Australia's top 20 cannabis companies

Australia's top 20 cannabis companies

Investing in the medicinal cannabis industry is not for the faint-hearted. As 2020 has shown, it is always accompanied by volatility.

With the industry still in its infancy, setbacks are inevitable - and this past year was no exception for many companies on the Top 20 Cannabis Companies list.

In many ways it was a year of consolidation, driven by a more favourable regulatory environment in Australia and in emerging international markets, creating more opportunities for growth with a renewed focus.

The biggest step forward for Australia's medicinal cannabis developers was the Therapeutic Goods Administration's (TGA) ruling in December to approve over-the-counter sales of low-dose CBD products, those defined as a maximum dose of 150mg a day for adults.

It opened the way for prescription-free sales of many products from a pharmacist, giving investors reason to believe their investment would begin paying big dividends; if not literally, at least figuratively. 

Of course, companies still need to gain approval for their specific formulations of CBD to take advantage of the relaxed regulatory environment, although it has driven a new urgency among new and established players to bring their products to the market.

Companies are stepping up their research into areas of unmet needs in treating disorders ranging from sleep apnoea and anxiety to chronic pain and multiple sclerosis.

The development of custom cannabinoids to treat targeted conditions, or finding new methods of CBD treatment delivery, drives the business profile of many companies in this list. Others are taking advantage of global demand for the industry's essential raw materials and are expanding their cultivation base.     

Consolidation of the industry is reflected in the combined value of companies that appear in this year's Cannabis Top 20 which has risen to more than $1.7 billion.

That compares with $1.58 billion last year, a result that was skewed by the $788 million valuation of top company Ecofibre (ASX: EOF). The pullback of Ecofibre's shares from previous highs reflects significant valuation increases for others on this year's list.

Five companies are now valued at more than $100 million, up from just two last year, recognising great strides in revenue growth, product development and business expansion in the sector.

Once a fringe-dweller in the investment community, it's an industry that is gaining attention from the big end of town. The medicinal cannabis industry this year received a shot in the arm when Australia's richest person Gina Rinehart took a 10 per cent stake in Little Green Pharma (ASX: LGP).

It was Rinehart's first ever investment in the sector and it not only shone a spotlight on one of this year's biggest market gainers, but the industry as a whole.

The growth story is compelling for investors with a report by Fresh Leaf Analytics forecasting revenue from the medicinal cannabis sector to more than double to $200 million in 2021 compared to last year.

The report estimates patient numbers for medicinal cannabis have grown by a factor of 15 times over the past two years, driven by a "significant increase in authorised prescribers after a long period of stagnation".

However, the report also warns of "intense product competition" as new products flood the market and maintain downward pressure on price. The focus for many industry players these days has been on low-cost product delivery to secure a market advantage.

It may be a competitive environment but it's also collaborative with many companies working together to leverage off each other's specialist skills to fast-track development of products.

Competition also fires up merger and acquisition activity, with the year's biggest deal recently announced by Cannabis Top 20 debutant Creso Pharma (ASX: CPH) and Canada's Red Light Holland (CSX: TRIP).

The $371 million merger will create a global psychedelics and cannabis company called The HighBrid Lab. If it proceeds, it will be a short-lived return for Creso in this list.

Another merger took place in March this year with the $17.5 million takeover of canine medicinal cannabis developer CannPal Animal Therapeutics by AusCann Group (ASX: AC8). The merger saw CannPal founder and former Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Layton Mills, appointed CEO of AusCann.

While the union led to CannPal's departure from this year's Cannabis Top 20, there were three more exits from the list with MMJ Phytotech (ASX: MMJ), Eve Investments (ASX: EVE) and THC Global pushed out by new entrants.

MMJ, an investor in listed cannabis companies, has seen its market value plummet since December, at a time when the industry was buoyed by the TGA's decision to ease over-the-counter sales.

Eve Investments, which is developing CBD-infused honey products, has progressed sales into export markets, although its share price hasn't followed suit.

THC Global was renamed Epsilon Healthcare (ASX: EPN) to better reflect its broader interests in the healthcare and pharmaceutical market. The falling market value of the company has seen it fall off the list this year.

Along with Creso, newcomers to this year's Cannabis Top 20 include ECS Botanics (ASX: ECS), Neurotech International (ASX: NTI) and Emyria (ASX: EMD), which changed its name from Emerald Clinics shortly after listing early last year.

Among the newcomers, ECS Botanics perhaps exemplifies the confidence in the medicinal cannabis sector with a bold expansion plan that has put it on track to become the largest ASX-listed producer of medicinal cannabis.

ECS is another company that has grown through acquisition this past year after buying Victoria-based Murray Meds and laying plans for a massive expansion of its Tasmanian agricultural assets.

This is perhaps a precursor of what the industry can expect in the next few years as existing players see synergies in mergers and acquisitions in an increasingly competitive market.

To be sure, the market for medicinal cannabis is on the rise globally with more jurisdictions opening up for Australia's manufacturers producers.

The growth has put pressures on the global supply of cannabis flowers, and some, like ECS Botanics, have responded accordingly, and in the process has seen them emerge as potential game changers for the industry.

After a tough 2019 and the disruptions caused by 2020, there is some cause for optimism in the Australian medicinal cannabis market and that's reflected in the success stories in this year's Cannabis Top 20.

While there is never any certainty of success, the one constant in an industry still trying to find its feet is volatility and no one can deny this will prevail for some time yet.


Australia's top 20 cannabis companies 2020

Australia's top 20 cannabis companies 2019

Australia's top 20 cannabis companies 2018


1. Ecofibre (EOF)

Ecofibre

Head office: Sydney
Official Listing date: 29 March 2019
2020 position: 1
Market Capitalisation: $
273m

Ecofibre (ASX: EOF) may be Australia's top listed cannabis company, but it hasn't exactly been on a high after North American oversupply exerted downward pressure on prices while US civil unrest exacerbated the impacts of lockdowns on sales.

The company's market valuation is now a far cry from the $1 billion reached after its 2019 initial public offering (IPO), but such are the vicissitudes of share trading in a speculative industry like cannabis.

Ecofibre's sales and profitability have failed to meet the lofty expectations held by many back then, however its development of new market channels, key customer acquisitions, manufacturing capacity and ground-breaking innovation are considerably more advanced than they were two years ago.

The company is busy executing the patient vision of rich lister and company chairman Barry Lambert, who had previously built his fortune on Count Financial, Australia's largest network of accounting advisory firms.

Lambert may not have ever entered the industry were it not for the discovery that medicinal cannabis could help stop his granddaughter's seizures.

While the nutraceutical benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) products are gaining traction among consumers, Ecofibre is more than just a CBD oil producer - and that offers up some unique opportunities and challenges for the company.

Ecofibre has experienced an eventful 12 months, whether it be through its Ananda Professional brand of CBD-derived health and wellness products servicing US independent pharmacies, its hemp textiles division Hemp Black, or the Ananda Food business that sells flour, seed, protein and oil manufactured from Tasmanian-grown hemp.

After a new state-of-the-art facility was built in Kentucky last June to bolster capacity for Ananda Health and Hemp Black - the latter having risen to the challenge of producing face masks with CBD-infused yarn - Ecofibre soon acquired the assets of a key manufacturing partner in North Carolina for $59 million.

