Exciting changes are underway, as last week we obtained shareholder approval that marks a shift for us into drug development. This means our company name has now officially changed from Stevia First Corp. to Vitality Biopharma, and our ticker symbol will temporarily change to “STVFD” for a period of 20 days until it is updated to “VBIO.” Company shareholders approved these actions at a recent shareholder meeting, with a resounding 97% of those who voted supporting them.
After spending more than a decade investing in and operating biotech companies, one thing that still surprises me is how an individual catalyst or event can be interpreted a half-dozen ways by various parties. Of course, especially from the outside looking in, it’s difficult to tell exactly what is going on at any company. With that in mind, as we retool and begin focusing primarily on drug development, I want to highlight some background, especially the hard work and preparation that led to our recent findings.
First of all, as an early-stage company with a team experienced in the life sciences, we’ve always sought to apply the most advanced bioprocessing tools available in our work, which until recently was focused primarily on producing significantly better tasting versions of stevia, a plant-derived sweetener. While these tools are clearly useful for modifying stevia, our recent findings make it apparent that they have implications far beyond the food and ingredient industry, including for the production of new classes of pharmaceuticals.
Part of what makes discoveries patentable is how surprising or “non-obvious” they are, and our findings are clearly an example of this. It’s safe to say that very few if any scientists could have predicted that testing cannabinoids within our stevia bioprocessing platform would produce positive results. But we built the lab, bought the equipment, and ran the experiment… and it worked. As a result, we have discovered a very novel class of cannabinoid pharmaceuticals, and we did it using a manufacturing system that is very well characterized, as we’ve been fine-tuning it for years. This last point is one of the very unique aspects our recent discovery – it enables us to leverage the same production methods and GMP-compliant facilities we have already built and have been using regularly, and reap the benefits of the growing pains we went through in the process. This means that not only do we have a lucrative and proprietary cannabinoid pharmaceutical asset, but we have a significant head start on drug manufacturing – one of the most overlooked aspects of early-stage drug development.
Beyond that, and more than ever, our Company is today operating from a position of strength. In recent months our proprietary biosynthesis methods have enabled the production of an entirely new class of cannabinoid pharmaceuticals, known as cannabosides. This finding has enabled us to already file for the strongest type of intellectual property protection, composition of matter claims, and leaves us poised to have 20 years of patent life to explore the full therapeutic and commercial potential of these compounds. The recent strong support from our shareholders for this new focus appears indicative of this, and in any case is very welcome and enables us to move forward without hesitation.
Cannabinoids are amazing drugs all by themselves, as recent clinical data attests, and which the medical community is starting to accept, so a big part of our job at Vitality will be to let them shine, helping everyone recognize what benefits they can provide. We’ll showcase the well-established therapeutic properties of cannabinoids, explore exciting new applications, and ultimately work to deliver all these benefits through a convenient and safe oral drug formulation.
Because our cannabosides can enable targeted delivery, including to the gastrointestinal tract, one clear advantage they could provide is targeted relief of inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. This includes diseases where cannabinoids have already been proven useful in clinical trials, so the path towards providing these same benefits in a convenient and safe oral drug formulation is a well-defined and realistic one.
Professionally and personally, it’s obviously important to pay attention and choose wisely at major turning points. So it surprises me when little thought is put into them, or when they are misinterpreted (even choosing which way to turn at traffic intersections seems a decision too often overlooked and misunderstood). Commercial opportunities are far more complex, and can come and go quickly, so you have to act fast. But they demand careful consideration, and Vitality’s new path is a product of that principle.
With a team committed to success, and unique assets within a promising new industry, we’re confident we’re making the right turn. I look forward to sharing additional updates about our company and drug development programs in the very near future.
Robert Brooke, CEO
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This document contains “forward-looking statements” as that term is defined in Section 27(a) of the United States Securities Act of 1933, as amended and Section 21(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Statements in this document which are not purely historical are forward-looking statements and include any statements regarding beliefs, plans, expectations or intentions regarding the future. Such factors include, among others, the inherent uncertainties associated with new projects and development stage companies. These forward-looking statements are made as of the online publication date of this document, and we assume no obligation to update the forward-looking statements, or to update the reasons why actual results could differ from those projected in the forward-looking statements. Although we believe that any beliefs, plans, expectations and intentions contained in this document are reasonable, there can be no assurance that any such beliefs, plans, expectations or intentions will prove to be accurate. Investors should consult all of the information set forth herein and should also refer to the risk factors disclosure outlined in our annual report on Form 10-K for the most recent fiscal year, our quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and other periodic reports filed from time-to-time with the Securities and Exchange Commission.