Let us take this opportunity to introduce you to some of the team at FloraWorks. Everyone on our team share the same spirit of collaboration with our clients and with each other. It is important you get to know us as we become an extension of your team. We recently sat down for a quick interview with two members of the Science team at FloraWorks, Vaughn Hartung(Chemical Engineer & Organic Chemist) and Robert Jensen (Ph.D. Organic Chemist).
Briefly describe your role at FloraWorks?
Robert: I am the VP of research and development – I figure out which techniques and procedures we use to prepare our products, then try to optimize those procedures.
Vaughn: I am the VP of science and technology. My role is to assess new technologies and determine the viability of implementing those technologies to enhance our processes and products.
How did you get involved in Cannabis? How did you become interested in the scientific study of the plant?
Robert: My mother and my grandmother both became interested in cannabinoids for relief from chemotherapy side effects, which heightened my appreciation for the compounds.
Vaughn: A longtime friend and colleague of mine shared the details of his cannabis project one summer evening, and I became immediately interested in developing new projects in the industry. Before I realized it, I was spending all my free time researching, proposing, and attempting unique separation methods applied to a wide variety of cannabis strains.
Can you give us a bit of background on your previous studies and areas of focus?
Robert: I am an analytical and organic chemist with a background in spectroscopy and oxidation chemistry. Before working with cannabinoids, I characterized the thermal decomposition of electronic cigarette liquids.
Vaughn: I am a chemical engineer by training. True to core tenets of the field, I’ve focused on scalable projects that bring about change and improve quality of life.
What is the next evolution of cannabinoid exploration and study? How has consumer demand shaped scientific study?
Robert: Some consumers believe that cannabinoids work synergistically, and they desire a product containing a mixture of active compounds for an ensemble effect. As consumers gain access to new products containing pure compounds and reproducible mixtures, I expect that the supposed effects and therapeutic indications of these compounds will become more widely understood and less anecdotal.
Vaughn: There is a clear trend that consumers are becoming increasingly more sophisticated in their selection of the myriad of available cannabis products and through their exploration have learned that different products produce different effects. As a result, consumers are looking for products that deliver past favorite experiences as well as new unique ones. Our group’s studies reflect this sentiment by considering viable natural targets within the plant that may provide new and unique experiences to the available cannabinoid universe as well those that enhance nostalgic favorites.
Why should consumers care about CBN and what makes it different from other cannabinoids?
Robert: Cannabinol (CBN) was the first cannabinoid to be given a name – this was back at the end of the 19th century, some forty years before the discovery of CBD or THC. Consumers might be new to CBN, but it has been known to chemists for over a century.
Vaughn: CBN is an age-old cannabinoid in the family tree of phytocannabinoids. Literally, it’s an aged cannabinoid that due to slow natural mechanisms humans have had very limited access to. The relationship is like having a loved grandmother that you wished you could spend more time with, but due to natural circumstances encounters are rare and conditions of chance. This is the case with CBN, elusive encounters with unicorn grandmothers. What FloraWorks offers with CBN is a unique family favorite. Just think, if we spent more time and had greater access to our beloved grandmother we might all feel a sense of relief and sleep better at night. That’s CBN.
How have your techniques helped companies grow in scale without sacrificing quality and innovation?
Robert: For those companies wanting to release reproducible THC-free products using cannabinoids derived from hemp, our high-quality CBN isolate enables a clear path forward.
Vaughn: The fastest approach to scaling is to spread an idea. The idea that FloraWorks shares with customers is our commitment to supplying the highest quality formulated ingredients at a scale that allows them to reliably focus on delivering unique high quality product experiences to consumers every single time.
Briefly, what excites you about what you are doing at FloraWorks?
Robert: The feedback we have received from people who have found our products useful for managing pain, anxiety, tension, and insomnia has been really exciting – I have dreamed of bringing CBN to market as a therapeutic agent for some time, so I find that sort of feedback very gratifying.
Vaughn: FloraWorks is an iteration of what future cannabis represents: a space for new ideas and implementations of those ideas in the context of what is possible through the cannabis plant. What most excites me is discovering possibilities within the plant and considering how to apply them back to the environment in meaningful ways.