This bold investment was made even as US civil unrest was negatively impacting sales in Ecofibre's largest market, along with industry shifts and COVID-related challenges that led Lambert to note at the November AGM that revenues had been "disappointing".

There may have been green shoots at the time such as a record hemp seed crop in Tasmania for Ananda Food, but that business only makes up for 8 per cent of revenue, whereas half comes from the US-focused CBD oil-based business.

At the time Lambert said the best Ecofibre could hope for in FY21 would be a breakeven profit result, but as market conditions deteriorated, the expected loss for the financial year just past deepened to $7 million.

Conditions have improved, and by June 2021 Ananda Professional sales were back at monthly rates of above $900,000.

"We continue to see steady improvement in trading conditions for our independent pharmacy partners, and are pleased to begin engaging a broader range of our pharmacies as their focus on COVID-related servicing reduces," CEO Eric Wang said this month.

"We have experienced a good uptake in our new products that were launched in 3Q21.

"These newly launched products accounted for circa 20 per cent of 4Q21 independent pharmacy sales and represent a strong opportunity as awareness of our new Chewable products, Women's Health and Diabetic foot care range increases."

Meanwhile, the Ananda Food division has been looking to capitalise on the legalisation of hemp food in Australia in 2017.

The company operates a processing plant for hemp food products in the Hunter Valley and last year secured a deal with The Alternative Meat Co to introduce hemp protein powder to foods the company distributes to supermarkets.

These hemp-based foods products are sold at Woolworths (ASX: WOW) here in Australia under the chain's Macro brand, as well as in select IGA stores and more recently to Coles (ASX: COL) supplier Soul Seeds.

Hemp Black has shown promise as well, backed by a suite of technologies offering applications as varied as water-based ink and vegan leather. From revenue of just $2.4 million in the year that it launched in FY20, its revenue grew to almost $6 million in the six months to December 2020.

Earlier this year, Ecofibre also struck a deal with Sydney-based pharmaceutical compounding company MEDISCA to distribute Ananda Health's CBD products in Australia, Canada and the US.

"This partnership is one of the most important milestones in the professionalisation of the CBD industry. This is the first time a multinational distributor will be carrying ingestible hemp-derived CBD products," Ananda Health CEO David Neu said at the time.


2. Incannex Healthcare (IHL)

Incannex chief medical officer Dr Sud Agarwal.

Head office: Melbourne
Listed: 21 November 2016
2020 position: 8
Market Cap: $
256m

After four years in the doldrums of sluggish business performance and an identity crisis that saw the backdoor-listed Impression Healthcare change its name and products completely, Incannex is one of the Australian medicinal cannabis industry's great success stories of 2021 to date.

FY21 was in fact the first year the group shook off the shackles of its former business model by ditching the sports mouthguards its 2016 listing was based on, completing a pivot to cannabis that was two years in the making.

Incannex's hybrid business model involves both extensive research to prove the benefits of its CBD formulations for various ailments, as well as sales of different cannabinoid-based oils that are sold for export and under the Special Access Scheme here in Australia.

From a very low base in the previous financial year, the group finally brought in some revenue of note reaching $1.3 million in the December half, although Incannex was still in the red due to millions spent on research & development.

This is really where the company's potential lies, with numerous US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) studies underway to investigate how CBD impacts such ailments as lung inflammation, irritable bowel disease (IBD), rheumatoid arthritis, and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) - the latter widely known as a life-threatening condition faced by the most seriously ill of COVID-19 patients.

In Australia the company is also working with The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne and the University of Western Australia Centre for Sleep Science to test how its formulations could be used to treat sleep apnoea, and with Monash University for an in vivo study investigating the protective effect of CBD on sports concussions.

The concussion study harnesses a model for traumatic brain injury that was developed in collaboration with the US National Football League (NFL).

"We're pleased with our sales and economic return to date but we also realise that the sale of cannabis oils for all market participants is an increasingly competitive space with no IP protection," CEO and managing director Dr Joel Latham told shareholders earlier this year.

"Therefore, it's our proprietary, researched pharmaceutical products that will remain our focus with the potential to create substantial, long-term value for our company.

"I am certain that Incannex has the correct research programs underway, pertaining to unmet medical conditions with multi-billion-dollar addressable markets."

Incannex was able to make the switch to medicinal cannabis research in 2019 with the help of Switzerland-based Linnea SA as its supplier and the expertise of its chief medical officer Dr Sud Agarwal - the former medical director of Cann Group (ASX: CAN) and the CEO and MD of Cannvalate, one of Australia's leading networks of medicinal cannabis prescribing doctors.

The Melbourne-based company's market capitalisation has risen almost six-fold since last year's Cannabis Top 20 list as investors were encouraged by a raft of good news, unperturbed by the heavy losses that come with intensive R&D and a dilution of capital from more than $11 million in options exercised to raise capital.

It was shortly after those options were exercised in September that Incannex secured ethics approval for its sleep apnoea study, and Incannex's shares have gone up ever since, especially in February 2021 when an anti-inflammation trial for a formulation combining CBD and hydroxychloroquine produced positive results.

Optimism was then boosted further that some month Incannex revealed more of its global ambitions by enlisting EAS Advisors LLC in the US to put the wheels in motion for a potential Nasdaq or NYSE listing. 

Being the flexible company that it is to forage for new market opportunities, in November last year Incannex took the plunge into the world of magic mushrooms, incorporating Psychennex Pty Ltd for the purpose of psychedelic medicine activities. This followed on from the appointment of novel psychiatric agents researcher Dr Paul Liknaitzky PhD two months earlier.

Incannex's research into psychedelics, specifically magic mushrooms, is considered to be a world-first clinical trial to determine the efficacy of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in the treatment of anxiety disorder.

Undertaken in partnership with Monash University, the two-year clinical trials aim to prove the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin, the key ingredient of magic mushrooms.

Incannex is hoping to establish that its psilocybin candidate, produced via synthetic magic mushrooms, can be applied to treat a wide range of disorders including depression and anxiety, as well as addictive conditions related to smoking and drinking.

The Incannex research program in partnership with Monash University highlights a resurgence in the exploration of psychedelics for the treatment of various medical conditions.

Psychedelics have spent the better part of 70 years in the wilderness as alternative treatments. In the post-war world, they were hailed as heralding a new era of managing mental health issues, although the widespread recreational use of these substances in the 1960s tarnished that image.


3. Creso Pharma (CPH)

Head office: Perth
Listed: 20 October 2016
2020 position: n/a

Market Cap: $154m

Creso Pharma has returned to the Top 20 Cannabis Companies list with gusto after falling off last year following an abandoned $122 million takeover deal.

But Creso's triumphant return could be short lived if a planned merger to create a global psychedelics and cannabis company is successful.

The proposed merger with Canada's Red Light Holland (CSX: TRIP) would create The HighBrid Lab, a Canadian Securities Exchange-listed entity with a value of $371 million - nearly double the value of Creso currently.

For Creso, the merger deal cements its transition into being not just a cannabis company but a psychedelics player too, following its acquisition of Nova Scotia-based life sciences company Halucenex for more than $7 million.

Ultimately, these parallel plays build on Creso's expertise with cannabis, and see the company grab a foothold in the growing global medical market for psychedelics like LSD, psilocybin and MDMA, estimated to be worth up to US$100 billion.

