Andrew Forrest is the latest Australian billionaire to enter the medical cannabis arena with a $5 million investment

Andrew Forrest is the latest Australian billionaire to enter the medical cannabis arena with a $5 million investment
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  • Following a surge of investment and interest in the Australian cannabis market, another Australian billionaire has tipped money into the space.
  • Andrew Forrest has made a $5 million share placement into Perth-based health technology company Emyria as the sector experiences continued growth.
  • Reports have forecast revenue from the medicinal cannabis sector will more than double to $200 million in 2021 compared to the year prior.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Australian mining billionaire Andrew Forrest is following fellow magnate Gina Rinehart into the medical cannabis sector with a $5 million share placement into Perth-based health technology company Emyria, amid rapid growth in the sector in Australia.

It follows a surge in interest in the Australian sector worth $56.9 million as of 2020

The investment through the family’s investing arm Tattarang comes months after Rinehart’s foray into the space with a $15 million push to support the European expansion of Western Australia-based Little Green Pharma.

Emyria has been developing trials of a synthetic cannabinoid targeting mental health, which it hopes to register domestically with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) as well as in the American market. 

The company, which listed on the ASX last year just before the pandemic reached Australia, has seven patient-treating clinics around Australia, which it uses to progress the development and registration of new drugs.

Michael Winlo, managing director of Emyria, said the company has already treated people through its cannabinoid program and was preparing for an MDMA trial next year to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. 

The TGA is set to make a decision next month around whether MDMA would be reclassified from a schedule nine drug – which are prohibited substances – down to a controlled drug as a schedule eight.

The TGA made an interim decision in February not to reclassify psilocybin, the psychedelic compound found in mushrooms, and MDMA, found in ecstasy.

“In light of the evidence and the growing recognition of major mental health disorders and the need for more treatment options. I think there will be a very persuasive argument in front of the TGA,” Winlo said.

Earlier this year, the Australian government pledged $15 million of competitive grants to “kick start Australian clinical trials exploring the use of potential breakthrough combination therapies for the treatment of debilitating mental illnesses”.

The move was the result of a concerted lobbying push over the past few years to reclassify psychedelic drugs psilocybin and MDMA to be used in clinical settings.

In October a team of researchers at Australia’s Monash University gained ethics approval for the clinical study of psilocybin as a treatment for Generalised Anxiety Disorder. 

Tattarang chief investment officer John Hartman said the investment by Emyria into “industry-leading” data collection would allow it to innovate faster than other companies and bring online new treatments quickly and cost-effectively.

“We believe evidence-based, and properly registered, medicinal cannabis and novel psychedelic treatments have massive growth potential across global healthcare jurisdictions,” he said.

“Emyria’s data-driven approach positions it strongly to lead the accelerated development and registration of new treatment options that can potentially benefit millions of patients.”

The most recent share placement into the Australian cannabis market follows a raft of investment this year, in a sign local growth in the sector was picking up speed.

In June two players in the global pharmaceutical cannabis market announced major moves and fundraising in the Australian market.

Little Green Pharma announced to the ASX that Rinehart had contributed $15 million for it to acquire a manufacturing facility in Denmark, as part of an overall $27.2 million capital raise which also gave the mining magnate a 10% stake in the company.

Nasdaq-listed Clever Leaves, a US-based full-scale cannabis supplier, said it had partnered with its second Australian company, IDT Australia, to bring its pharmaceutical-grade product into the country — and announced it had made its first commercial shipment into the country.

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

A report by Fresh Leaf Analytics forecasted revenue from the medicinal cannabis sector to more than double to $200 million in 2021 compared to last year.