The legalization of medical marijuana in several states in the US is certainly a victory for many patients who rely on cannabis for pain relief and treatment. However, the fact remains that physicians who recommend marijuana are still uncertain about a lot of things – the proper dose, the diseases that it allegedly cures, the drug interactions. It’s no surprise because research about the medicinal effects of cannabis is still severely limited.
It is precisely this reason why Bay Area startup PotBotics is aiming to put science into the equation. “Right now, doctors give a general cannabis recommendation. It’s just a card that says, ‘Cannabis may be beneficial to you.’ There is no follow-up, no background check into your medical history, there is no real education process. It leads people to abusing the system,” said David Goldstein, co-founder of PotBotics.
In order to help in the treatment of medical marijuana patients, PotBotics has created a trio of revolutionary products: PotBot, NanoPot, and BrainBot
At present, there are more than 750 cannabis strains on the market, making it difficult for doctors to come up with an apt recommendation. PotBot is PotBotics’ answer to that problem.
The PotBot app a cannabis-recommendation engine launched last September that recommends strains and strengths based on a patient’s ailment, cannabis use history, and relative cannabinoid levels that the strain contains. It comes in two forms: as an app and as an in-store kiosk for dispensaries.
“We ask some very basic information at first: What state are you in, what is your previous cannabis experience, what is your age, weight, gender? And then, the very next question we ask is what is the ailment you’re looking to learn more about, and what are the symptoms of that ailment you’re looking to relieve?” Goldstein explained.
After answering the questions, the app will then display a number of different recommended strains to choose from, varying in cannabinoid levels. It will also show which nearby dispensaries have the necessary strains.
For dispensaries, a PotBot kiosk would be beneficial since it would reflect the dispensary’s inventory.
The second product is NanoPot, this time targeted towards marijuana growers. This ambitious product scans the DNA of marijuana seeds so that growers can optimize the cultivation of their plants for desired levels of THC, CBD, and other active ingredients.
“We look at the genetics and specific enzyme matrices of seeds to better understand their growth patterns. What that leads us to better understand down the line is how to start optimizing for the specific cannabinoid, how to better replicate good material grows,” Goldstein said. “If we’re going to start recommending strain names and cannabinoid levels, it’s important to know how to replicate those levels.”
NanoPot is expected to be launched by late 2016.
Perhaps the most ambitious of the three is the BrainBot encephalography (EEG) device, which allows doctors to measure patients’ brain activities and neurological reactions to different kinds of cannabis in order to accurately prescribe a particular strain. It serves as the back end of the PotBot recommendation system.
Goldstein worked with Israel’s Hebrew University to gather data from large-scale clinical studies since the country is considered to be the world leader in medical marijuana. He also teamed up with his father, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, to use EEG testing on patients with Alzheimer’s symptoms in order to determine the effectiveness of different drugs on various patients. Data goes into a cloud-based PotBotics program, where expert analyze the results.
“The EEG we use only takes 15 minutes to apply, and within 20 to 30 minutes of training anyone could apply it, whether it be a nurse or a doctor,” the younger Goldstein said. “It gets quality checked in-state by a neurologist to make sure the actual EEG reading was performed correctly and then after that we give a feedback about what those cannabinoid levels said about that patient.”
In spite of the potential of PotBotics’ products to take the use of medical marijuana up a notch, many remain skeptical.
“They go into this thing about the different types of brainwaves. I don’t even know what the hell they’re talking about with ‘alpha spikes,'” said Dr. Kimford Meador, professor of neurology and neurological sciences and director of the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit at Stanford University. “I don’t think the science of that is very good. So in all, I’m not very impressed with what they’re trying to do.”
Dr. Daniel Friedman, assistant professor of neurology at NYU Langone Medical Center’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, shares the same sentiments. “We certainly don’t have any solid proof that this treatment is effective and safe. And that is exactly why we need placebo-controlled studies to see if this treatment is actually viable,” he said.
With many things still to discover about medical marijuana, everyone has every right to harbor a healthy dose of skepticism. However, it is through attempts like these that make for better understanding of cannabis’ active ingredients, regardless of whether it ends up successful or otherwise.
What other medical marijuana startups are you excited about? Voice your opinions in the comments section below – your opinion matters to the nation.