For the time being though Creso, which is currently dual listed on the US OTC market, is still focused mainly on cannabis, developing products for therapeutic, nutraceuticals, animal health and cosmetic uses, with a particular focus on its CannQIX line of branded goods.

It was recent legislative changes in the US that helped put CPH back into the Top 20 Cannabis Companies list.

Back in December last year a string of major announcements propelled the company's share price into the stratosphere, tripling in the space of just nine days to hit a year-to-date peak of 20 cents per share.

Specifically, shareholders rallied on three pieces of major news: that the UN reclassified cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, the US House of Representatives passed a bill to decriminalise cannabis at a national level, and CPH itself announcing it was entering the Canadian recreational cannabis market.

These favourable legislative changes continued, encouraging CPH to appoint a director of US business development to capture opportunities in that growing market.

Leading cannabis executive John Griese took up the new role in April following legalisation of recreational cannabis in New York State. While in the position he will focus on NY and Vermont to outline a strategy for Creso to begin delivering products into the US.

Griese isn't the company's only recent appointment though; the cannabis company appointed industry pioneer and founder of Canopy Growth Corporation (TSE: WEED) Bruce Linton to the role of strategic advisor.

The appointment of Linton came after Creso raised $9 million, with funds going towards the repayment of debt and development of the company's business units in Canada and Switzerland.

The company's global ambition doesn't end at North America - it also recently signed deals to push into Pakistan, Africa, Switzerland and Uruguay.

With all of this momentum behind the company Creso received commitments in March to raise $18 million through the issue of new shares, with funds going toward the acquisition of Halucanex and to advance sales of nutraceuticals products globally.

These fast and furious moves appear to be paying off for the cannabis company too, with Creso announcing in July that revenue during Q2 was up 451 per cent up on the previous year.


4. Little Green Pharma (LGP)

Little Green Pharma founder and CEO Fleta Solomon.

Head office: Perth
Listed: 20 February 2020
2020 position: 7
Market Cap: $145m

Little Green Pharma lays claim to several firsts in the cannabis industry, the biggest being a $15 million investment from Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting which marked Australia's richest person's debut investment in the emerging sector.

The deal gives Rinehart a little over 10 per cent of Little Green Pharma, with the funds to be used to acquire a medical cannabis facility in Denmark.

It also has given a bounce to the company's shares, pushing them to record highs.

Another first for Little Green Pharma was the company's maiden FY21 half-year profit - modest as it was - which was the culmination of a fairly conventional medicinal cannabis strategy.

Applying a vertically integrated model of cultivation and CBD oil production, the Perth-based Little Green Pharma has made some major inroads into global markets this past year after building its brand in the domestic market. 

Little Green Pharma was the first company to produce Australian-grown medicinal cannabis for domestic use and was among the first to begin exporting Australian-grown products overseas.

Company founder and CEO Fleta Solomon sees offshore expansion as critical to the company's growth strategy.

Last year she relocated to Europe before COVID hit. While separated from her team back in Perth for more than a year, her company has managed to secure agreements in Germany and Poland in that time.

Germany is the third-largest medicinal cannabis market globally behind the US. With the latter currently restricted by a federal ban on the sale of medicinal cannabis, the deal with German wholesaler DEMECAN is significant for the company.

Germany's medicinal cannabis market is currently worth between 150 million euros ($238 million) and 175 million euros ($278 million) according to investment bank Bryan Garnier & Co, which estimates it could grow to 1.5 billion euro ($2.38 billion) by 2025.

Little Green Pharma announced in May that DEMECAN placed an initial order valued at $2.5 million for delivery in the second quarter of FY22.

The company has a separate distribution agreement in Poland, with a subsidiary of Pelion SA, a company with $3.5 billion in revenue, making it the largest operator in the Polish and Lithuanian healthcare sectors.

Denmark is also in play with a five-year distribution agreement also reached there, promoting the company to acquire a cultivation facility in Denmark from Canada's Canopy Growth Corporation.

CEO Solomon sees the UK and Switzerland as future markets for the company, both of them still restrictive in terms of medical practitioners prescribing cannabinoid therapies.

To meet expected demand for its products, Little Green Pharma in March announced a land acquisition in south-west WA which it says will help it quadruple existing cultivation capacity.

Little Green Pharma's offshore expansion also benefits from the Therapeutic Goods Administration last year granting the company a Good Manufacturing Practices licence for its facility in Western Australia. It's one of only two companies in the Cannabis Top 20 to have achieved this, with the other being IDT Australia (ASX: IDT). Little Green Pharma now holds more than 20 state and federal operating authorisations.

With a $22 million share placement earlier this year, on top of the $27.2 million raised for the Denmark acquisition, the company is seen as well positioned for further growth.


5. Cann Group (CAN)

Head office: Melbourne
Listed: 4 May 2017
2020 position: 2
Market Cap: $111m

A costly cyber breach reported in early February marked a turning point for Cann Group's (ASX: CAN) shares which have been in a downtrend from record highs since then.

It's been a difficult six months for the company that was issued with Australia's first medical cannabis cultivation licence four years ago.

News it had lost $3.6 million due to the cyber breach was compounded by a lacklustre half-year earnings report released a couple of weeks later, with the result largely driven by frustrating delays in executing a distribution agreement in Germany brought about because of both COVID-19 and delays in regulatory clearances.

At the time, Cann had revised down its full-year revenue forecast from $15 million to between $8 million and $10 million.

While the company announced in April a shipment of 20,000 units of cannabis extract to Germany, which it believed to be the largest single shipment from Australia to date, it was forced to issue another downgrade a month later.

With revenue to the end of April only hitting $3.2 million, Cann halved its already reduced full-year revenue forecast to between $4 million and $5 million.

CEO Peter Crock, no doubt frustrated at having to disappoint investors, was at pains to point out this was just a "timing issue".

The company is expecting the balance of revenue forecast for FY21 to be received in FY22.

Despite a tough six months for one of Australia's first cannabis companies to list on the ASX, Cann is banking on future growth with work on its new cultivation facility at Mildura back on track and expected to be commissioned by the end of this calendar year.

The first stage of the facility will deliver annual dry flower capacity of 12,500kg with plans to expand this to 50,000kg, making it the largest cannabinoid medicine production facility in Australia. The first-stage investment is worth more than $110 million.

Cann Group has also acquired the Satipharm business from Canada's Harvest One Cannabis Inc in an all-scrip deal worth up to C$5.5 million (AUD$5.9 million). The Europe-based Satipharm is exclusively licensed to market Gelpell capsules which are said to improve the efficacy of ingesting cannabinoids.

Cann Group has partnered with fellow Cannabis Top 20 company Emyria (ASX: EMD) to accelerate the company's EMD-003 drug development program. It hopes to register the product with the Therapeutic Goods Administration as a Schedule 3 medicine, providing a low-dose CBD-only capsule that can be sold over the counter by pharmacists to treat anxiety, depression and stress.

Cann is working to add a Gelpell pharmaceutical manufacturing line to its Mildura production facility.

The company has also partnered with the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute in a clinical trial to assess the ability of its medicinal cannabis to manage symptoms of patients with advanced cancer. Cann's product is derived from a strain initially developed by Agriculture Victoria. The full spectrum cannabis extract contains both cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) formulated into an oil that is taken up to three times a day.

Meanwhile, there was some good news from Cann in relation to this year's cyber breach with the company having received $1.2 million in connection with court proceedings to recover funds lost.

