printed inhaler is medical cannabis. Syqe was founded in 2011. In 2013 Prof. Elon Eisenberg conducted the company’s first clinical trial at Rambam Healthcare Campus, in Haifa, which demonstrated the inhaler’s precision and compliance with pharmaceutical standards. In 2016, Syqe announced it had signed an agreement with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., the world’s largest manufacturer of generic drugs, to market and distribute Syqe inhalers in Israel.
Israel has long taken medical marijuana seriously, ever since pioneering Prof. Raphael Mechoulam, who was then at Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, became the first person to identify the plant’s main psychoactive compound, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), in the 1960s.
Administering cannabis to patients has long frustrated doctors due to the lack of a precise dosage and because many users smoke the drug, inhaling carcinogens in the process. Syqe’s 3D printed inhaler overcomes those health concerns.
After inhaling, it takes between three to five minutes for the concentrated cannabis to reach maximum blood levels, unlike modified marijuana liquid extractions or oils which require hours to take effect. And as a smart device, the inhaler transmits usage data immediately back to Syqe, allowing researchers to track usage and provide case studies to other jurisdictions that are on the fence about legalizing the drug.
The handheld device includes dozens of preloaded marijuana VaporChips – similar in shape and size to a computer chip – that are housed in a single cartridge. The inhaler includes thermal controllers and lung interfacing that can pause or increase airflow based on pace and speed. That allows the inhaled dose to meet a level of precision within one hundred micrograms – a medically acceptable threshold of accuracy.
Even Philip Morris, the American tobacco giant, has invested $20M in Syqe to look at how to reduce the harm from smoking its nicotine products. To date, Syqe has raised some $33M and plans to start a trial with the US Food and Drug Administration next year.
Of the estimated 30,000 Israelis who are prescribed medical marijuana, several hundred are using the Syqe device, all of them under the auspices of Rambam Hospital. The inhaler is expected to be distributed for use outside the hospital environment in 2018.