Who are NYSK and what is your mission?
NYSK Holdings is a pharmaceutical company implementing cutting-edge technology and well-established scientific methods to develop safe, effective, and targeted cannabis products. NYSK Holdings operates from a state-of-the-art GMP certified facility located in the Republic of Macedonia. The facility grows and extracts medical-grade cannabis products. Our team consists of agronomists, botanists, and experts in the cannabis industry. NYSK’s philosophy is to create top of the line, innovative, and effective THC- and CBD-based medications.
Our mission is to provide affordable and high-quality cannabis-based medications to patients. We are getting ahead of the curve on the evolution of medical cannabis products by producing innovative and responsive treatment options. NYSK is heavily invested in research and development and passionate about providing products that truly help people and improve the quality of life for those who are in critical health situations. We hope that what we are starting now is just the beginning of the changes in our always evolving industry, and we are excited to see how the field continues to mature.
With the global “green rush” upon us, it is still in its infancy in Europe, was this the reason for setting up in Macedonia?
Timing is everything. Two years ago, Macedonia passed the law on the legalization of medical cannabis. Laws for medical cannabis are constantly changing around Europe, so the clear and precise claims of the law in Macedonia were one of the conditions and motivators for setting up home base here. We had the opportunity to get the expertise and the knowledge that we already have from the cannabis industry in the United States, and in cooperation with local experts and technologists, set up a top-notch facility for cultivation and production.
Currently Macedonia is outside the EU, has this proved to be an advantage or disadvantage in conducting business?
Macedonia is a small, landlocked, and open economy where foreign investors are allowed to invest directly in all industries and business sectors (except those limited by law).
Macedonia has a competitive location due to geographical position of the country as the top reformer in the world in terms of starting and running businesses. Macedonia also gives the advantages of free access to a market of over 650 million customers through three multilateral and two bilateral Free Trade Agreements, and low taxes – there are flat corporate and personal income tax rates at 10%, and 0% tax on retained earnings. We chose Skopje due to its excellent infrastructure – wireless national backbone infrastructure, digital telecommunications system, extensive highway network, and two international airports with regular connections to main European transportation centres.
Despite not being a member of the EU, Macedonia is highly correlated with the EU (reaching its pre accession status) and its work under the monitoring and standards of EU. Our company works according to European standards and implementations. The implementation of the European standards in the NYSK laboratory opens the possibility for medical cannabis produced in Macedonia to be exported to Europe, where more and more countries have adopted laws that legalize the use of medical cannabis in the treatment of various diseases.
What were the biggest challenges obtaining a license?
Two years ago, Macedonia became the 14th European country that allowed the registration of cannabis for medical purposes. In 2016, our company NYSK Holdings got a license, and in 2017 we opened the factory. NYSK Holdings is the first licensed company in Macedonia, which in its laboratories cultivate cannabis and prepares it for production and medical use, in the form of medical drops. Since it is an institution of this type, it is understood that the fulfilment and monitoring of the standards of the European Union is mandatory. That’s why the company in its laboratory has implemented the European standards (EU ISO 17025) which guarantee the quality and reliability of production.
Beside our challenges from the business perspective, we found this ground suitable for further development in the field of the cultivation and extraction of medical cannabis. We have opened new jobs and we can say that Macedonia has highly-skilled labour. Part of our company are comprised engineers from Macedonia, but we have also diversified by bringing over experienced workers from the U.S. who share their knowledge and constantly increase the quality of cultivation and production. The real challenge was to invest in high technology and to build a certified laboratory that will monitor the quality of products and help us to maintain the quality of the products with each extraction, each batch. The good location of Macedonia, as well as the international bilateral agreements, offer great opportunities for exporting and covering a larger part of an international market outside the country. So far, medical cannabis in Macedonia is allowed to treat four diseases, and with continuous and quality work our challenge is to lobby for the expansion of the spectrum of diseases that can be treated with cannabis oil, and at the same time to educate medical personnel on how to properly treat with cannabis.
What are your current distribution channels?
We currently have relationships with distributors in Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Macedonia, Italy and Turkey.
Cannabis still carries heavy stigma through many parts of the continent, do you see a medical market sweeping through Europe any time soon?
The German parliament and federal legislators formally stopped the procedure for collecting the first domestic cannabis harvest. German residents have begun seeking out international solutions as treatment options. Following our presentation and participation at the International Business Cannabis Conference (ICBC) in Berlin, we are trying to fill in this gap that appeared in the German market. According to estimates made by analysts in this field, the amount of cannabis needed to support the German market is estimated to be almost seven tons a year. NYSK Holdings is preparing to meet the needs of more than two million patients in Germany who are qualified for treatement from NYSK’s cannabis products.
With legislation changing from boarder to boarder, what are the biggest hurdles that you currently come up against?
Legislation is changing rapidly – some countries that have passed laws allowing for the provision of medicinal cannabis do not actually permit anyone to use it; other countries do prescribe certain cannabis derivatives, but do not allow whole-plant cannabis; others have relatively relaxed laws that allow for personal medicinal cultivation, cannabis social clubs that supply medicinal users, and a range of different prescription medications. Some of the countries don’t actually have medicinal cannabis laws at all, and haven’t approved any existing cannabis-based drugs, but still make medicinal cannabis or cannabis-based drugs available to certain patients under special access rules.
How is the competition in Europe?
Macedonia was the 14th country in Europe that allowed cultivation and production of cannabis for a medical purpose. The number of competitors is not high on the European market for a major reason – the cultivation, production, and use of medical cannabis are not allowed altogether in many of those 14 countries.
The European market anticipates further growth, any plans on securing further production licenses?
By investing in research, we plan to aid the expansion of the spectrum of diseases that can be treated with cannabis oil. Investment in the field of research will give us the opportunity to expand our product portfolio and obtain new licenses and even expand in other fields where cannabis products will be useful.
What are the future plans for NYSK?
As a company, we are moving rapidly to deploy our growth strategy. Until now, we have been focused on building a successful cultivation and production process. The EU ISO 17025 helped us into full production process, from growing and extraction, to finished goods manufacturing and packaging. Our goal is to expand our product offerings and sales while also vertically integrating all aspects of production to ensure quality and stability of supply for our customers.
We will also be using a portion of the proceeds to fund the research and development, which will be finishing the development of a full-profile medical cannabis extract for pharmaceutical applications. We will sustain and improve the quality of our products and export them on the European market under a highly recognizable brand.