Criminal investigations are continuing in various jurisdictions, however there is no guarantee that any formal prosecutions against any third parties involved in the cyber incident will either commence or result in any further funds being recovered.


6. Althea (AGH)

Althea founder and CEO Joshua Fegan.

Head office: Melbourne
Listed: 21 September 2018
2020 position: 3
Market Cap: $92m

Althea (ASX: AGH) has slipped down three places in this year's list, but that doesn't mean it hasn't been kicking goals.

A 175 per cent lift in revenue in the first half of FY21 reflects the company's growth in the Australian and UK medicinal cannabis markets.

Penetration of new markets has also been achieved with the launch of its products in Germany and a new distribution deal in South Africa with its first shipment made in the second half of FY21.

In Canada, Althea's wholly owned subsidiary Peak Processing Solutions secured a Standard Processing Licence from Health Canada for its Canadian facility to officially start producing and selling cannabis products.

Since then the subsidiary has signed an agreement with Canadian cannabis licensed operator and brand marketer 48North Cannabis Corp (CVE: NRTH) to manufacture four products for the latter's cannabis wellness brand Latitude.

The two-year deal, worth approximately C$1.25 million ($1.34 million), will see Peak manufacture CBD- and THC-based and Latitude-branded body lotion and bath salt products.

Althea also plans to expand into emerging markets throughout Asia and Europe. Its selection to help the French authorities with a pilot program to assess the relevance and feasibility of legalising medicinal cannabis gives it a solid foothold on the market, which has some of the strictest cannabis policies in Western Europe.

Althea is a licensed producer, supplier and exporter of pharmaceutical grade medicinal cannabis, exporting goods globally from its Australian and Canadian operations.

Among the innovations introduced by the company this year is a range of "flexi" 20ml cannabis oil products for the Australian market.

CEO and founder Joshua Fegan says this is a simple step by the company to make Althea's products more affordable for patients to trial its products.

"We understand that price remains a challenge for many potential new patients that want to trial medicinal cannabis for their conditions," says Fegan, who in 2019 won the prestigious Trailblazer award at the Melbourne Young Entrepreneur Awards.

Althea products are typically available in 50ml and 100ml bottles.

The news is fairly upbeat for Althea, but that hasn't been reflected in the company share price which this year has fallen to around half its recent highs achieved at the end of last year.

Like many companies in this sector, investors are keen to see tangible results materialise with Althea now around two years into its ASX listing. The March quarter was difficult for the company, largely due to lockdowns in Australia and the UK, although conditions have rebounded strongly since then.

However, Althea is well placed to implement its expansion program after raising $6 million from investors last December and a further $3.78 million from an oversubscribed share purchase plan.


7. MGC Pharmaceuticals (MXC)

Head office: Perth
Listed: 19 February 2016
2020 position: 12
Market Cap: $89m

It may be a penny stock, but the market capitalisation of MGC Pharmaceuticals (ASX: MXC) shows that it carries some weight with investors.

The biopharma company has jumped from 12th position in our previous Cannabis Top 20 list, with MGC Pharma given a lift earlier this year when it became the first medicinal cannabis-related company to be admitted to the main market of the London Stock Exchange (LSE: MXC).

The February listing caused a flurry of activity in the share price which spiked to a high of 13c before coming back to earth over the ensuing months.

The listing gives MGC access to European capital, but it also comes at a cost of an extra 440 million shares on issue, diluting the value of existing shares and taking total shares on issue to 2.3 billion.

However, the $12 million raised from the listing has set the company up to expands its business further.

Although MGC Pharma is essentially a European company that is also listed on the ASX, it sees Australia as a key market that is at the forefront of the commercialisation of medicinal cannabis.

MGC Pharma has developed a portfolio of CBD-based medicines for pharmaceutical use. But its business also extends into researching a treatment for COVID-19.

MGC Pharma this year completed phase three clinical trials of CimetrATM, a novel anti-inflammatory formula to treat patients hospitalised by COVID-19. The results are awaiting independent review.

However, MGC Pharma's main focus remains on cannabinoid medicinal products in Australia and overseas.

In a recent interview, CEO and co-founder Roby Zomer pointed out that the Australian market had grown faster than anticipated.

While he says the UK is two years behind Australia, he believes the overseas market is primed for growth.

The company had a recent win in Ireland, where cannabis-derived epilepsy product CannEpil is fully covered by Health Service Executive.

MGC Pharma is broadly focused on global expansion with production facilities in Slovenia and another in Malta under construction delivering capacity for further growth.

The company's acquisition of Australian telehealth platform Medicinal Cannabis Clinics last year provides MGC Pharma control of the supply chain from manufacturing through to patients in Australia. The platform, which has access to more than 600 pharmacy accounts and patients, uses video telemedicine for doctors to prescribe a range of cannabinoid medications available in Australia.


8. Botanix Pharmaceuticals (BOT)

Botanix Pharmaceuticals founder and executive director Matt Callahan.

Head office: Perth
Listed: 15 July 2016
2020 position: 9
Market Cap: $82m

Botanix Pharmaceuticals (ASX: BOT) is one company that has discovered the therapeutic applications for medicinal cannabis go further than skin deep.

This clinical-stage company is focused on developing products using synthetic CBD to treat serious skin conditions from acne to psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.  And it's not only humans who are benefitting with candidates being developed to treat canine skin conditions.

The company's original product focus, BTX 1503, was developed at the University of Western Australia as a topical gel to treat serious acne. While research continues to commercially develop this product, Botanix's current product pipeline consists of another four research areas that cover the treatment of moderate atopic dermatitis, rosacea, plaque psoriasis and a range of antimicrobial applications including a new treatment to fight drug-resistant golden staph.

Botanix is investigating applications of its synthetic CBD as a new weapon against drug resistant superbugs as a broad-spectrum gram-positive antibiotic. A breakthrough there would elevate CBD as a viable alternative to treating a range of infections.

Earlier this year, Botanix achieved formal recognition of its work with the publication of research data from its antimicrobial platform in the peer-reviewed journal, Communications Biology.

The research article describes for the first-time that synthetic cannabidiol can also kill a select group of Gram-negative bacteria, including the bacteria responsible for gonorrhoea, meningitis and legionnaires disease.

The US-based Botanix executive chairman Vince Ippolito, who is responsible for the company's commercial operations globally, says the review establishes Botanix as the "world leader in characterising and exploiting the pharmaceutical potential of synthetic cannabinoids as antimicrobials".

More recently, the company announced that a Phase 2 clinical study of its BTX 1801 treatment for golden staph found synthetic cannabidiol's unique bactericidal mechanism of action rapidly kills Staphylococcus aureus and drug-resistant Staph aureus without generating antimicrobial resistance.

Botanix's next phase of clinical development for BTX 1801 will look at the nasal treatment of Staph aureus in patients undergoing haemodialysis and its effectiveness in reducing life-threatening bloodstream infections.

Botanix is making great strides in proving the benefits of synthetic CBD to modulate immune responses, reduce inflammation and produce antimicrobial effects to fight bacteria.

Its strategy is to target multibillion-dollar markets that have not had new products approved by for some time, with the company noting that there has been no new antibiotic discoveries in more than 30 years.

