Linda Klumpers Ph.D. is a scientist from The Netherlands. Listen in as she describes how she has built an interactive web-based tool that allows you to find the best cannabis product for your specific need.
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Matthew: Hi. I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving Cannabis industry. Learn more at cannainsider.com. That's cannainsider.com. Now, here's your program. In the quest to find ways that natural botanical solutions can help us with different symptoms and general health, we often find ourselves without a compass, unsure where to turn for quality, scientifically-backed information. Our guest today, Linda Klumpers, aims to help us use science to arrive at the perfect customized cannabis solutions using her online tool Cannify. Linda, welcome to CannaInsider.
Linda: Thank you, Matt.
Matthew: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?
Linda: I am sitting in the Art District of Denver, Colorado.
Matthew: Okay, great. And I am in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Linda: Hey. That's really nice.
Matthew: Linda, can you tell us a bit about your background and journey, and how you got to this point in your career?
Linda: Of course. So I have always been interested in many things, and mainly in the brain and in biology. And that is actually why I started neurosciences at the University of Amsterdam. And after that, I'm keeping it really short now, I started a PhD in Clinical Pharmacology, yeah, of Cannabinoids. And I also have a degree in Clinical Pharmacology. I'm also a registered clinical pharmacologist in the Netherlands. And I've been doing cannabinoid research since 2006. After my PhD, I mainly did consulting for various life science companies and, at some point, I just decided to start for myself. Yeah. If I would make it really long, it would include a lot of different activities with music-making and what not. But I think that this is...
Matthew: Yeah. That's okay.
Linda: ...more relevant for the interview. Yeah.
Matthew: Yeah. And what is Cannify?
Linda: Cannify is an online tool that can be used for patients and also for others that are interested to find the scientific information that you can use to educate yourself for making better product decisions. And it's also useful for companies to make products better. And what we also want is to contribute to the improvement of the science of cannabinoids and of the endocannabinoid system.
Matthew: Okay. Can you paint a picture of the problem here, so listeners can understand what Cannify does exactly? I want them to understand, like, if they were looking over your shoulder, like, what problem it solves, so they can understand as they can use it online then.
Linda: Yeah. Yeah. Sure. Because this is the important part for me, I think. So there are a lot of problems. So what I encountered myself is people have a very curious nature, and they try to find information all the time about what they want. But the problem that I found is that it's very tough to find this information from very reliable sources. Because if you go to the internet, there's information everywhere about cannabis and cannabinoids. And you can talk about a lot of people who call themselves "experts" or people with passion. But if people say that they are a specialist, what do they actually know and where did they get their knowledge from. And I think that it's very important to marry the two areas of academic knowledge, but also people with experience in the field.
And that is exactly what I try to do, but with as little bias as possible. Because a lot of people have a particular agenda, in terms of trying to get cannabis legalized or trying to get cannabis prohibited. And I see myself as a scientist without any agenda like that. What I want is to bring the knowledge that we have from studies, etc. to people so that they can have this objective source to get this information from. So my problem, in a nutshell, is really that there is a lot of biased information out there often without any references. And I try to make it transparent to people where the information that I give comes from. So I hope that's clear. Yeah.
Matthew: Okay. So I'm gonna pull up your website right now, cannify.us.
Matthew: And I just wanna paint the picture of what people can see. So when you go to cannify.us, it says, "Are you interested in learning more about the potential of cannabis and cannabis product? Use our tool for customized educational information." Then, you click a button that says, "Start the Cannify Test," and it asks you a bunch of questions, "Where do you live?" And then it goes into detailed questions to help you arrive at what might be the best solution for you. Can you just talk about that aspect a little bit?
Linda: Sure. So do you mean how the tool works or...
Linda: ...what we t-...
Matthew: Yeah, how the tool works.
Linda: Yeah. Okay, sure. So maybe there is a little bit to add to your previous question with regards to this one. And it is that there is also a lot of information on the internet that is very interesting. But what do you do with it? It's not really actual-...It's nice to learn about genes. It's nice to learn about pharmacology. But how do you actually apply this information?
Linda: Yeah. So to be very up front, it is very hard to apply it because everyone's different. But I also think that if you do not start, at some point, with trying to apply this information, you will never know how well it works and you will never know how to improve it. So how this tool works is you click on this button, you start the test. The test will ask you various questions about, for example, the symptom you're looking for or the effect you're looking for, and also about yourself, who you are. And every question is made for us to make a better prediction, let's say, what to potentially use for your particular indication and personal characteristics.
