The first to enlist
An interview with Alvaro Torres, CEO Khiron LifeSciences. In May, Khiron Life Sciences became the first First Canadian Cannabis Company with Core Operations in Colombia to List on Any global Exchange
CCI: In a nascent industry, how did Khiron formulate its growth strategy?
AT: When I first read about Colombia’s cannabis potential it occurred to me that the country is really good at making commoditized products - such as coffee, bananas and oil - but we don’t make added-value products. My partner Andrés Galofre used to be the general manager for Advil, and had experience creating added value for a commoditized product. Cannabis is just like ibuprofen: anybody can produce it. How do you differentiate yourself? For us, it was about brand creation in an industry in which you have to educate doctors and patients. Every month we host conferences to educate doctors on cannabis products. Today, when people think about medicinal cannabis in Colombia, they think about Khiron. That’s exactly what we set out to achieve.
CCI: What has been the response from doctors and what is the scale of opportunity in the Colombian market?
AT: A couple of years ago, maybe one in five doctors would have been open to prescribing cannabis products. However, this is not because they weren’t open to the idea, they just had lots of questions about dosages and associated risks. We have hosted 3 conferences, and reached out to 2000 doctors so far. We subsequently interviewed 200 Colombian doctors and nearly four out of five said they could prescribe medicinal marijuana. They understand the risks of opiate addiction. In comparison, and to our knowledge, no one has ever died of a cannabis overdose. The conferences have been a huge success, and medical associations have started to talk about cannabis. Colombia has a population of nearly 50 million people and there are around 5.6 million patients who can benefit from medical cannabis. We can have open conversations with doctors and patients, create loyalty and build lasting patient relationships, which to us are essential.
CCI: What influenced the decision to list on Khiron on the Toronto Venture Exchange?
AT: Unfortunately, venture capital in Colombia is many years behind. It’s an ongoing effort, you can’t just ask for 2 million USD, you need more capital constantly to be ahead of the curve. We decided to go to Canada, where I had some experience in my previous position with SNC Lavalin. In May, we became the first non-resource based Colombian company to list on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX). I spent the last 18
The firm maintains a strong focus on brand-building, the Colombian domestic market and aggressive regional expansion with the goal of reaching a million patients in the coming five years.
months traveling around Canada promoting Colombia and informing them that it isn’t the country they see in Narcos. It’s clear there is a huge opportunity. The domestic Canadian cannabis market is oversaturated and they’re looking internationally, some of them to Uruguay but predominantly to Colombia. I think we’ll see more Colombian companies listing on the TSX. CCI: What plans does the firm have for the coming five years? AT: It’s everything at once. We can’t afford to lose focus on any aspect of the industry. We’re now working on getting our quotas from the government so we know how much THC we can grow. We’re also working on our facilities, developing our lab and having our own product on the market by the end of this year. Unfortunately, you can’t go one step at a time, so we’re already planning our move.