Science Backed Products With Michelle Shuffett Of Radicle Science And Nicole Brown Of Open Book Extracts – Ep33

CBD products created with the backing of scientific research, validation, and formulation stand out in a crowded marketplace. Furthermore, research into cannabinoids continues to bring us closer to unlocking their full potential.

Nicole Brown, Chief Innovation Officer of Open Book Extracts, and Michelle Shuffett, Chief Growth Officer of Radicle Science join the show to discuss how science and market leadership can result in fantastic products. Listen in to hear about the alliance between these two leading companies in the CBD world.

Insights From The Episode

  • How Nicole and Michelle’s interest in CBD grew into a passion, ultimately leading them to their current roles.
  • What the story is behind both Radicle Science and Open Book Extracts, and the where they fit into the industry.
  • How the collaboration between both organizations has benefitted the team and the consumers.
  • Why there has been a movement in the industry for good science on CBD products.
  • What the challenges are behind the research of various cannabinoids.
  • The keys to establishing quality ingredients in CBD products.
  • How both organizations reach individuals with their transparency and more.
  • What the most popular products are for Open Book Extracts.
  • What consumers can expect in the near future for Radicle Science and Open Book Extracts.

Connect With The Guests

About Radicle Science & Open Book Extracts

Radicle Science is a transformative health tech B-Corp that reimagines the traditional pharmaceutical and academic research model to deliver rigorous health outcome data at a fraction of the time and cost. Their virtual, direct-to-consumer clinical trials offer the first-ever path to natural product validation at scale. Open Book Extracts (OBX) is a leading ingredient manufacturer and product developer of cannabinoid-enabled products. Together, they recently announced the launch of an alliance to advance the development of market-leading, scientifically validated CBD and cannabinoid products – filling an unmet need for rigorous scientific research in the cannabis industry and setting a new gold standard for CBD and minor cannabinoid product development.

Episode Transcript

Scott: Hey, what’s going on everyone? Scott with the CBD Guide Podcast here again, and welcome to another fantastic episode. I’m so excited about this one. I have two guests who are thought leaders in the world of CBD and have a lot of exciting things to offer up today. Michelle Shuffett who is the chief growth officer of Radicle Science, and Nicole Brown who is the chief innovation officer of Open Book Extracts are with me today. And as for Michelle, she joined Radicle Science as a founding team member and, as I mentioned, chief growth officer. And she’s an accomplished healthcare executive, marketing strategist, speaker, and wellness enthusiast with over 20 years of experience encompassing a unique blend of clinical, medicine, communications, and leadership. And as for Nicole, she channels data-driven consumer insights into a long-term course of action, delivering immediately usable product innovation, also drives awareness and thought leadership by overseeing strategic marketing efforts, including PR, event marketing, advertising, and partnerships. We’re gonna be talking about partnerships as well here. So, Michelle, Nic, welcome to the show.

Michelle: Hey, Scott.

Nicole: Thanks.

Scott: Yeah, thanks for being here. There’s so much we wanna cover today, so, I really wanna just dive right in. But I always like to kick it off with just a simple question, because CBD is still so new, it’s such an industry that’s growing and there’s so much excitement around it. I’m curious how did each of you really first discover CBD and realize, “There’s something special here.” I just always find those stories are interesting.

Nicole: Yeah, I can certainly share first, so, you know, my background in consumer product development. You know, I was in the beverage world, I was in the beauty world for many years and always was fascinated by new ingredients, especially those that can support better health and wellness outcomes and really create better lives for people out there. And the cannabis industry, as a whole certainly, watching that grow and evolve, both on the THC side, but then the CBD side became extremely fascinating. And, so, I personally started to educate myself, learn more about the products, try more about the products to understand how they worked their mechanisms of action and all the different range of various solutions that they can provide. And then the more I talked to people in my network, friends and family, and understanding their outcomes and experiences that were so positive and so therapeutic, it really raised my attention and my curiosity to be taking those products myself on a daily basis, even before I joined this industry, and seeing great results. And it made me so eager to be a part of it. So, that’s my story.

Scott: I love it. Michelle, how about yourself?

Michelle: My background, Scott, is actually in traditional clinical medicine. And I more or less think of myself as an MD gone rogue. And it’s the best way to describe it. But, over the last 5 to 10 years, I’ve really started to be much more interested in and embrace the wellness and integrative side of medicine. And it’s really changed my focus to really live at that intersection of health and wellness. And that passion has led to a lot of opportunities that have come along very serendipitously and sort of a really beautiful alignment with those interests.