Linda: Yeah. So it will tell you information about the cannabinoids, the dose, and also the administration methods that has been used in previous studies with people with your symptom, for example, that worked for them. So this is really to give you scientific information about people that are as much like you as possible. And this information can be that someone with your symptoms or personal characteristics have been helped in the past. It can also give you the information that there was never evidence or that there's not enough evidence. And these are potential outcomes as well. The whole goal of this is to bring the science closer to the people with a nonscientific background to help them understand better what research has been done and, potentially, how this could apply for them.
Matthew: Okay. So it's like a bridge between the desired outcome people want and what medical research exists between the outcome they want, and that medical research kind of builds that bridge between the two things?
Linda: Exactly. Exactly. And then there is this extra step, what I just mentioned with regards to the actional part. So once you have this scientific information, and we try to present that in an easy-to-understand report where every different element is mentioned separately, so with regards to, "Have there been any studies that showed beneficial effects or maybe mixed results? What compounds were involved in those studies? What administration method? What dose?" And there will be scientific reference. So it's a little report. But then the next step, if there actually turns out to be a potential beneficial effect, will be the comparison between your personal report and the products that are out there on the market.
And then we try with algorithms to make a matching score between those products and your personal report. So for example, this product will be 83% relevant for your report, and the other product might be 20% relevant. So it is not, let's say, an advice or anything. But it is to try to give people insight in the elements that are important for the science that is out there, for potential decision-making, etc., etc. But we're not making any claims. We really hope that people can use this information and bring to their healthcare provider, for example.
Matthew: So I'm on, like, Question 6, just to give listeners an idea. And it says, "Choosing only one option, what do you want to use cannabis for? I want relief from nausea, pain relief, sleep, anxiety, appetite, PTSD; I want to feel euphoric, more creative; I want to reduce the number of epileptic seizures; or other." So just to give people an idea, it's kind of narrowing down what you're looking for, and then try to present a scientifically-backed reason what product or service. It's kind of like a web-based smart guide to help steer you to a product that would help your particular situation, I think, might be the best way...I'm just trying to introduce this because we're talking about a website and people can't see it. So I'm trying to make it as clear as possible. But let's...
Linda: Yeah. So maybe, I can also give comments about that, if you don't mind?
Linda: Because there are a few things I want to say. First, a very tiny-detail thing. You mentioned Question #6. I just want everyone to know that depending on what question you fill in and how you fill it in, you might be brought to a different question than someone else. So maybe this is Question #6 for you, but maybe #5 or #7 for someone else. But that is just a little detail.
Matthew: Yeah. Sure. Sure. So it has dependencies built in. Based on your answer, it might show you a different question next or so forth.
Linda: Exactly. That's right.
Linda: So that's the one thing. But maybe a more important thing is that the symptoms that are listed now is the first selection. We already have added more symptoms for people because we have not been online for such a long time, and we are still improving and expanding. But we wanted, rather, to have a small number of indications worked out really well and then expanded, rather than having a lot of questions with a little bit of information about all of them...
Linda: ...a lot of symptoms. Yeah.
Matthew: Makes sense.
Linda: Yeah. And then the other thing I wanted to mention is, okay, that I know that there are quite some people out there that try to do the same as us, and some are doing a good job. Other people I'm less impressed by. But what I want to say is that what distinguishes us is that we take the science, the data, the clinical science to make it very clear, so that means research on people, and then we make a predictive model. Rather than, what a lot of other people do is gather a lot of data from the field, from people using cannabis products from dispensaries and so on, then try to do statistical analyses on them, and then try to make a matching tool.
And I think that what I'm doing is way better as a start, and we should integrate the data from other companies maybe or the data-gathering method that we use ourselves and make the questionnaire better. But I think that this starting point of starting from clinical science is very important for the quality of the predictability.
Matthew: Okay. And can you tell us a little bit...You talked a little about your background in clinical pharmacology. Can you just introduce what a clinical pharmacologist does, just a quick summary, so we can understand that at a high level?
