VCs bet on cannabis vaping, ED meds and mobile fertility clinics – TechCrunch

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week was a bit of a reunion with Kate and Alex on as usual, with the addition of Extra Crunch denizen extraordinaire Danny Crichton. Danny, you may recall, has been a semi-regular Equity co-host over the past year.

As Kate explains up front, Equity is out a day early this week due to the Big TechCrunch Robotics Affair in Berkeley today. We’ll be back on Friday with IPO news regarding Zoom and Pinterest, and we can’t wait.

OK, all that sorted, what did we talk about? Alex wanted to talk about some market signals that he reads as bullish. Whatever went wrong at the end of 2018 has healed over, he thinks, because there have been a whole lot of supergiant venture capital rounds and some other stuff.

Next, we gave an example of one of those supergiant rounds in the works. The reported Pax round, which could put $400 million into the cannabis vaping company, intrigues us, especially because Pax is the corporate sibling of JUUL, the now-famous e-cigarette company what sold just over a third of itself for nearly $13 billion last year. A truly staggering deal.

Then we turned to Brex, the fintech startup that was back in the news this week. Why? Because it raised a $100 million debt round as startups of that sort do. Brex provides a credit card made specifically for startups that require no personal-guarantee. Yeah, risky, we know. We talked about that risk and Brex’s plan to target Fortune 500 business in the future.

Rounds for Ro, Kindbody and Carrot Fertility made it a busy week for healthtech, too. Ro is raising at a $500 million valuation to support its three digital health brands: Roman, Rory and Zero. Meanwhile, a pair of fertility startups, Kindbody and Carrot, brought in $15 million and $11 million, respectively.

With Danny back on the show, we extended our reach and discussed the latest in the chip and sensor world. NXP, fresh off a failed, multi-billion-dollar exit to Qualcomm, put money into Hawkeye Technology, a China-based company working in the car sensor space. Equity’s regular hosts mostly nodded as Danny dropped a lot of knowledge.

All that and we had some fun. We’ll be back before you know it.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercast, Pocket Casts, Downcast and all the casts.

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Philip Morris Opens IQOS Stores in Manila

Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Co. (PMFTC) is opening its first four IQOS stores in Manila, reports The Manilla Standard.

While the heat-not-burn product has been available in the Philippines through several retail outlets since April, the opening of the stores marks a significant step towards achieving the company’s vision of a smoke-free future, according to PMFTC President Denis Gorkun.

“PMFTC’s vision is to help adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke to move away from cigarettes as quickly as possible and switch to a better alternative,” Gorkun said.

PMFTC parent company Philip Morris International has invested more than $7 billion in research, development and production capabilities to create smoke-free products such as IQOS, which are now available in several countries.

In July, the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) authorized the marketing of IQOS and heat sticks in the U.S. with a reduced exposure claim adding that such issuance is appropriate for the promotion of public health.

Gorkun said the FDA decision shows that IQOS is a fundamentally different tobacco product compared to cigarettes and a better choice for adults who would otherwise continue smoking.

About 60 percent of Filipino adult smokers are willing to try smoke-free alternatives provided they are made commercially available and meet quality production standards, according to a study commissioned by PMFTC.

PMFTC said IQOS is aimed at adult smokers. The company is implementing age verification and access restriction to ensure that only legal age consumers 21 years old and above will have access to the stores, the e-commerce website and the IQOS products.

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CDC says stop vaping as mystery lung condition spreads – TechCrunch

Vape lung is spreading and the CDC is warning people not to use vaping products while they are investigating the cause. In a media briefing, the public health agency said that some 450 people are now thought to be affected, and as many as five have died.

The CDC’s incident manager for this issue, Dana Meaney Delman, summed up the situation as follows:

CDC, states, and other partners are actively investigating, but so far, no definitive cause has been established. No specific e-cigarette device or substance has been linked to all cases, and e-cigarette include a variety of chemical and additives; consumers may not know what these products contain.

Based on the clinical and laboratory evidence to date, we believe that a chemical exposure is likely associated with these illnesses. However, and I really want to stress this, more information is needed to determine which specific products or substances are involved

Reports earlier this week suggested that Vitamin E acetate, a byproduct of the vitamin complex formed during the vaporization process, may be to blame. Delman downplayed this, saying that although they are working with the labs that made that connection, nothing has been established as yet.

One trend worth noting, however, is that very few of the cases involve only nicotine products; most of the afflicted users reported using THC exclusively or as well as nicotine. This could be the result of many factors, however, so take it with a grain of salt.

The first death was reported in late August in Indiana, but other suspected cases have turned fatal in Illinois, Minnesota, California and Oregon — as reported by The Washington Post, though the CDC said three are confirmed and one is under investigation. The number of reported cases has skyrocketed, though this is likely a consequence of better information coming from state health authorities and hospitals, rather than a sudden epidemic.

In the meantime, the only advice they have is to avoid e-cigarette and vape device usage, especially modified devices or homebrew material. The fact is no one really knows what chemicals are formed in the conditions created by these devices, and some of them could be toxic.