What is one thing that readers should know about Cannabis / Hemp that they might not know now?
Robert: The hemp extract studied by Adams in 1939-1940, from which CBD and THC were first discovered, was given to him by the Narcotics Laboratory of the US Treasury Department.
Vaughn: Cannabis and hemp are one and the same plant, but due to genetic diversity produce a wide range of compounds with a wide range of utilities.
How can companies utilize your team to help develop products of their own?
Robert: Helping companies birth new ideas and turn them into products is one of the most rewarding parts of our mission. Our team has a lot of experience developing products, so new challenges are exciting.
Vaughn: FloraWorks is committed to providing customers the knowledge, tools, and full support needed to bring their new product concepts to market. As a trusted source and reliable ingredient supplier we provide full support from our staff to ensure that new products are effectively formulated and launched successfully. We highlight many of those successful endeavours on our website (link to “case studies”).
What are some common misconceptions or stigmas around the plant or your study if any?
Robert: Perhaps because cannabis has been classified as a narcotic, people sometimes think that cannabinoids are comparable to opioids in structure or function – but they are different kinds of molecules and they interact with different systems within the body.
Vaughn: One misconception I often hear in my travels is that cannabis is a short lived fad. Contrary to that belief, cannabis has always played a complex role in human patterns before the common era and will continue to add nuance and complexity to human enrichment for the foreseeable future.
How have regulations shaped the way teams work and study cannabinoids?
Robert: Regulations have made it difficult for academics to gain access to products and materials to study – we would know more about cannabinoids if they were not misscheduled.
Vaughn: Most notably – regulation has provided a dedicated framework of 3rd party testing labs. When a newly enriched cannabinoid sample is presented to the 3rd party lab we typically have to engage with the lab on issues of accurate identification and quantitation, as a current method may not be established or calibrated to handle uniquely enriched samples.
What other cannabinoids are you excited about and why?
Robert: Right now I am most excited about cannabinodiol and 8,9-dihydrocannabinodiol because I think that mixtures containing these compounds could have therapeutic potential.
Vaughn: I am most interested in cannabinoid compounds that may demonstrate unique therapeutic properties relative to the available cannabinoid zoo. Of specific research interest, I’ve become fascinated by the idea of cannabinoid compounds stabilized by environmental factors which have limited availability within the plant.
When did you first discover that you could take your science background and apply it to cannabis? Was it a natural progression? Did you ever think (way back in highschool) that you would be working in the hemp and cannabis sector?
Robert: I was a graduate student working in a drug development laboratory when states began decriminalizing cannabis, and I remember thinking at that time that this could become a fruitful area of focus.
Vaughn: A younger version of myself never envisioned working in a specific area of focus. Instead, I’ve always found enjoyment solving complex problems and collaborating on challenging projects with others who thought differently from myself and challenged my perspectives. This is one of the many reasons I currently enjoy participating in cannabis projects. From my experience, cannabis is a unique sector in that it is continually reimagining how we interact with natural resources and how we utilize those resources to benefit our communities.
With over 120+ known cannabinoids, which ones interest you the most and why?
Robert: Oxidation products that are not generated by the plant’s metabolic pathways and thus cannot be harvested in high yield from biomass.
Vaughn: As a group, we are most interested in cannabinoids that occur naturally in the plant that are not accessible by the plant’s metabolic pathways. Cannabinoids that meet this criteria are unlikely to be produced in abundance by selective breeding alone.
Personally, what's your favorite cannabinoid or a blend of cannabinoids?
Robert: CBN lotion has been helping relieve my sciatica.
Vaughn: Currently I am enjoying a CBN tincture in my breakfast smoothie to help me relax and ease muscle tension prior to my morning stretch session.
What inspired you to pursue a professional life in science and technology?
Robert: Carl Sagan
Vaughn: Science, technology, and more importantly the education that drives them, is the unique opportunity to not only enrich an individual’s life, but the opportunity to improve upon the quality of their surrounding environment and community. I hope that others have the opportunity and desire to pursue STEM education similarly inspired.