Linda: Yeah. I love that question. That is very important because a lot of people just use all these terms without even realizing that other people might not understand what it is. So pharmacology means "the study of drugs," and clinical means that you are doing that study of drugs on humans. So it's studying drugs on humans. Yeah. I think that that's the important part.
Matthew: Okay. Okay, good. And tell us about what an antagonist drug is, or an antagonist drug - I think I got that right - what those type of drugs are and what they mean for a cannabis user?
Linda: Yeah. Yeah. So the study of drugs means drugs are...They go into a body and, in that body, they give effects. And there are many different ways that these compounds, these drugs, can give effects in the body. And one of those ways is that they bind to a particular binding place, after which, something happens. And in the case of an agonist and an antagonist, a drug finds the binding place that is suited for them and then, at the binding place with the compounds combination, is giving a particular effect. Something is going to happen. That is an agonist. What can also happen is that a compound finds a binding place, sits there, and decides, "I'm not going to do anything." That is an antagonist. You have a compound binding to a binding place, a receptor, and nothing is happening. The receptor can be blocked from other compounds that want to bind there.
Linda: And then you even have more variations. To keep it very simple, I will give just one more example that is that a compound goes to the receptor and gives an inverse effect, and then we are talking about inverse agonism.
Matthew: Okay. Talk a little bit about that a little bit more so we can just understand the difference.
Linda: Yeah. I'm trying to mention that last thing because a lot of people confuse antagonism and inverse agonism. Because antagonism sounds like "anti," so we think that there's...
Linda: ...yeah, an anti-effect of the agonist, but that's not true. There's just nothing happening. And this has been a very important...Let's say, yeah, 15 years ago, around the time when I started my PhD, when the pharmaceutical industry was very interested in this antagonism for various reasons.
Matthew: Okay. And tell us about the munchies and what you know about that coming from, you know, a clinical pharmacology background, and how we might be able to mitigate the munchies effect from cannabis?
Linda: That's an excellent bridge.
Matthew: Is that a scientific term, "the munchies?"
Linda: Not really. But I understand what you mean. We're more talking about energy balance than the munchies. Energy balance and reward, of course. Because a lot of people nowadays, they eat...well, especially, here in United States, I see them eating hamburgers and so on, and other things that do not necessarily have the nutritional value that their body really requires. So if I take a chocolate, I do that not because otherwise I starve, but just because I like it. So there is a lot of elements that are not necessarily related to the real nutritional value, but also to reward.
But yeah. The reason why I said that's an excellent bridge is that the pharmaceutical industry interest in the antagonism and inverse ag-...So the pharmaceutical industry that was interested in antagonism exactly had to do with this idea of the munchies. So let me explain. When the endocannabinoid system was discovered...So the endocannabinoid system is a physiological system in the body where these ligands, these agonists, for example, you were talking about, are being produced by our own bodies, and we have binding sites for these compounds to actually have effect. And there is a whole system involved with these agonists, these binding sites, with transporters, with enzymes that make these compounds and break them down. And all these elements together are called the "endocannabinoid system."
And when this system was found, scientists thought, "Okay. So if we are able to induce the munchies with, for example, THC, which also binds to this endocannabinoid system, then we should also be able to block this effect in a way."
Linda: Yeah. And that is when many different pharmaceutical companies started developing compounds that might block this effect because they thought, "This might be a blockbuster. This might actually fight obesity." And they went even a few steps ahead, "Maybe this can fight addiction, like nicotine addiction or dependence." And what was very interesting is that after that, a lot of pharmaceutical companies were trying to get this to the market as soon as possible because there's various reasons for that. You want to be the first, and you want to help people as fast as you can. And well, these motivations are different for different people, of course.
But anyway, yeah, the company who brought it to the market first, I think they might have done this way too hasty. Because why do a lot of recreational cannabis users use cannabis? This is a question for you, Matt.
Matthew: Okay. I think they use it for mostly wellness, pain, fun, relaxation...
Matthew: ...all the above.
Linda: Exactly. So for wellness, fun, relaxation. People use it recreationally because they like it. It gives a pleasant effect. So you can maybe understand that if you give something that antagonizes these effects, it might not just inhibit the munchies, it might also block these fun effects. And that's exactly what happened. So in this case, people who were vulnerable to it did not only lose weight, but they also got depressive feelings and suicidal feelings. And eventually, the drug had to be taken off the market. But this is, yeah, the whole story about trying to block the munchies in...well, it was in the noughties of this year...