While the investigation is ongoing, CDC has advised that individuals consider not using e-cigarettes because as of now, this is the primary means of preventing this type of severe lung disease. And of course e-cigarette use is never safe for youth, young adults, or pregnant women.

People who do use e-cigarette products should monitor themselves for symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, or others) and promptly seek medical attention for any health concerns. Regardless of the ongoing investigation, people who use e-cigarette products should not buy these products off the street and should not modify e-cigarette products or add any substances that are not intended by the manufacturer.

The CDC is working with numerous state authorities and the FDA to identify the cause of this malady, and will soon publish a report in The New England Journal of Medicine detailing the first 53 cases identified. This should help doctors and other health workers tell if they are dealing with a case of vape lung or something else.

Daniel Fox from WakeMed Hospitals in North Carolina characterized the condition as they had encountered it, with a preliminary diagnosis of “lipoid pneumonia”:

What we wanted to report and what we have seen has been a cluster of five cases that will be reported later today. Each of these cases featured a pulmonary illness in a relatively young person. Ranging in age from 18-35 from what we saw here in North Carolina. The symptoms that these patients were experiencing were being short of breath, having some GI or gastrointestinal symptoms of nausea and vomiting and fevers.

One of the things that was found in common with all of these cases is that all patients were using vaped substances in e-cigarettes. They all had abnormal chest x-rays and developed a need for a lot of oxygen.

All of our patients underwent evaluation, and after the clinical evaluation we found a certain type of pneumonia that was noninfectious. It’s called lipoid pneumonia. Basically, can be, it can occur when either oils or lipid-containing substances enter the lungs.

That is consistent with the Vitamin E acetate hypothesis, as that substance is oily and could enter the lungs mixed with the vapor and then stay there. But none of the doctors or experts on the call made that connection officially.

Some patients are being misdiagnosed as having bronchitis or a viral infection. If you are or anyone you know is getting sick and uses vaping products a lot, it’s worth mentioning this if you get checked out.

Delman concluded her briefing with an assurance that everything that can be done is being done:

Please know that CDC, FDA, state, and clinical partners are working hard to understand why people are getting sick. We will continue to share what we know and what we don’t know to help health departments, clinicians, and the public respond to this outbreak.

If you are concerned about your health or the health of a loved one who is using an e-cigarette product, contact your healthcare provider, or your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

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The First Session of the Application Forum of China Hemp Industry 2020 Held in Shanghai

On 10th September, the first session of the Application Forum of China Hemp Industry 2020 (AFCHI)is held in Shanghai.

The forum focuses on the new trend, new product, and new market in China hemp industry. The contents of the forum include: discussing the investment opportunities, new development motivation, comprehensive utilization and overseas market outlook of hemp industry; sharing the research and application progress in the fields of fiber, food, skin-care product, new tobacco, traditional Chinese medicine and medical treatment; introducing the hemp history, situation, and future tendency respectively in the US, Thailand and Australia, and the design of hemp terminal products, as well as the experience of starting a business; holding round-table discussion on the topic of exploiting new trends of hemp products, and the way of hemp IPO.

The-scene-of-AFCHI-2020 – vapebiz
The-scene-of-AFCHI-2020 – vapebiz
The-scene-of-afchi-2020 – vapebiz

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China’s vaping giant Relx gears up for US entry – TechCrunch

The backlash against vaping in the United States has not deterred a Chinese challenger from entering the world’s largest vaping market.

Relx, one of China’s largest e-cigarette companies, is seeking to submit its Premarket Tobacco Product Application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by the end of 2021. Upon completion of a review process that will take no longer than 180 days, the FDA will take “action,” which could be marketing authorization, a request for more information or denial.

The vaping startup has requested a pre-submission meeting with the FDA and is expected to meet with the regulator in October, said Donald Graff, the two-year-old startup’s head of scientific affairs for North America, appearing in a video during a press event this week in Shenzhen.

Graff had a brief stint at Juuls Labs as its principal scientist after a 13-year streak at clinical research company Celerion where he oversaw tobacco studies. He’s now spearheading PMTA for Relx. Another scientist from Juuls, Xing Chengyue, who helped invent the nicotine salts critical to e-cigarettes, also joined in China’s vaping industry and founded her own startup Myst.

PMTA is an extensive, meticulous, costly bureaucratic process for vaping products to establish that they are “appropriate for the protection of public health” before being marketed in the U.S. Relx, headquartered in the world’s e-cigarette manufacturing hub Shenzhen, has set up a team to work on the application process, including hiring third-party consulting services and clinical partners to generate data from tests that are necessary for the submission.

All e-cigarette companies currently on the U.S. market needed to submit their PMTA by September 10 this year. To date, no products have received marketing authorization by the FDA.

The high costs of PMTA keep many small players from entering the U.S., but Relx has the financial prowess to bear the expense — it estimates the entire process will cost it more than $20 million. A Nielson survey Relx commissioned showed that the company had a nearly 70% share of China’s pod vape market as of April.

As the risks associated with e-cigarettes continue to draw attention from regulators around the world, Relx has ramped up its research investments to examine vaping’s impact on public health. At this week’s event, its chief executive Kate Wang, a rare female founder of a major tech company in China, and previously the general manager of Uber China, repeatedly highlighted “science” as a key focus at her startup.

