BrainBot Tracks How Cannabis Impacts the Brain
Potbotics, a science oriented biotechnology company based out of Midtown Manhattan, is successfully implementing a wireless EEG (electroencephalography) helmet that allows the capture of brainwaves in an effort to study how different cannabis strains affect the patient. Potbotics hopes that, through the application of this technology, they can make the entire medical cannabis process more streamlined and efficient. According to their website, Potbotics wants to get rid of the “roll of the dice” when it comes to recommendations for medical cannabis treatments.
Cashinbis recently interviewed Dr. David Toomey, from Med-X, Inc., who said that physicians are being forced into taking a conservative approach to cannabis for a couple of reasons. First, federal regulation severely limits what medical professionals can and cannot say to their patients. Second, these professionals simply do not know enough to be well-versed in the space. The information that Potbotics is collecting and on target to publish in the first quarter of 2016 will provide medical professionals with a high-level recommendation tool. Doctors will be able to look at these medical strains, see their neurological impact on the brain, and make educated recommendations (or prescriptions, if and when cannabis is reclassified from Schedule 1) for treatment. On a quest to find out more about this innovation in the cannabis space, we spoke to David Goldstein, CEO of Potbotics.
Can you tell us about Potbotics as a company?
Potbotics is a software and technology company that’s focused on understanding and quantifying cannabinoid-based relief. Looking at cannabis beyond just strain names, there are over a thousand strains on the market currently. The majority of them are marketing-level branding indicators, but for medical relief that could be a very difficult landscape to maneuver, to understand what exactly is providing the therapeutic value.
BrainBot uses an FDA-approved EEG to study the neurological effects of cannabinoids on the brain.
We’ve created three products, each one of them focused on one of the main points of medical cannabis distribution. We’ve identified those as cultivation, doctor-patient recommendation, and dispensary and consumer relations, and each one of those products really leverages that original vision that I said. It’s getting behind the metrics of cannabis and specific cannabinoids and shedding some greater transparencies through quantified data.
Can you tell us about the neuroscience behind the technology and why you decided to pursue this venture?
This part of the company is called BrainBot. BrainBot uses an FDA-approved EEG to study the neurological effects of cannabinoids on the brain. While we are the first in the space to apply this technology, we didn’t invent the process of EEG analysis to show performance in therapy. We wanted to pick a device that was already out in the mainstream public eye and validated between the scientific and medical communities.
I co-founded the company with my father, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, who is a doctor in mathematics. Prior to joining Potbotics he founded a company called Memory MD. Memory MD focuses on pre-Alzheimer analysis, following up with patients with neurobehavioral and neuropsychological assessments to see how pharmaceutical drugs perform.
We wanted to pick a device that was already out in the mainstream public eye and validated between the scientific and medical communities.
This method is a very well established form of proving performance in drugs, especially drugs that deal with neurological disorders. An EEG isn’t a be-all and end-all for ailments across the map that cannabis helps work with, but it’s a great starting point.
Why? Because there are a lot of claims with cannabis and epilepsy. One of the tools that epileptic patients are already very familiar with are EEG’s, because that’s what is currently being used to help diagnose epileptic seizures. We aren’t reinventing the wheel by applying EEG. We are using this technology in a very similar way that big pharma does for showing the performance of drugs. The end goal is to improve the accuracy and specificity of the medicine being recommended to patients.
Who is your target demographic with PotBotics?
PotBotics consists of three products. Right now our focus is on PotBot, our medical marijuana recommendation engine, and BrainBot, which is geared towards general physicians and medical cannabis patients.
So you will use the EEG to test patients and determine a baseline for cannabinoid profiles? Is that how that works?
Correct. BrainBot is a great starting point because EEG technology is currently used on patients with anxiety, epilepsy, concussions and post-traumatic stress. By working within the existing quantified confines that are validated in the scientific and medical community, we can obtain a lot of quality, valid data to improve the efficacy of the medical cannabis process.
The end goal is to improve the accuracy and specificity of the medicine being recommended to patients.
One of the issues here in the United States is that running Grade A clinical research studies on cannabis is very difficult. It was only a few months ago that the NIDA outlined how to obtain cannabis for clinical trials, but it was very limited in scope as to what ailments you could study and what sort of cannabis you were permitted to use in your research.
For that reason, BrainBot’s real vision is to give general physicians and current cannabis-recommending doctors the tools that they need to get this type of analysis, while at the same time conducting numerous cannabis studies all over the world.
How about you, personally, what’s your history before you started PotBotics?
My background is Integrated Marketing. After college, I started a company that focused on crowdfunding and worked with a number of high quality startups. I mainly worked on the production side, helping to increase online brand equity and raise capital through crowdfunding platforms. That was a really exciting part of my life and I definitely learned a lot about what it takes to successfully work in the startup scene, especially from a capital-raising and marketing standpoint.
I really became passionate about medical cannabis around 2011. I had a family member that was diagnosed with cancer. She was on an opioid-based pain reliever and living a very low quality of life. She was bedridden. I’m a first-generation American coming from the Soviet Union. In my family, cannabis was basically the same as heroin. So I set out to research alternative medical options, and what I found was that the science and recommendation system in America was extremely inefficient and behind the rest of the world. Other countries, including Israel, are far in front of America in both research and application. We need to bridge that gap so that patients with cancer, or other terrible diseases, can know all the options.