Matthew: Oh, okay.
Linda: ...of this century. Yeah.
Matthew: So long story short, when you try to take away some effects, you end up taking others away as well that you may not have wanted taken away, it sounds like?
Linda: Exactly. And that is, especially, likely for the endocannabinoid system. Because if you look at other physiological systems in the body like the serotonergic system, there are so many receptor subtypes. And every receptor subtype, every binding site that is just a little bit different from the other binding site also regulates slightly different systems. And with the endocannabinoid system, the problem is that, for example, there are two different binding sites now that the scientific world has a consensus about, let's say, too. So you have type 1 and type 2 that are their glorious names.
And type 1, for example, is present in so many places in the body. So if you want to target type 1, then you are...It's very easy to just block all of them at the same time if you want to block them, or to activate all of them. So you have to use all kinds of tricks to not let that happen, but that's not easy.
Matthew: Yeah. And you've mentioned that sometimes experiments on rats and mice may lead to misleading results. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Linda: Yeah, of course. So how I typically explain it to people, "Matt, would you like to take a drug that has been tested on me as a model for you as a person?"
Matthew: I mean, I don't know. If you're a human, that might sound okay to me.
Linda: Yeah. But you don't sound convinced either.
Linda: [inaudible 00:23:16] You were like, "Yeah, right." Exactly. So can you imagine if someone develops a drug based on a mouse, a rodent?
Matthew: Yeah. That's different. I would prefer a human. But not if it hurts them. So I don't know what I'm saying anymore.
Linda: Okay. No. So there are various problems with the translation or extrapolation from a rodent to a human. I mean, well, they're a different species. They have a different size. They have different mechanisms in the [inaudible 00:23:47] For example, they break drugs down differently. There are so many differences. But then there are other differences as well. You cannot ask a mouse, "How are you feeling?" And that might sound funny, but it's actually a big problem for drug development. So let's take an example from cannabis research.
Linda: Yeah. So if we look at a very famous example of people suffering from multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis is a disease by which, let's say, neurons get damaged, and that has horrible consequences for people. That can result in a lot of pain. It can result in loss of muscle function. People can get paralyzed. It's horrible. And people with multiple sclerosis have reported that they have beneficial effects when they use cannabis. They report a decrease in pain. They also report a decrease in muscle spasticity. And the fun thing is...well, it's not fun at all. But if you try to measure to what extent the spasticity of these people actually decreased, you will not measure anything. But these people will report fewer spasticity.
And what is important here, whether their spasticity really decreases or whether they feel like it decreases, well, I personally would rather feel like it decreases than maybe I don't feel anything, and it does decrease. And if you would test things like this on a mouse...I'm not saying that it is the case in this particular story or particular example. But you can imagine if you try to measure something and you don't measure a change in animals, but you do measure a change when you talk to people, then that is something that's very important that you might miss. And the other way around too. You can measure particular things in rodents that you would never measure in humans. And therefore, I think that it might be necessary in many cases to use animals for particular studies but, in many cases, not.
Matthew: Yeah. Good point. I think sometimes we say like, "Hey, it was tested on a rodent successfully, and so just extrapolate that it will be successful on you, the same product." But it sounds like it might not be, even though we're both mammals. So well said. I wanna transition to a couple personal development questions, Linda. Is there a tool you use that helps with productivity in your business or personal life that you'd like to share?
Linda: Yes. It's actually a very, very simple tool. But what I use regularly, and I've also used this year in my PhD, that is a website, mytomatoes. And it uses the Pomodoro Technique. And it is a very simple idea that you work in blocks of 25 minutes. And after 25 minutes, you have a 5-minute break. So you can get your cup of tea or whatever you're interested in, and then continue working. And for me, this really helps planning my day better and also focusing. But there is actually another tool I would also like to mention, if possible.
Matthew: Okay. Yeah.
Linda: Yeah. And that is a project management tool.
Linda: Because what I see people doing a lot is making lists of things they have to do. And for me, making lists, that helps on a daily basis, so for example, if I plan mytomatoes on a day. But it also often does not really help because you lose the dependencies between activities. And therefore, I use casual.pm. I really like that tool because you see kind of a block model and you see the relationships between those blocks. So for me, that really helps.
