VERITAS PHARMA INC COM NPV (OTCMKTS:VRTHF) is poised to grow exponentially in a nascent space – here’s why.
The medical marijuana industry is changing. As things stand, the vast majority of medical grade cannabis is dispensed through certified dispensaries, in states where cannabis is legalized for healthcare related use. Patients purchase the marijuana in whatever form they require, and self administer, usually in a home based environment. A number of companies are working to alter the current situation, however. Specifically, they are looking to develop medical grade marijuana based treatments for a variety of health conditions, and pick up regulatory approval that will see these treatments administered by physicians as (in many cases) standard of care therapies. One company that looks poised to take advantage of this trend is VERITAS PHARMA INC COM NPV (OTCMKTS:VRTHF).
Veritas Pharma is a Canada based development stage biotech with a focus on identifying and developing strains of cannabis that can be applied to some of most important unmet needs in healthcare. Here is a look at the company, and an attempt to explain why it is drawing increased investor attention in the development stage small-cap healthcare space.
First up, let’s look at its business model. The company operates what’s called a virtual research and development program. This is the first of its kind in the medical marijuana space, and as we will discuss, has a number of benefits over the more traditional in-house research and development operations. Virtual research can be thought of as a partial outsourcing of the investigative side of development stage healthcare.
It works as follows.
Veritas is partnered with a company called Cannevert, which it has gradually acquired more and more of since December 2015. The former has agreed to invest $1.5 million in the latter during the 18 months subsequent to December 18, 2015, in $250,000 quarterly installments. At the end of the 18 months, Veritas will own 80% of Cannevert. Veritas will then acquire the remaining 20% for an as yet undecided sum; a sum that will be determined by way of an independent review when the time comes.
Concurrently, Veritas has also partnered with a company called Whistler Medical Marijuana Corporation. Whistler Medical Marijuana is a licensed Canadian cannabis producer and distributor, the primary operations of which involve mail order fulfillment of medical marijuana prescriptions for patients in Canada. In its space, the company is well known (and highly regarded) for its organic grade medicinal cannabis.
These two companies form two separate elements of Veritas’ virtual research platform, with the latter positioned centrally between the two. Specifically, Veritas purchases and receives a number of specific cultivars of cannabis from Whistler (currently this number is two per week, but this is set to increase across the coming quarters). It then sends the cultivars to Cannevert for testing. Veritas and Cannevert have worked together for the last 12 months to develop standard testing protocols, by way of which the latter can investigate the strains of cannabis that Whistler produces and distributes. The purpose of this investigation (and the pre-defined investigative assays) is to determine the potential applications of a particular cultivar in a specific healthcare indication.
In short, Veritas buys the cannabis from Whistler, sends it to Cannevert, and Cannevert tests it to figure out whether it can be used to treat a particular healthcare issue.
This model has a number of benefits over more traditional research and development operations, with the primary advantage being cost reduction. Veritas doesn’t need to employ full-time research and development staff, and doesn’t need to rent or purchase large testing facility real estate, to identify potential clinical candidates. The preclinical side of development stage healthcare can be a huge drain on capital resources, and is often one of the most important risk factors investors face when considering an allocation in this space. Why? Because traditionally, when not using the virtual research platform Veritas is using, companies will spend large amounts of money attempting to identify clinical candidates, without any guarantee that these candidates will make it through to even early-stage clinical testing. Veritas, of course, still has no guarantee that it’s preclinical cultivars will make it through to a clinical stage setting, but the capital outlay is vastly reduced by way of its virtual operations, and so, in turn, is the risk.
So that’s how the company works, where is it in terms of progress, and what near term milestones are we looking at as potential upside catalysts going forward? At the beginning of last month, Cannevert picked up approval from Health Canada that means it can legally conduct research on the cannabis strains Veritas purchases from Whistler. This was a major step forward for Veritas, but as things stand, markets are yet to recognize the implications of this development – that is, from a market capitalization perspective. Of course, this offers up an opportunity to get in ahead of the wider market.
If the approval didn’t capitalize some upside in the stock, what will?
The first major milestone we will be looking for is the identification of a cultivar of cannabis that shows promise in a particular indication. We know that Veritas is targeting a host of high profile and unmet needs, including cancer pain, general pain management and certain neurological disorders. If the company can announce the targeting of any of these indications with a particular strain of cannabis, we will likely see some instant upside in its market capitalization. Beyond this, the moving of the strain in question into early-stage clinical development is set to inject some further upside momentum into Veritas.
So, to summarize, we have a young company poised to take advantage of the rapid growth of the medical marijuana space. Not only this, but it’s research structure greatly reduces the risk associated with investment at this early stage. There remain certain risks, primarily revolving around operational finance between now and the time at which the company can raise capital based on the prospect of one of its identified cultivars. The upside on offer, however, renders this risk bearable, and paints Veritas as a potentially rewarding allocation going forward.
DISCLAIMER: There is a substantial risk of loss with any speculative asset, especially small cap stocks. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not constitute recommendations to buy or sell a stock. Do your own research before committing capital.