Meanwhile, Botanix revealed in May the results of a pilot study to test the effectiveness of its new higher dose formulation of synthetic CBD in the treatment of atopic dermatitis in dogs. The results were encouraging, prompting the company to advance its BTX 1204A product to a fully funded proof-of-concept canine study.

A successful outcome will provide Botanix with opportunities to partner in animal health markets and supports the progression to a Phase 2b study in humans in FY22.

The company is in a strong position to continue its research programs with a cash balance of $23.3 million at the end of March this year.


9. IDT Australia (IDT)

Head office: Melbourne
Listed: 1 February 1991
2020 position: 10
Market Cap: $74m

IDT Australia (ASX: IDT) is a key player in the supply chain for the cannabis sector, although the company's capabilities in manufacturing pharmaceuticals are the real reason for a recent spike in its shares.

The company announced in March that at the request of the Federal Department of Health it was assessing the feasibility of producing a COVID-19 vaccine at its sterile manufacturing facility.

More recently, IDT Australia revealed it was in discussions with Victorian Government to manufacture Australia's first local mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccine candidate for COVID-19.

The company, which has a 40-year history in the pharmaceuticals industry, has been pushing the narrative of the sovereign importance of increased local manufacturing of essential medicines such as vaccines.

IDT's facility at Boronia in Melbourne is licensed to cultivate cannabis and manufacture medicinal CBD and THC oil medicines under a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification. The only other Australian company with a GMP-rated facility is Little Green Pharma (ASX: LGP).

Early last year, IDT secured a manufacturing partnership with fellow Cannabis Top 20 company Cann Group (ASX: CAN) to produce the first batches of its commercial medicinal cannabis resin. Cann described it as the first commercial-scale resin extraction from Australian-grown cultivars.

Cann is expecting to ramp up supply to IDT as part of the agreement once it has completed a major new facility at Mildura to produce dried cannabis flowers.

The partnership comes in the midst of an ongoing global shortage of dried cannabis flowers amid rising demand for CBD products.

In June, IDT announced an agreement with Clever Leaves Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: CLVR) to be supplied with certified dried cannabis flower from that company's facility in Portugal to meet growing Australian demand.

IDT provides turnkey manufacturing solutions for the CBD sector and also develops and scales up pharmaceuticals for domestic and export markets.

The company released its first medicinal cannabis products last year. Following the Therapeutic Goods Administration's decision to down-schedule low-dose cannabidiol, IDT has developed a low-dose CBD product that it says will support a future product launch of an over-the-counter product.

IDT is building a pipeline of medicinal cannabis active pharmaceutical ingredients and additional finished dosage forms which are under assessment.

The aim is to position ITD Australia as a centre of excellence for medicinal cannabis product manufacturing for a range of active pharmaceutical ingredients and finished dosage forms.


10. Zelira Therapeutics (ZLD)

Head office: Perth
Listed: 22 November 2016
2020 position: 4
Market Cap: $57m

Although still based in Perth, bio-pharma company Zelira Therapeutics (ASX: ZLD) had a major geographical shift in leadership this year with the appointment of Oludare Odumosu as its new group CEO.

Philadelphia-based Odumosu has been with Zelira since the merger between the ASX-listed Zelda Therapeutics and US medicinal cannabis company Ilera Therapeutics.

At the time Odumosu was chief operating officer of Ilera, and since the merger that formed Zelira in January last year he has been head of the company's US operations.

The leadership change was announced in February 2021 and completed in May as former group CEO Dr Richard Hopkins stepped down from the top job after two years in the role.

The move might have given investors hope of supporting the Zelira share price, but instead it dropped sharply at the end of January following a disappointing second-quarter report.

The shares have been on a downhill run ever since and not even a record third quarter, where product sales and licensing revenue surged 249 per cent to $225,000, has helped them recover.

During his two years at the helm, Hopkins oversaw the launch of several clinical products for the company, including Zenivol, a cannabinoid medicine to treat insomnia, and HOPE, a formulation for patients with autism spectrum disorder.

With Odumosu in charge, the US-centric strategy has been lauded by Zelira as pivotal to drive its expansion into the rapidly growing US medicinal cannabis market. The company initially launched HOPE exclusively in the US and in May secured a licensing agreement in Washington DC that could see the product sold in up to 32 states.

The agreement includes distribution of Zelira's proprietary CBD toothpaste, which is proven effective in fighting gum disease. The company has struck five product licensing deals in the US over the past year.

To support its planned Australian launch of HOPE, Zelira has teamed up with treatment developer Emyria (ASX: EMD) to undertake an observational trial of the product.

Apart from the US and Australia, Zelira is also exploring opportunities in Germany, which has almost six times the registered medicinal cannabis patients than Australia, and the UK.

Among the products Zelira is developing is Zylorma, a cannabis-based acne treatment.

In June, the company licensed a proprietary cannabinoid formulation to Melbourne-based medical cannabis company Levin Health to undertake a clinical trial to test its efficacy in treating sports-related chronic pain among retired athletes. The trial is being undertaken at La Trobe University's Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre.


11. Medlab Clinical (MDC)

Head office: Sydney
Listed: 14 July 2015
2020 position: 11
Market Cap: $56m

Biological research company Medlab Clinical (ASX: MDC) has been focused on treating severe pain with cannabis-based medicines for cancer patients.

Ironically, long-term investors have felt the financial pain of the company's lagging share price.

Medlab shares have been on a long-term downtrend since early 2018 when they briefly looked comfortable above $1. Currently they are trading below their 20c issue price in 2015, and around a third of their 42c high for 2021 achieved in January.

That's when Medlab's fortunes received a shot in the arm after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted clinical Investigational New Drug (IND) status for its lead candidate NanaBis, paving the way for the company to initiate a Phase III trial in the US.

NanaBis is a highly purified blend of CBD and THC (medical cannabis) mouth spray for the treatment of cancer-induced pain that in early trials showed a 40 per cent reduction in pain and a reduced need for opiods in bone cancer patients.

NanaBis is the only cannabinoid-based pipeline candidate in development for cancer pain initiating Phase III trials in the US.

However, the IND status for the candidate is still pending due to a file-upload corruption issue reported by the company.

By the time Medlab moved to raise $15 million in March, the share price had pulled back from January's levels and the capital raising was priced at 24c each.

The funds are being used by Medlab to start Phase III clinical trials in the US, UK and Australia, and to promote partnering opportunities for the company's NanoCelle technology, which administers treatments via a spray onto the oro-buccal membrane inside of the cheek.

The technology allows for a treatment to pass more easily into the bloodstream for faster absorption and metabolism.

In April, NanoCelle received notice of intent for patenting by authorities in the UK and Europe. In June, European and Canadian Patent offices granted patent protection for the NanoCelle until 2036. Medlab is now looking at partnering opportunities for NanoCelle in the US.

The market for Medlab is significant with 75 per cent of patients with bone metastasis enduring crippling pain and relying on addictive opioids.

Preliminary phase trials have shown a 55 per cent improvement in pain scores among patients.

The Phase III trials are aimed at achieving pharmaceutical registration for NanaBis to expand Medlab's market opportunities.

Medlab is deploying a synthetic compound for its Phase III trials that it says will allow the company to deliver a pharmaceutical-grade product at industrial scale for global markets.

Medlab estimates that cancer-induced bone pain directly affects 700,000 new patients a year in the US, Australia and Canada.