And I actually started in the cannabis space. I had a conversation at a cocktail party. Ultimately, I got introduced to Columbia Care, one of the largest MSOs in the U.S., and got involved with them on the research and communications side. So, it was really a first introduction to, first and foremost, how hard it is to actually get research accomplished in the cannabis-cannabinoid space. And then also just this, “Wow, no one ever taught me about the endocannabinoid system or any of these concepts.” And there’s so many really incredible things that plants can do, particularly CBD and other cannabinoids, and we just don’t know about it. It’s not necessarily taught in medical schools, it’s really hard to find solid research or enough research to make choices, and it puts consumers and healthcare providers in this really interesting place of…the consumer often knows more than the healthcare provider. So, you know, there’s so many opportunities to help educate and share information. And, you know, since that introduction to that space, I’ve had several other opportunities to work in areas where it’s all about helping people understand natural products, how they work and what they can potentially do for you. So, I’m really excited to be able to do that in the context of Radicle Science because we’re really trying to get that information out there and democratize the data so that consumers, healthcare practitioners, and a variety of other groups have it at hand.

Scott: Right. It’s, so, critical, and I love both of your stories because it’s this interest then becomes the passion and now it’s taking your guys’ careers on this path. And you both are working for some fascinating businesses in the CBD space. So, can you tell us a bit more about your respective organizations? You have Radicle Science and then you have Open Book Extracts, what’s the story behind each of those organizations and really your focus as you look at the industry itself.

Michelle: Sure. So, Radicle Science is providing the first-ever path to natural-product validation at scale. And it was, essentially, born out of a belief that there’s a better way to do this. And the co-founders of our company, Dr. Jeff Chen and Pelin Thorogood built the company around that belief because of many years of frustration. Similar to what I felt at Columbia Care about the current model, how ineffective and inefficient it is because it’s based on traditional pharmaceutical molecules versus botanical products. And at the core, Radicle is truly a rebellion against the status quo and a movement towards this democratized personalized approach in order to be able to deliver well-being to a variety of different people across the board. And, you know, what we’re trying to do is to make sure that we lower the cost and time of research while still making sure that the data we provide is rigorous.

Nicole: And on the Open Book Extracts side, you know, our story, our co-founders Dave Neundorfer and Oscar Hackett were previously in the medical-marijuana business in the state of Ohio. And, as they were opening their businesses and saw their patients much more preferring the non-THC products that they had available in store, that the consumers, as Michelle just pointed out, were already aware of CBD and that they wanted it and what it could do for them. And, so, the idea, and this was back in 2018, was for them to launch a CBD brand of their own that they would be providing to their patients and their consumers. And when they started to look at the supply chain in the CBD industry, they were incredibly disappointed and incredibly disturbed by what they found in the lack of quality, the lack of sophistication. And when you see the opportunity in the CBD space for various health and wellness products, food and beverage products, pet products, it has tremendous potential. And the opportunity for the large CPG companies of the world, Nestle or Pepsi or PNG, to enter the market, who in the supply chain was going to support them? That was the big question and that was the catalyst to establish Open Book Extracts to be that trusted source in the supply chain to help bring high-quality, sophisticated, formulated products to market. And then this is where, you know, Radicle Science comes in as the perfect piece, with good science. Our unofficial mantra is, “Good quality and good science,” and that’s what’s going to make the products that are going to work and that are going to help people.

And, so, Open Book Extracts, we are located in North Carolina, which is where we do our cultivation, all of our processing for all of the various ingredients that go into the products that you see out there in the market. And we’re gonna talk about those, I’m sure, in a few minutes here. And then being able to formulate and develop finished products that can go into the market, into consumers’ hands, giving them great confidence in the quality of the products they’re receiving. And then, through our partnership with Radicle Science, through the alliance, we are able to allow all the clients that we serve, as well as ourselves together, as an entity, to do the research to provide that validation that’s going to bridge the gap with consumer trust and consumer understanding in the space.

Scott: It’s so powerful. And I love that, Nic, you were talking about quality. Probably people listening right now are rolling their eyes, I feel like every episode I’m talking about the importance of quality, quality sourcing, and all of that. I wanna dive in more because really the big topic today is this partnership between your organizations. And you were kind of alluding to some of the benefits there, but really, what are you hoping to accomplish by collaborating? And, I guess, if you could dive in, what are the real benefits to consumers and your organizations themselves when you kind of work together on this?

Michelle: The alliance is absolutely the best part, I loved what Nic was saying earlier. And, when I first met Dave and Oz and Nic, I was so impressed not only by what they were doing but also by just their genuine passion and love for what they’re doing and the fact that their value system aligned so well with the value system at Radicle Science. And this partnership in this alliance is all about setting a new gold standard. You know, we want to redefine what a gold standard looks like for CBD and minor-cannabinoid product development. So, it’s all about creating a process and an infrastructure that allows folks to use the experts that we have across our organizations and identify research-backed insights in order to bring products forward.