Recently unveiled is the company’s Shenzhen-based bioscience lab, which is measuring the effects of Relx vapors through in vivo and in vitro tests, as well as conducting pre-clinical safety assessments.

Despite its ongoing efforts to prove the benefit of switching from smoking to vaping, Relx alongside its rivals faces regulatory uncertainties across various markets. The Trump administration banned flavored vape products last year (Relx plans to submit unflavored products for FDA review) and India banned e-cigarettes, citing adverse health impacts on youth.

When asked how the startup plans to cope with changing policies, a Relx executive said at the event that “the company keeps a good relationship with regulators from various countries.”

“You can’t make conclusions on something that is still in the process,” said the executive, referring to the early stage of the vaping industry.

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The Unveiling Ceremony of Kunming Industrial Hemp Industrial Park Held Successfully

On September 14, 2020, the unveiling ceremony of Kunming International Industrial Hemp Industrial Park was held in Kunming pilot Free Trade Zone, Yunnan Province, China.

At the same time, Kunming Municipal People’s government officially issued three policy documents supporting the development of the industry.

More than 50 enterprises over the country participated in the unveiling ceremony. The total investment of the 21 projects was 1.165 billion yuan(about 171 Million dollar). 25 enterprises including Yunnan Baiyao and Kunming Pharmaceutical group exhibited nearly 100 kinds of hemp products, such as seeds, facial mask, essence, toothpaste, soy sauce, linseed oil and cat litter.

Industrial Hemp Park – Wechat Account

A number of enterprises participating in the activity said that the Kunming municipal government took the lead in introducing a series of policies and measures to support the development of industrial hemp industry in China, providing full coverage support to all links of the industrial hemp industry, which improves the confidence and determination of enterprises in investment and development. It also injects strong impetus into the high-quality development of industrial hemp industry in Kunming.

Kunming municipal government will give full play to the policy advantages of the pilot Free Trade Zone, and strive to build Kunming into the first industrial hemp industrial highland in China and even the world.

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August Complex Fire Threatens U.S.’s Largest Cannabis Region

The largest wildfire in California history took aim at the largest cannabis-growing region in the United States on Monday.

The August Complex Fire, created when several lightning-ignited fires merged into a single conflagration, has cut a fiery swathe across five counties. So far, it’s blackened nearly 900,000 acres, more territory than the entire state of Rhode Island.

Now its westward march threatens the celebrated Emerald Triangle marijuana farming region, only a few weeks away from peak harvest time.

The August Complex Fire (center), now the largest wildfire ever recorded in California, extends 100 miles north to south. It is now threatening the Emerald Triangle pot-growing region, the center of the state’s cannabis industry. – sfgate

“There are thousands of folks that migrate into Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties every year, and they are not familiar with the territory let alone a massive wildland fire knocking at their door,” said state Sen. Mike McGuire per the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. McGuire represents the North Coast.

The fire reportedly skirted the community of Kettenpom in southern Trinity County, burned the ridges outside Covelo in northern Mendocino County and is pushing toward Alder Point in Humboldt County. It was only 28% contained as of Monday.

Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall told the Press Democrat that while Covelo has an official population of about 1,500, more than 10,000 people live and work on surrounding cannabis farms at this time of year. He worries that a fast-moving blaze could overtake workers before they have time to evacuate.

The cannabis business is a multi-billion-dollar industry in California, and this year’s record-breaking fires and smothering smoke pollution will no doubt affect at least part of the crop.

Kristin Nevedal, executive director of the International Cannabis Farmers Association, based in the Humboldt County town of Garberville, told GreenState in 2017 that the delicate, fragrant flower buds begin to bloom right at the height of fire season.

“Especially when it’s ripe — I can tell you from personal experience, wildfire definitely will make your cannabis have a smoky flavor to it; just like wine,” said Nevedal.

Smoke-tainted buds are sometimes given nicknames like “campfire pot,” “beef jerky” and “hickory kush.”

This article is originally published by sfgate.

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E-cigarettes Contain Narcotic Drugs, Drug Suspects Arrested by the Cop

Recently, police station of Shenzhen Futian branch cracked a drug trafficking case by using e-cigarettes according to the clues reported by the masses.

The public reported that the e-cigarettes sold by an e-cigarette physical store contained drug ingredients, and the police of Tian’an police station immediately went to the store for investigation. After the police took the team members to the store, they asked the store owner about the e-cigarette sales license and sales methods and did he know that there were drug ingredients in the e-cigarettes.

It turned out that the suspect hid the drug in the e-cigarette and then sold it to the e-cigarette physical store, and the store owner did not know. After being aware of the situation, the police conducted in-depth investigation, research and judgment, and targeted the drug suspect Tang. After several days of investigation, Tang was finally arrested in a parking lot of a residential building, and a box of 5,000 electronic cigarettes containing drug ingredients was seized in his home. After interrogation, drug suspect Tang confessed to the fact of his drug trafficking. At present, Tang has been arrested by the procuratorate according to law, and the case is under further investigation.

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