12. AusCann Group (AC8)

Head office: Perth
Listed: 3 February 2017
2020 position: 6
Market Cap: $49m

The takeover by AusCann Group (ASX: AC8) of CannPal Animal Therapeutics earlier this year is a sign that merger and acquisition activity could be on the rise in the medical cannabis sector.

AusCann sealed the $17.5 million acquisition in March, and although CannPal is now a subsidiary of the company, the takeover has been a coup for CannPal founder Layton Mills.

The 2019 Sydney Young Entrepreneur Award - Health & Fitness winner has stepped into the role of CEO of the merged entity, giving AusCann a new direction that combines his expertise in medicinal cannabis treatments for animals with AusCann's product development experience to treat pain in humans.

AusCann last year launched its first product, Neuvis, a hard-shell capsule containing THC and CBD used for the treatment of chronic nerve pain. The product is currently in the early stages of commercialisation and available to patients under special access provisions for medicines.

While there has been positive feedback from medical specialists in the fields of palliative care and rehab, leading to an increase in sales over the third quarter of FY21, AusCann says revenues are not expected to be material in the near-term as it optimises manufacturing and looks to cut production costs.

AusCann was buoyed by news this month that it had reached agreement with the Tasmanian Department of Health for the supply of Neuvis to patients.

The company is looking at global markets for the product, including the UK, Germany, New Zealand and South Africa.

Meanwhile, the research undertaken by AusCann into using medicinal cannabis to treat canine pain and skin conditions has taken a step forward.

The Phase II pilot study of the CPAT-01 candidate found that it demonstrated relief in dogs on measures of pain, lameness and mood.

The company is also investigating medicinal cannabis treatments for dermatological skin conditions in dogs with its DermaCann product.

Medical cannabis is yet to be approved for veterinary use in Australia, although the veterinary pain and inflammation market is worth over US$1 billion ($1.3 billion) globally. AusCann is aiming to be the first with an FDA-approved animal cannabinoid product.

The company has a development plan for registration of DermaCann as an approved veterinary nutraceutical in a market that is worth $2.7 billion globally.

AusCann sees the animal health sector providing a faster road to commercialisation than human health due to fewer regulatory hurdles. Work undertaken in animal studies can also support pre-clinical work for human studies.


13. Emyria Limited (EMD)

Emyria managing director Dr Michael Winlo.

Head office: Perth
Listed: 12 February 2020
2020 position: N/A
Market Cap: $47m

After making a splash with its $38 million IPO in February last year as Emerald Clinics, it wasn't long before the company thought a name change to Emyria (ASX: EMD) was needed to better reflect its business activities.

Emyria makes a debut on the Cannabis Top 20 this year after an ASX listing that was aimed at expanding its network of alternative medicine clinics. The Emerald Clinics business remains an important part of the group's business plan.

Among the benefits of the company's direct contact with patients in clinics is its ability to gather quality clinical data from consenting patients. That positions the company as a valued research partner for medicinal cannabis developers to help them evaluate the safety and efficiency of their products.

Emyria describes itself as a data-backed drug development company. It currently has an agreement with medicinal cannabis company Zelira (ASX: ZLD) to undertake an observational trial of its cannabinoid medicine insomnia treatment, known as HOPE, ahead of a planned Australian launch.

Emyria is developing its own treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and another for mental health, specifically psychological distress, anxiety and depression. The company is targeting Schedule 3 registration of the latter that would make it an over-the-counter product at pharmacies.

Positive results announced in June from analysis of Emyria's IBS drug development program led the company to file additional patents. With no approved drug treatments for IBS, Emyria describes the market as having a "significant unmet need".

"A major benefit of Emyria's high quality, real-world clinical data is that it allows us to frequently and confidently file differentiated and strongly developed patents that support and defend our parallel-running drug development programs," says Emyria's managing director Dr Michael Winlo (pictured).

The company's business services extend to remote chronic disease management, digital health technology development and COVID health screening. In May, Emyria scored an Australian first following the registration of its smartphone-based heart monitoring application, known as Openly, with the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Among the ground-breaking joint-ventures announced by Emyria is a partnership with mental health charity Mind Medicine Australia for a psychedelic-assisted therapy care program for sufferers of treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder.

The company sees this as a big step towards delivering safe and evidence-based psychedelic-assisted therapy services across Australia.

With a view to the impact of medicinal cannabis on delivering safer treatment options, a recent analysis conducted by Emyria, in partnership with US-based IQVIA and Australia's NostraData, showed that patients receiving personalised care at Emerald Clinics reduce their opioids substantially while also gaining improvements in pain symptoms and quality of life measures.


14. Elixinol Wellness (EXL)

Head office: Sydney
Listed: 8 January 2018
2020 position: 13

Market Cap: $41m

The growing competitiveness of the medicinal cannabis market led Elixinol Wellness (ASX: EXL) to withdraw its 9.0 million ($14.3 million) bid for Germany's CannaCare Health in June.

Citing particular concerns about the dynamics of the German market, Elixinol CEO Oliver Horn says the additional investment needed to achieve profitable growth exceeds the company's risk appetite.

Perhaps it was an overly ambitious target for a company that once ruled the Cannabis Top 20 list.

After a tough year in 2019 when Elixinol fell victim to a global cannabis industry rout, there wasn't much more joy for the company in 2020.

There was a change of leadership and plans were put in place for asset sell-offs, including the company's Hemp Foods Australia subsidiary, to make way for a new direction with a simplified business strategy.

The strategy hasn't translated to an improved share price which is nowhere near the $4.58 Elixinol reached more than two years ago.

Horn is only relatively new to the CEO role, having replaced Stratos Karousos in April last year. The decision to abandon the CannaCare takeover would be frustrating for the former Australian CEO of Swiss Wellness.

CannaCare owns CANOBO, which has 4,500 bricks-and-mortar retail distribution points, and 20 products comprising CBD oils, sprays and skincare products which are manufactured in Europe.

Elixinol was hoping that the cash-and-scrip deal would give it a foothold in Europe's fastest-growing medicinal cannabis market and accelerate its path to profitability.

At least the company's decision in July last year to retain Hemp Foods Australia is paying off. Elixinol had announced it was selling its food subsidiary to a Chinese buyer for $500,000, but that was subject to a licence agreement.

The latest March-quarter update revealed that Hemp Foods, which is based near Byron Bay, accounted for 39 per cent of group revenue and that the business was operating at close to break even.

Elixinol was established in the US state of Colorado before listing on the ASX in 2018, with the focus back then on Hemp Foods Australia which was founded by hemp industry pioneer Paul Benhaim.

The Elixinol group currently generates more than half its revenue from the Americas while Australia accounts for 28 per cent. The company produces and distributes a range of CBD wellness products, including skin treatments.

The brand enjoyed a little Hollywood star power at the Oscars this year, or at least a supporting role. Elixinol Good Night capsules managed to make it into the Oscars Bags, which comprise a host of luxury gifts to nominees of the Oscars awards.


15. Neurotech International (NTI)

Head office: Perth
Listed: 4 November 2016
2020 position: n/a
Market Cap: $38m

Neurotech International (ASX: NTI), a company dedicated to assisting children with autism, makes its debut on the Cannabis Top 20 after venturing into the medicinal cannabis sector this past year.