Nicole: And, of course, building on what Michelle said, when we work with our clients and our clients come to us because they know we stand for quality and purity when it comes to the ingredients that we make and we have a team of scientists and formulators with PhDs and masters in chemistry who can work with those ingredients, create various bespoke and custom formulations to suit different needs, if you’re trying to develop a product to help someone sleep better or relieve pain or relieve anxiety, to talk about some of the big categories, we can do that based on the science that we know. And then we can prove it with Radicle. And we can take those formulations and those products to their population of consumers and have real-world data from consumers that can validate those products. And that is a gold standard that we hope becomes ubiquitous, that we hope that every product out there that a consumer is going to buy is going to be backed by science and backed by data. Because that is going to truly unlock the potential of this industry and allow the most people to benefit from the products that we know can really help them.

Scott: Right. And you guys are really leading the charge on this. And I’m curious to your perspectives on why has there been this movement in the CBD industry to really scientifically validate these CBD products? Because there’s a push I’ve seen coming from all angles on this, and why has that been occurring?

Nicole: And this takes us back to the beginning. And, in 2018, when the farm bill was established, you saw an explosion of CBD products and brands coming to market. And, as you know, Scott, you talk about quite often on this show, not all CBD products are created equal. And, so, this consumer lack of trust in the space, because there were some great products coming to market at that time and there were a lot of lower-quality products that actually didn’t have the designated dosage, that were not formulated properly, that were not stable, you can name all the possible quality issues that you can here, so, it creates this real trust gap.

And the only way that we see that we’re gonna overcome and bridge that gap and close it is with data is with science and to say that “There are products that work and there are clinical studies and research trials, those are taking place as we speak,” but we need it sooner. There’s products out there that have been taken by consumers and we want to help them know what they’re getting and know-how and why it’s working. And that’s why this alliance is so powerful because it allows us to do that and serves that need not only of the clients and the brands that want to do things the right way, and they can prove that now through having access to this platform and being able to show how and why their products are truly working.

Scott: I mean I think you’ve broken it down so perfectly. And I’m curious, and maybe Michelle you could speak to this from the science side, what are some of the challenges maybe when it comes to I guess studying these products? And you were talking about it at the top about how traditionally the research and things like that, it’s just been a little more challenging, I’m curious about what those challenges are and sort of how maybe they can be navigated?

Michelle: You’re absolutely correct, Scott, there are multiple challenges associated with doing research on these products. And when you think about the traditional pharmaceutical product-development model, it’s based on a single molecule. And this is not a single molecule. It’s a botanical, which means it has multiple molecules all combined together, working together, to provide an effect. So, it doesn’t line up nicely with the existing rules around research.

Nic mentioned the farm bill. Despite the farm bill, there’s still a lot of restrictions when it comes to research and a lot of limitations on who’s able to do the research, where you can get the different products. And there’s a lot of reasons for that, whether it’s related to federal funding or institutional bureaucracy or different things like that, clinical trials, traditionally speaking, are site-based. And that creates a challenge where you get these homogeneous populations of people in the studies because those are the ones that can get to the study site. And what we try to do when we reimagine this model is be intentionally heterogeneous. And we eliminate all that physical infrastructure and we really try to run clinical studies in a virtual direct-to-consumer crowdsourced fashion so that we have natural diversity and inclusion in the studies. We could probably go on for hours about other limitations and things like that but I think those are the ones that probably stand out the most for me.

Scott: Absolutely. I mean I think you guys…you’ve broke down the importance of the research side of things and kind of how that connects to creating great products, but I’m curious to dive a bit more because there’s so many people out there that maybe they’ve been impacted by CBD in a positive way, it’s been a positive part of their life. And then they have maybe that entrepreneurial gene and they’re like, “You know what? I wanna make a great CBD product,” or, “I wanna be a part of a company that’s making great products.” How can those creating new CBD products do it the right way from the ingredient side? Or, if I was putting it another way, what are some of the keys to really ensuring that quality ingredients are being used from the very beginning when you’re creating these products that the consumer is going to take and put into their body?

Nicole: Great question, and one that we’ve certainly put a lot of thought into in, you know, establishing Open Book Extracts to serve that purpose. And the first thing I would say is thinking about the team that you’re working with and the people that are making those products. And we always say, “To make the best products, you need the best people.” And we recruited our team, you know, here, in North Carolina, we’re right by the research triangle. So, there is a wealth of talent that come from backgrounds in the pharmaceutical industry, the nutraceutical industry, the food and beverage space that can take all of their collective expertise and apply it to this industry. So, when you come and visit our facility, many people would mistake it for a pharmaceutical facility. That’s how it looks, that’s how it feels, that’s how it operates. And, so, being able to choose a partner to work with that’s going to make your products and thinking about the people behind those products. Certainly looking at certifications, CGMP, which is standing for certified good manufacturing practices, that is a standard across many industries outside of ours in the food and beverage world, in the dietary supplement world. Since we are without regulatory guidance clearly right now, it’s not yet a mandate. We expect it to be and we hope it to be. And, so, we’ve already set a higher standard for ourselves to be GMP-certified for food processing, for dietary supplements, and soon to be adding to those certifications. So, that’s another way, if you’re looking to bring products to market, that you can ask to visit your facility, you can ask to see those certifications and make sure that those are up-to-date, and really checking all the boxes when it comes to that.

