Gofire has carefully selected a Board of Medical Advisors to oversee our company mission to provide the most reliable dose and data points for patients, doctors and researchers. We want to introduce you to another important member of that board, pharmaceutical development scientist and principal at Vialpando LLC, Dr. Monica Vialpando.
Dr. Vialpando holds a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Leuven, Belgium. She has over a decade of inhalation product development experience across the pharmaceutical, nicotine and plant-based medicine industries in the United States and Europe. She has worked on dry powder inhalers, metered dose inhalers, nebulizers and other related products. She was directly involved in the implementation of standards for e-cigarettes in the European Union and has collaborated with the University of Manchester on emission testing from products. She is an adjunct professor at Loyalist College in Canada and the 2019 recipient of the ElSohly award from CANN for her work in plant-based medicine research.
After realizing there was a strong need for more research within the plant-based medicine industry, Dr. Vialpando founded Vialpando LLC, a provider of innovation consulting for the alternative medicine industry. Vialpando LLC creates pharmaceutically-inspired plant-based medicine products for the global market that are scientifically crafted to maximize the experience and effect for the patient. In the following interview, we asked Dr. Vialpando a handful of questions surrounding her decision to transition into the plant-based medicine industry and how she found her way to Gofire.
Gofire: How did you decide to jump into the product development side of the plant-based medicine industry and what struggles did you face?
After earning my PhD in Belgium, I transitioned to the United Kingdom where I began to research plant-based medicine. I was working on the regulatory side of the e-cigarette industry at the time and yearned to return to my roots in product research and development. On my own time, I studied approaches to creating all-natural topical products using formulation strategies inspired by pharma. I left the UK after nearly two years, primarily driven by my desire to return to drug product development. I moved across the pond and worked as a clinical formulation scientist for a San Francisco pharmaceutical company in 2016.
As a regular consumer, I was grateful to be in California, so I began to research the plant-based medicine industry and immediately recognized the similarities in the regulatory landscape between the California plant-based medicine industry and the European Union e-cigarette industry. After my first trip to the local dispensary, I knew that my knowledge of drug product formulation would help advance plant-based medicine and that my familiarity with all-natural ingredients would speak to this health-conscious market. I knew I had to make the leap, but was terrified. I had a great paycheck, benefits and the nice corner office. I eventually jumped and have never felt more fulfilled in the work that I do.
Gofire: When did you first hear about Gofire and what drove you get involved?
I overheard [Gofire CEO] Peter Calfee describing Gofire while I was volunteering for a California plant-based medicines conference in 2017. The conversation immediately piqued my attention when I heard forward-looking terms like medical-grade inhalation device, precise dosing and data tracking. I politely interrupted, handed him my business card and gave him a brief overview of my inhalation experience. After I researched Gofire and learned more about your mission, I knew I had relevant experience to contribute to a team whose vision for plant-based medicine was aligned with mine.
Gofire: Why do you stand behind Gofire’s mission? (i.e., to provide a platform with reliable data to patients seeking relief through plant-based medicine).
Despite the long history of plant-based medicine, we are only in the infancy of understanding its therapeutic benefits. The potential is great. The opportunities are extremely diverse, resulting from a myriad of possible combinations among therapeutic molecules like cannabinoids, terpenoids and flavonoids. To quote Peter Calfee, “it is a laboratory within itself.”
There are numerous factors to consider and we must generate high-quality data and a lot of it! I appreciate how the Gofire app is compatible with your medical grade, dose-controlled inhaler as well as compatible with other plant-based medicines. It gives patients the ability to track their usage, to optimize their medicine and to anonymously compare their experience to others
Gofire: How do you expect the data and research behind plant-based medicine to progress in the next 5-10 years?
I believe we will see significant advances in extraction, isolation and scale-up methods. There will also be more research on synthetic cannabinoids and other methods of manufacture such as from yeast. Regulatory restrictions will continue to lift, which will facilitate access to specialized characterization tools and research groups. We will have a much better understanding of specific interactions between cannabinoids, terpenoids and other plant material for target effects. Products will be more focused on dose control and innovations in delivery methods.
Gofire: What’s an important lesson the plant-based medicine industry still needs to learn?
There is still a lot to understand about plant-based medicine and many companies are rushing the product development process. Not only does this risk selling an unstable and inferior product but it hurts the industry as a whole, especially for products marketed with targeted effects. Plant-based medicine is medicine — so, the industry should approach the development process as such. I would like more companies to understand that while spending more time on R&D does delay the launch of a products, the knowledge gained during the development process produces a superior product and will ultimately allow them to leap-frog their competitors. For products developed with a more disciplined approach, physicians will be more likely to prescribe plant-based medicine and patients will have more confidence to make a transition from traditional pharmaceuticals.