LAB COATS ON

Colombia 2019 | HEALTH | INTERVIEW

An industry leader, Khiron is kickstarting its mission to develop a cannabis market in Latam that is bigger than Canada and Europe combined.

Álvaro Torres
BIOGRAPHY
Álvaro Torres has over 15 years of wide-ranging experience in the Latin American market. Torres was previously head of business development for SNC-Lavalin, Colombia, and was instrumental in growing the company from two people to more than 2,000 people over the course of three years. He has overseen the development of projects totaling over USD1 billion, including the development and construction of Colombia’s tallest skyscraper. He holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering, a master’s degree in engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and an MBA from Georgetown University.

How has Khiron's research focus allowed it to take the lead in developing cannabis-based products?
We come up with many of our own formulations, and these are the result of research. We spent six to seven months with chemists to understand and develop our products. Also, there are plenty of companies developing R&D that we can integrate. We seek to continue developing our plants to maximize yields and improve the quality of the cannabis we are extracting. Another area of research is about making it, for example, odorless and tasteless. This is extremely important for certain types of nutraceutical products. In some cases, we are able to develop partnerships with universities and research centers and other companies. We are reaching a point where we will need to develop hundreds of products every three years, and this takes a great deal of dedication and resources.

What is the potential of the alternative cannabis wellness market in Latin America?
The cosmetic market in Latin America is growing more than 10% per annum; I would call it almost recession proof. Within this area, CBD products are an interesting area that has not been fully explored. We are building a brand that uses CBD in a scientific and innovative way. We have nearly 40 high-quality products that will come out soon. One of our goals was to come up with products that disrupt the traditional view of cannabis. Our products are aesthetically beautiful and supported by fantastic spokespeople. Additionally, we are present across a variety of media channels. We have to constantly think about the delivery technologies we want to utilize and transform. The challenge in 2020 is to sustain the novelty of the products, thereby sustaining some of the excitement around them. We want to keep it from becoming a commodity, and innovation will keep the company on top.

How does Khiron continue to work to advance the conversation around cannabis and dispel misconceptions?
This is not a short-term process. I am proud that the company is leading conversations across many different communication channels. In terms of medical patients, we have seen a paradigm shift. We hosted the first conference on medical cannabis in February 2018, with over 500 doctors in attendance. Since then, there have been symposiums or conferences across the country almost every month. We now have four medical association endorsements, and every medical association in Colombia seeks to partner with a cannabis company to advance research. Our endorsement by the Neurological Association of Colombia was the first-such endorsement in Colombia.

What new markets does Khiron seek to break into?
We are extremely focused on Latin America. In 2019, our focus will be to continue to lead in Colombia, delivering on our promises to nearly 50 million people. Latin America has a growing middle class with great medical needs and fewer competitors. We just have to work to understand the geopolitical specificities of this entire region. Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, and Brazil form a market of 450 million people. We have to focus more on delivering in these countries than entering new countries. We are in the process of developing a market that will be bigger than Canada and Europe combined.

What expectations do you have of the new government?
This new government is pro-business; it cannot ignore the amount of FDI this industry has brought. The government is focused on the reputation of Colombia and is keen to ensure that everything takes place exactly as stipulated. This means it will be strict when it comes to managing this process. As a publicly listed company, we already hold ourselves to a strict and high standard. To a certain extent, it is on us to show the government that this industry is for real, and we welcome that challenge.