09 Jun, 2020 Interview with our CEO
Our CEO Josh Snyder is a research scientist with 22 years experience developing and discovering treatments for cancer and other diseases. He founded The Niva Labs to provide research to the industry to advance medicinal cannabis and to provide accurate testing to support quality products.
What is The Niva Labs overall mission? How does The Niva Labs help to foster the growth of a responsible and safe legal cannabis industry?
Our mission is to advance the understanding of cannabis as medicine and help companies develop products to treat patients.
We’d like to help the industry grow by making our lab and our scientists a resource to anyone who wants to make quality cannabis products. We’re a research lab, not just a testing lab. This also means that we do the extra work to make sure our testing is accurate and consistent for every type of sample – something not all labs do.
What types of harmful substances have you found in cannabis / CBD products? Why are these problematic?
We have found high levels of pesticides in a few products (definitely a minority), which can be problematic because the effects of smoking or vaping these compounds at those levels isn’t fully known. We’ve also found some harmful cutting agents and plastic byproducts in vapes.
Do you think the work that your lab is doing is making an impact on the legal cannabis industry? Is it improving?
I believe so. I think the industry badly needs research to better understand which cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids work for which diseases and how they work. Making new products is an art as well as a scientific process, and we enjoy being part of the scientific portion of that. We like to collaborate with anyone making a new product or trying to make something better.
What types of equipment / machinery do you have in your lab and what functions do they perform?
We have several mass spectrometers including LC-MS/MS which injects liquid samples to quantify pesticides and essentially any other chemical of interest; GC-MS/MS and GC-MS which inject gaseous samples like terpenes and volatile solvents; and ICP-MS which analyzes the heavy metals required by the BCC as well as minerals which are important nutrients for plants. We also have HPLC to analyze cannabinoids, caffeine, and active ingredients of herbal supplements. Our DNA microarray instrument is used for bacteria, fungi and other organisms. We also have PCR for hop latent viroid testing to diagnose plants suffering from dudding and cell culture equipment to grow cells and study the effects of cannabinoids and terpenes on them.
What’s The Niva Labs difference?
We’re not just here to provide a COA. That’s about 10% of what we can do to help the industry. We want to bring a positive contribution to every cultivator, manufacturer and researcher we work with by helping to hone in on the best cultivation practices and production methods, and to help develop formulations with long shelf-life and products with the most medicinal benefits and enjoyment. We’ll do whatever we can to help a company achieve those goals.
What’s your experience or background with cannabis?
I’ve never been a heavy user, but I appreciate and enjoy it – especially some of the incredible strains we have in California. As a scientist I’m fascinated by the therapeutic potential of each cannabinoid, terpene, flavonoid, and alkaloid and their potential synergies when combined. And I love to see the innovative new products that are being developed.
When did you realize and what made you realize you wanted to be in the cannabis industry?
In 2016 I thought I might want to start a cannabis testing lab, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2017 when I found out when I was being laid off that I started to get serious about it. As soon as I realized how many diseases cannabis could potentially be treated and how much research remains to be done that’s what did it for me.
How much harder has this experience been than you thought it would be? Can you share a little?
In 2018 I thought we could launch our lab in 6 months or less. 19 months later we received our BCC license. Navigating the regulations was 20 times harder than I expected, but what really surprised me was how technically challenging it is to develop methods that are actually accurate and consistent. Methods must be proven to work for not only flower but also concentrates, edibles, topicals, and all other product types.