Following an extended focus developing a home autism therapy device named Mente and its associated software platform, with limited commercial success, the company is now tackling the developmental disability through cannabis therapies. In doing so, Neurotech is exploring treatments for a range of neurological disorders apart from autism to include ADHD, epilepsy and potentially multiple sclerosis.

The change in direction was accelerated with the appointment of new non-executive chairman Brian Leedman last October. The biotechnology entrepreneur, who founded ResApp Health, Oncosil Medical and Biolife Sciences which was later acquired by Imugene (ASX: IMU), has effectively replaced former CEO Peter Griffiths who resigned from the board.

Neurotech continues to explore the commercialisation of Mente and is actually using the device in the cannabis trials to determine if there is any complementary benefit with the cannabis strains it is testing, while also using it to monitor the progress of trial subjects.

Neurotech's medicinal cannabis research uses cannabis strains developed by Australian company Dolce Cann Global. The company acquired the exclusive rights to use Dolce's proprietary cannabis strains for its research in July last year.

In March, the company kept up the momentum through the announcement of a strategic medical cannabis cultivation partnership with CannaPacific, which has a licenced cultivation facility near Lismore in northern NSW. CannaPacific will grow and maintain genetic stock of the varietal strains developed by Neurotech and Dolce Cann Global.

Recent results from in-vitro human neuronal cell studies assessing the neuro-protective, anti-inflammatory and neuro-modulatory activities of the Dolce-NTI cannabis strains have been promising.

The results demonstrated that the strains are "significantly more potent" than CBD alone in supressing the production of certain neuro-inflammatory markers. This has prompted the company to look into how this can be applied to treating multiple sclerosis.

In the meantime, Neurotech is undertaking the world's first clinical trial to assess the benefits of full-spectrum medicinal cannabis containing little to no THC for children with autism.

The company is also seeking TGA registration of its full-spectrum cannabis strains.

The developments of the past year have delivered stellar returns for investors as Neurotech shares rose from less than 1c to a high of 8.4c reached over the 12 months to March this year. After pulling back since then, shareholders who bought this time last year would still be sitting on a healthy profit.


16. Rhinomed (RNO)

Head office: Sydney
Listed: 27 October 2016
2020 position: 17
Market Cap: $38m

Rhinomed (ASX: RNO) operates in an area that many people around the world will have become familiar with over the past year - nasal swabs.

The company is a nasal airway and respiratory technology specialist that has been advancing development of a new-generation nasal swab to detect upper respiratory diseases such as influenza and coronavirus.

The company's fortunes over the past 12 months largely have risen on the back of this wearable technology which it says makes nasal sampling easier and more comfortable for users.

However, for years Rhinomed has also been exploring the effectiveness of its vapour inhaler, known as Pronto, in delivering essential oils, including medicinal cannabis, to help people with sleeping difficulties and anxiety.

Pronto is one of three nasal products created by the company and the only one involving the cannabis sector. The other products are Turbine, a nasal stent that improves airflow for athletes and sportspeople, and Mute, which treats snoring.

In 2018, Rhinomed signed a 12-year licensing agreement with US medicinal cannabis company Columbia Care to allow it to use its nasal platform to deliver a range of medical cannabis and cannabinoid compounds in the US market.

The pandemic put the deal on hold early last year and its status remains under wraps. Following the release of its most recent quarterly update issued in April, Rhinomed offered little in the way of clarity on how it the agreement is currently progressing.

"The company is in dialogue with its US medical cannabis partner, Columbia Care, regarding the commercialisation of a range of cannabis-based products which utilise the company's patented nasal delivery platform," says Rhinomed.

"With demand for cannabis-based products growing, and particularly in the sleep category, the company has identified a range of solutions that it is working to bring to market through its existing retail distribution network in the US."

Chairman Ron Dewhurst said in the company's FY20 annual report that CBD and medical cannabis is a product area where the company will continue its focus.

The company maintains that nasal delivery can overcome certain challenges faced by the cannabis industry, namely the ingestion of cannabis products through edibles or smoking. Rhinomed says its nasal technology can achieve optimal outcomes through lower doses of medicinal cannabis.


17. Bod Australia (BDA)

Head office: Sydney
Listed: 27 October 2016
2020 position: 14
Market Cap: $35m

Bod Australia kicked off the new financial year on a high after reporting record sales in FY21.

The company dispensed a total of 12,187 products, up 212 per cent from a year earlier, affirming the narrative coming from Bod Australia throughout this year - that it's really starting to sell stuff.

The rising trend was evident in the half-year results when revenue was up 62 per cent to $3.3 million.

While the sales alone do not give any indication of profitability, there's no denying that Bod is on the move in its existing markets, namely Australia and the UK.

It is now hoping to repeat the performance in the US after announcing in April an initial $312,000 order from its exclusive global partner Health & Happiness Group - parent company of vitamin and skincare giant Swisse Wellness - to sell its CBD products in the US market.

This is Bod's first order destined for the US, a CBD products market that is expected to grow almost fourfold to be worth US$6.9 billion ($9.2 billion) by 2025.

The expansion into the US follows a steady push into Italy this year through Swisse's established e-commerce channels and into 4000 pharmacies. Four new CBD products were also launched by Bod in the Netherlands under the Swisse brand.

A new distribution agreement was announced in June with two of Europe's leading online beauty retailers - Lookfantastic and Feelunique - to stock Bod's entire range of premium CBII products in the UK.

Bod is confident it has the capital needed to meet the manufacturing demands of orders it is anticipating in the near term from the US, Europe and UK after raising $8 million via a private placement last December.

Apart from developing and manufacturing premium CBD and hemp products for the consumer market, Bod also has interests in therapeutical medicinal cannabis products.

On this front, the company struck an agreement with Drug Science UK for a trial of its MediCabilis products to maage symptoms associated with long-COVID where symptoms persist for years or months. MediCabilis, a pharmaceutical grade CBD, is already used for various conditions such as pain and anxiety.


18. Cann Global (ASX: CGB)

Head office: Sydney
Listed: 21 August 2019
2020 position: 18
Market Cap: $34m

Cann Global Group (ASX: CGB) has had a hit-and-miss year marked by frustrating delays. Its low position in this year's list reflects this.

At least the company hit FY22 on the right note with news this month that it received its first shipment of hard oral dose cannabinoid tablets from its joint-venture partner, the Canadian company Canntab Therapeutics.

Just two of the six products it was expecting have arrived for distribution to the Australian market, although later than the expected June delivery.

Meanwhile, delays in shipping products from Asia earlier this year also caused the company to take a hit in the third quarter of FY21, with its dominant hemp food revenue impacted.

Cann Global's hemp food business has been the key driver of business growth, accounting for 90 per cent of the company's $900,000 in revenue in the first half of FY21. Total revenue was up 29 per cent for the period thanks to the division. However, revenue from hemp food slumped 57 per cent in the March quarter because of the unexpected shipping delays.

The significant impact this had on Cann Global is explained by its food division being supplied from the company's hemp cultivation and processing activities in Asia.

These were two negatives in an otherwise promising year for Cann Global.

Along with good news on the regulatory front for the Australian industry last year when the TGA eased conditions for over-the counter sales of medicinal cannabis products, the company also secured a win in Thailand where its majority-owned subsidiary is providing technical support to a hemp cultivation research program with the Uttaradit Rajajaht University. The Thai Government began processing applications for licences to produce, import, export, distribute, and possess hemp on January 29.

