Giovanni is also a Professor in phytochemistry at the Master of Phytotherapy at the University of Siena.
Before becoming an entrepreneur, Giovanni worked as an R&D Project Manager and Quality Control Analyst in the pharmaceutical industry.
Giovanni holds a Degree in Phytotherapy from Università degli Studi di Siena, a Master in Pharmaceutical Management from ISTUM and a Master Degree in Organic Chemistry from Università degli Studi di Firenze.
In 2018, with Gerardo Di Francesco and Caroline Valois, you founded Materia Medica Processing to introduce into the Italian market a phytocomplex, a product that works both by alleviating the symptoms of anxiety and stress and improving the mood and reducing any chronic and generalised inflammation. What led you to this decision, and how did the idea of Materia Medica Processing come about?
Giovanni: I have always been interested in the potential medicinal applications of cannabinoids. Throughout my professional career, I had the opportunity to be involved in some promising but nascent research that supported my views on the potential of medicinal cannabis in disease treatment and overall health and wellness. At the same time, I had always kept an eye on the growing American medical cannabis market and felt strongly the European market was poised for opportunity.
In 2017 I had the good fortune of meeting Gerardo, who informed me he was interested in beginning a project here in Italy, along with his friend and colleague, Caroline, who had direct experience in the US medical cannabis market as a co-owner of a medical grow in the east coast. They both saw the potential for the European and, more specifically, Italian markets.
Materia Medica Processing (MMP) currently focuses on developing a CBD-based active ingredient for the medical cannabis sector. Can you tell us more about the business model of the company? How is Materia Medica Processing different compared from other players in the market?
Giovanni: Our goal is to create the first CBD-based active pharmaceutical ingredient for the Italian market, which is a distinct concept to Italy and a unique opportunity. For MMP achieving our vision is contingent on education because medical cannabis still maintains a certain amount of stigma and unawareness of the plant’s potential. Our strategy will involve a targeted educational campaign for healthcare professionals in order to educate doctors, pharmacists, nurses and other healthcare providers on the medicinal applications and benefits of cannabinoids. These professionals will be the ones writing and filling prescriptions and advising patients. Therefore a proper education for healthcare professionals is paramount.
As far as other players in the market are concerned up until this point, due to a lot of regulatory ambiguity and the evolving legislative framework, there hasn’t been enough clarity for a robust market to emerge. The majority of players in the sector operate in a ‘grey’ area. However, new legislative initiatives are going to eliminate this market altogether. At MMP, we have long anticipated that the future of the cannabis market in Italy would be in the pharmaceutical space and have designed our strategy around that assumption, and that is proving to have been correct. As a result, MMP will be one of the first players in the Italian market.
You recently announced an investment round, with € 2.2 million subscribed by Kairos Ventures ESG One together with Merida Capital Holdings. What results have you achieved until now? Also, what are the development plans of Materia Medica Processing for the near future?
Giovanni: We just closed the round in September, and that round was intended to achieve a CBD API that we can bring to the Italian medical market. Our focus is on that goal.
Since beginning the company in 20I7, we used that time for extensive research, development, and proof of concept and are now entering this new and exciting stage – our targeted strategy and growth phase. The last few years have allowed for the opportunity to confirm and solidify our pharmaceutical market hypothesis. We are very well-positioned to enter this next stage. At the same time, we are thinking about the near future, and upon achieving our CBD API, we will pursue other cannabinoids.
What are the main challenges you experienced until now? Can you give some advice to wannabe entrepreneurs?
Giovanni: Due to the emerging nature of the European cannabis market, when we began, the regulatory framework was and is evolving. It is particularly challenging to adapt to the ever-changing landscape in such a climate. At MMP, we took a conservative approach from the beginning and stayed vigilant with all the legislative and political trends to help forecast the regulatory trajectory.
Our goal was always to bring the cannabis market to the mainstream, and for MMP, the only choice is the pharmaceutical-medical cannabis space. My advice for entrepreneurs is to remain flexible, anticipate the worst and refuse to quit.
One last question. What is your vision for the medical cannabis sector?
Giovanni: Our vision is for the medical community to realise the full medicinal value of cannabis and aim to help destigmatise and bring greater legitimacy to cannabis medicine in order for as many patients as possible to benefit from it. At the same time, we foresee the Italian medical market continuing to expand and develop a clearer regulatory framework for growth and safety.
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For more info on Materia Medica Processing, visit: https://www.materiamedicaprocessing.eu