Matthew: Well, that's good. Yeah. I use the Pomodoro Method occasionally too. Not every day. But the app...I think I just got it from the App Store. It's just called "Pomodoro," which just means "tomato" in Italian is "pomodoro." And it is a great system. I mean, it really does incentivize you to work in kind of strong blocks, then take a break and stand up. Which they're really saying now is really key to help physiologically just to stand up once an hour and kind of move around. So we don't turn into, like, Monty Burns from "The Simpsons" and, like, this old, decrepit person. So well said.
And now, being from the Netherlands and now living in the U.S., can you share some of the differences between the cultures you find interesting or you've had to adapt to? I'm particularly keen on your answer because I've been going around to a lot of countries the last couple years and taking it all in, and kind of want to get your take on what it's like to live in the U.S. and how it differs.
Linda: Sure. And I would like to hear your thoughts as well, of course, at some time. So there are many differences. And one big difference here is that, once a decision needs to be made, it's really made with a much bigger speed than Dutch people make decisions. Because Dutch want to involve everyone in their decision-making process. They don't want anyone to be felt left out. And here, people, they just take the decision because they have the authority to do so or so. And I think that that can work really well.
Another big difference, I think this is the biggest difference I would almost say that I would have to get used to, but I probably will never get used to this. That is that the Dutch have a very direct way of communicating. And in United States, it's a very indirect way of communicating.
Linda: So yeah. We just say what we think, and the Americans are more cautious to say what they think. They try to stay really friendly and polite. And the funny thing is that what a lot of American people don't realize is that this politeness, by not really saying what you think, is being perceived by the Dutch as very hypocritic. They think it's not fair if you're not telling me what you thin. And that is something...I notice by hearing it from other people that I insult people here regularly without my...Really. I have no intention to do so. I don't mean it that way. But if I don't like something, I'll just say it. I try to be more cautious and careful about it, but it's still pretty tough.
If we don't like each other's work and you want to see how you can improve it, you just say, "I don't like this and this, and this is how I think you can improve it." And trying to talk around that, I think, is very inefficient. But it's just a matter of what I'm used to.
Matthew: I think, it didn't used to be quite that way so much. It's the last couple decades with the onset of political correctness is that you always kind of have to hedge what you say because someone might get offended. And I don't know if I like that. But I mean, how can you...Everybody's spectrum of what might offend them is not something we can all agree on. So I understand where you're coming from. And there's a tradeoff there. It sounds like it's a little bit...It's interesting because you speak directly, but then there's this consensus that needs to be driven, so everybody in an organization needs to decide together. So those two things are...You wouldn't think about those two things going together, but it's an interesting combination.
My observation just - I don't know, I think it's been 12 countries maybe in the last 2 years, maybe a couple more, I'm kind of losing count...
Matthew: ...is that, I think, outside the U.S. in developed countries outside the U.S., there's maybe a little better quality of life, in terms of balance and not being so stressed out. And people can walk to more places versus driving. And there's just a little...There's less stress. So they have the work-life balance figured out better. But then, in the States, it's the States taking...Most of the ideas that will change the world seem to come from the States. And I think that is gonna start to get distributed to other countries, you know, China in particular. But that's kinda my sense is that these huge moon shots come from the States. But the rest of the countries have kind of figured out how to live better. And it's hard to say which one is better. I wouldn't say one's better than the other. It's just that they're different.
Matthew: I like walking around a lot more. I like not having a car. So I kind of appreciate, at least in Europe, that quality of life.
Linda: Yeah. I think it also gives very different social interactions. If you're inside your car, I always feel locked up. But when I take a train or a bus, I meet people I know. It has a very different social feeling.
Matthew: Well, Linda, give out your website and tell people how to visit and interact with Cannify.
Linda: So the website is cannify.us. So that is C as in Charlie, A as in Alpha, N as in November, N as in November, I as in India, F as in foxtrot, Y as in Yankee, dot U as in Uniform, S as in Sarah. So cannify.us.
Matthew: Okay, great. Well, Linda, good luck with that. And I encourage everybody, go take the questionnaire and see what cannabis products pop up for them and for their particular desired outcome. And I'm gonna give it a try myself. So thanks, Linda. Really appreciate you coming on the show and educating us.
Linda: Thank you a lot, Matt. This was a fun interview.
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