That's a win for Cann Global which has put its resources into sourcing cannabis products from Thailand in collaboration with local partners.

This calendar year began strongly on the capital management front, thanks to a $3.75 million raising at 0.5c a share that cleared the company of debt, including its outstanding convertible notes liability.

Its food division also launched chia soft gel oil capsules into Costco and began white label sales of its equine food product while stepping up plans for new distribution channels and international markets.

Cann Global is also developing what it says are unique advanced hemp-based skincare treatment formulations, dermatological and cosmetic beauty products. A three-month trial phase will be followed by large-scale production if successful for Australian and Asian markets initially.

The company is also eyeing a number of pharmaceutical products that are being developed by partners for distribution in Australia and targeted global markets.

In April, Cann Global announced a binding agreement with Western Sydney University's NICM Health Research Institute to design a clinical trial protocol to conduct human clinical trials to determine the benefits of a unique strain of medicinal cannabis to slow the progression of multiple sclerosis.

Frustrating delays aside, Cann Global sees regulatory progress globally, and particularly in its key areas of operation in Australia and Thailand, as promising for the company to continue growing its existing business and pave the way for new commercial opportunities.


19. Avecho Biotech (AVE)

Head office: Melbourne
Listed: 9 August 1993
2020 position: 20
Market Cap: $33m

Avecho Biotech (ASX: AVE) has been on a high since venturing into the burgeoning medicinal cannabis sector early last year, with its share price is trading at double the same time last year.

The company, previously known as Phosphagenics, was formerly a pure biotech play that had limited commercial success with its drug delivery platform TPM that contains two different forms of tocopheryl phosphate, an enhanced form of vitamin E.

Avecho's entry into the medicinal cannabis market has been bolstered by TPM, driving the company to develop new oral cannabinoid products. 

The company's success has been relatively quick with Avecho entering formal development of its first pharmaceutical cannabinoid product; a CBD soft-gel capsule being developed in collaboration with drug delivery technology specialist Catalent in the US.

"We have taken a product from concept to clinical testing within the space of six months and have recently completed the initial development of our finished pharmaceutical dosage form, a 75mg CBD soft-gel capsule incorporating our TPM technology," Avecho chairman Dr Greg Collier told the company's AGM in May.

The key point of difference for Avecho's formulations is TPM (Targeted Penetration Matrix), an additive that is said to increase absorption of cannabinoids.

"Increasing the absorption of cannabinoids will allow for differentiated cannabinoid products on market, with greater therapeutic potential and/or reduced cost to patients, which is timely given the changing regulatory landscape for these products in Australia," Collier said.

Avecho has begun Phase I clinical trials to characterise the absorption profile of CBD in healthy volunteers.

The company plans to then complete efficacy studies to support registration of the product with the TGA to treat insomnia, a market worth about $250 million a year in Australia. Avecho is banking on exploring other conditions for treatment in the future.

In May, the company announced it was proceeding to a pre-submission meeting with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) later this year to present plans to register its over-the-counter soft-gel product for insomnia.

To advance its CBD soft-gel development at Catalent, Avecho raised $5.06 million from investors earlier this year.

The cannabinoid program is expected to be a key focus over the next few years with the company planning both in-house product development and out-licensing of enhanced cannabinoid formulations.

However, Avecho continues to explore the benefits of TPM for other applications, namely livestock feed. The company says its animal health partner AB Vista is expanding its assessment of the utility of TPM in livestock feeds beyond its original program analysing feed efficiency and weight gain.


20. ECS Botanics (ECS)

ECS Botanics founder and CEO Alex Keach.

Head office: Sydney
Listed: 19 July 2019 
2020 position: N/A
Market Cap: $33m

ECS Botanics, a vertically integrated cannabis company with historical agricultural roots in Tasmania, is on the cusp of significant growth following an ambitious expansion into Victoria this year.

Listed just two years ago following a reverse takeover of WA-based Axxis Technology, ECS Botanics has made its debut on the Cannabis Top 20 by capitalising on the demand for premium medicinal cannabis dried flower, biomass and oils.

The company recently revealed it is on track to deliver sales of $2 million of its cannabis products in CY21, highlighting the fast pace of revenue growth driven by new supply contracts and the acquisition of Murray Meds, one of Australia's largest producers of medicinal cannabis.

Murray Meds produces specific strains under contract for Australian cannabis companies as well as European customers.

ECS Botanics revealed sales from cultivation in the June quarter topped $543,000 from its Victorian facility. That compares with total revenue by ECS of $919,128 in FY20.

Not content with the Murray Meds acquisition bolstering its growth ambitions alone, ECS has plans to significantly expand both its existing Tasmanian cultivation facility as well as its newly acquired Victoria assets to meet demand.

ECS Botanics plans to upsize its cultivation area in Tasmania from 2,500sqm to 320,000sqm. The company says its mission is to make the facility, and Tasmania, the global epicentre of high quality, low-cost cannabis production.

Murray Meds has permits to produce 3,500 kilograms a year. However, ECS has not yet indicated how much production is expected from its expanded Tasmanian operations.

Management is understandably upbeat about its growth prospects.

"There is significant momentum in the business and several developments are imminent," said ECS managing director and founder Alex Keach as he revealed this year's $2 million revenue forecast in early June.

The acquisition of Murray Meds has been the key driver of that growth, aided by the transition of Murray Meds founder and managing director Nan-Maree Schoerie to the ECS executive team.

Murray Meds is a cultivator with a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) licence for producing dried flower, oils and tinctures.

The cash-and-scrip acquisition, worth $7.5 million, has elevated ECS Botanics to become one of Australia's largest vertically integrated medicinal cannabis companies.

Since the Murray Meds acquisition was announced in January, supply deals have been coming fast for ECS.

In February, ahead of the acquisition settling, Murray Meds signed a three-year supply agreement with London-based pharmaceuticals distribution company The Armour Group for the sale and export of medicinal cannabis oils. In March, another three-year deal was secured with Cronos Australia (ASX: CAU) for the supply of medicinal cannabis dried flower and medicinal cannabis concentrate.

The supply deals kept coming in March, with Murray Meds securing an agreement with Melbourne-based Releaf Group for dried cannabis flower products. The agreement is expected to generate $590,000 in revenue for ECS over the next 18 months.

This is on top of a three-year supply deal struck by ECS Botanics in December last year with MediPharm Labs, which operates in Australia and Canada. The agreement, which begins in November this year, also includes an equipment technology transfer purchase agreement to support ECS's maiden medicinal cannabis harvest and large-scale production of commercial grade resin extraction operations in Tasmania.

ECS Botanics raised $4 million through a share placement at 5c a share in March to fast-track its expansion plans.

The company has extensive interests outside of medical cannabis cultivation, with the aim of manufacturing and supplying medicinal cannabis and hemp food products throughout Australia and overseas.

In May, the company announced a distribution agreement with Cronos Australia for its specially formulated CB1 and CB2 terpene blends in Tasmanian Cannabis Sativa seed oil under its wellness brand.

ECS has signed a non-exclusive 12-month supply agreement with Cronos which allows the company to resell the range to customers, either directly or through distributors. ECS also has supply deals with a number of other health product and health food distributors, including Global by Nature, Rener Health Products and Complete Health Products.


This list was prepared with reference to the market capitalisations of each company at the close of trade on 8 July 2021.

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