How Potbotics Works
What do you think about Israel selling medical cannabis through their pharmacy system?
I think that brings up a larger issue. Potbotics, as a whole, is 110% medical cannabis-facing. We don’t have recreational attributes to our platform and I think that’s a great thing.
Why? Because, if you look at the people that are against cannabis, many of them say the same thing. I tell them what PotBotics does and they’re like, “That’s great and all, but you don’t actually believe it, do you?” And I say, “well, what do you mean?” They say, “Well, there’s no such thing as a medical cannabis patient. Everyone is just using that as an excuse right now to get weed.”
That is a very disturbing thing to hear people say. When you speak with MS patients that are able to gain mobility and greatly improve their quality of life, epilepsy patients with reduced seizures, you clearly see this is not the case.
By working within the existing quantified confines that are validated in the scientific and medical community, we can obtain a lot of quality, valid data to improve the efficacy of the medical cannabis process.
Presenting medical cannabis in a pharmacy setting is the right step for these medical cannabis patients because, as the recreational movement is gaining momentum in places like Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, medical patients are being left in the dust because A, their decision process is very different and B, their needs are different.
When you put medical cannabis in a pharmacy and you change some of these more recreational-facing cannabis names, then you have a shot at a physician recommending cannabis more comfortably or an insurance company covering it as medicine.
Could you talk about the white paper that you host on your site? What does that content do for your business?
That was a paper that was absolutely focused on those who don’t necessarily believe in medical cannabis. It is an aggregation of existing, double-blind studies that have been done around the world. We did a curation of what studies have been done and are sharing them because they represent the efficacy of the medicinal side of cannabis.
It’s frustrating, on one hand, because the federal government has a patent on the neuro-protecting qualities of cannabis.
It’s a little bit of a broad paper in the sense that it isn’t focused on a specific ailment. Rather, it is meant to engage further medical conversation that, at times, I find is missing when talking about cannabis.
Let’s talk about the information that you guys are collecting at PotBotics. Will you be publishing it?
We haven’t published our data yet. We’re looking towards the beginning of next year, quarter one, to release our EEG white paper. This paper will highlight our research as it pertains to indicators on the EEG, different biomarkers that we are looking for and the signs of relief associated from the application of medical cannabis on the EEG spectrum.
We’re excited because we are basically building a scope of a clinical study that we can take to more progressive countries like Canada or Israel. There we can have a federal government overlooking the studies so that we can gain the credibility that is so desperately needed.
Out of the last 200 prescription drugs that have passed, 33% have passed with only a single clinical trial. Compare that to the hundreds of studies that have been conducted on cannabis. How does that make you feel, given that you have seen the medical value first hand?
It’s frustrating, on one hand, because the federal government has a patent on the neuroprotecting qualities of cannabis. Studies from the 1970’s have already showed the promising effects of cannabis. This isn’t new information.
We’ve really derailed medical advancements in this country due to private interests and the war on drugs.
We’ve really derailed medical advancements in this country due to private interests and the war on drugs. The simple fact that cannabis is even classified as a Schedule 1 substance is something I would dispute wholeheartedly.
Government funded studies have proven the medical benefits, yet that same government classifies it in a category reserved for only those substances with no medical qualities. Seeing FDA drugs get approved to market from one clinical trial is frustrating. However, as long as cannabis remains under Schedule 1, everyone’s hands are pretty much tied, even the FDA.
How do you think the evolution of technology inside of the cannabis space is impacting how the industry is being perceived as a whole?
The role of technology in medical cannabis is going to be huge, not only from a legislative standpoint for tracking seed to sale, but from a patient-doctor relations standpoint. Through technological applications we can help show the medical effect of these treatments and accurately follow up with their development. We can use these machines to track just how patients react to certain treatments and how those treatments can be altered to maximize health results.
The role of technology in medical cannabis is going to be huge, not only from a legislative standpoint for tracking seed to sale, but from a patient-doctor relations standpoint.
I think down the line you’ll be seeing clearly marked and dosed packaging in the medical cannabis space, most likely inhalers or even pills, that are made for specific ailments and validated for those relief claims. It needs to happen that way because the current market just doesn’t work from a medical perspective.
What’s on the horizon for you guys at PotBotics?
We’re launching PotBot by the end of September. PotBot is our medical recommendation engine. It isn’t the same as BrainBot in the sense that we run an actual neurological test, but it a great starting point for baby boomers, newcomers to cannabis and existing medical cannabis patients. They can become more educated on different forms of consumption, different strains, cannabinoids behind them and the studies done on those cannabinoids.
Five years from now, I think that PotBotics will definitely be leading the conversation of how we look at medical cannabis. We hope to be one of the major, not only data providers, but also service providers to the industry. We’re really looking at what the medical benefits of cannabis are and how we can present that in a very quantifiable format. So, it’s getting back down to metrics and transparency.
How do you think legitimate technological applications will impact how the general public views the medical cannabis industry? Join the conversation and comment below!