And that also then speaks to the products that you can review looking at the certificate of analysis for your products, making sure that everything is tested properly and tested heavily with third-party labs, as well as with the team that’s making them, to make sure that, right up front, when you’re making your products you’re choosing your ingredients, you’re choosing ones that you are confident in, that have the quality and the purity that’s going to build great products.

And then, of course, the team that we have here can also take ideas and concepts and turn those into products. And, so, we have people who will come to us and organizations with very clearly thought-out products and formulations, or something more conceptual, and come to our team to bring that to life, to design formulations, to select the right products. And then, using those quality ingredients, build out their products and deliver them products that they can bring to market really confidently and create great outcomes for their consumers. And we’ve seen that happen time and time again.

Scott: Right. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but maybe, as part of that too, being led with that sort of scientific approach, right? When you’re creating a product like, “Hey, there is actual scientific work going on behind the scenes before this product was ever even conceptualized.” Right?

Nicole: Exactly. There’s a lot of information about the different components in these products and what they may or may not do. The use of the products and whether or not they work is often anecdotal or it’s backed with animal data. And what we’re trying to do to create this new gold standard is you don’t bring a product to market, unless you’ve actually tested it in the need state that you think it might work. So, the idea is to use all the expertise at Open Book Extracts and all the information we have from the science, the research, and the literature, bring all those things together and create different options. Create different things that we think might work and then actually test them, have participants go through the process, and realize which one bubbles to the top, which one actually has a positive effect. And that’s what you bring to market.

And that hasn’t been done in most cases. I don’t wanna guess exactly how many it has versus not but I think it’s fair to say that the majority of products don’t go through a rigorous process like that to offer their consumers and their customers trust that their product is going to help them the way they say it will.

Scott: Right. And I think that illustrates something that is so crucial when you think about the industry as a whole, and how that trust, any one company releasing a product, if someone’s new to the world of CBD and they take this product and like, “I’m having trouble with pain,” and they take it and it doesn’t work at all, doesn’t give any kind of results or what have you, the risk there, if it doesn’t do what it said it would, is that then they become skeptical of all CBD products, no matter where they’re coming from, and they won’t give anything else a try. And I think trying to avoid that is something that’s really great for everybody.

Nicole: Yeah, you’re totally right. And have certainly had many of those conversations where people say, “Oh, I’ve tried CBD, it doesn’t work for me.” And it’s like, “Well, where did you buy that? Did you buy it at a gas station or did you buy it from a reputable retailer or perhaps you bought at a dispensary? Not all CBD products are created equal because of this huge variance in quality. And those lower-quality products are doing a disservice to the entire industry because, when people have a bad first impression, they write off the whole category and they say, “Okay, it doesn’t work,” versus saying, “no, here are some products that you wanna try. What are you looking to solve for? And here are some we would recommend,” or, “here are some that are gonna work for you.” And being able to change that narrative immediately just by demonstrating what a difference it makes to start with those higher-quality products, to start with those formulations that are targeted, that are going to deliver on getting a good night’s sleep, or relieving your chronic pains, or helping you have more energy and focus. So, I think that’s something that we’re quite excited to be able to change through the work that we’re doing.

Scott: Kind of to that end, we’ve talked about it, I mean there are so many different products out there, there’s so many companies…if the industry continues to grow, there’s a lot of competition, there’s a lot of, what I would call, noise in the whole industry. What have been some of your keys to really breaking through that noise and reaching people with your quality products, with your quality services and what you’re doing to maybe cast aside and have someone ignore that questionable product that they found at a gas station and to something that you guys have produced?

Michelle: From the Radicle Science side, I think it’s probably two-fold for us when it comes to trying to figure out how to break through the noise. First and foremost, we’ve tackled a lot of firsts. You know, we’re really trying to bring solutions into the industry that solve for these unmet needs that we’ve talked about over the course of today. And, you know, our ability to try to validate natural products at scale is something that hasn’t been done yet.

The second is the fact that we’re a B corp, we’re mission-driven. We truly want to bring value not only to the brands we service but also the consumers that the brands are providing products for. So, it’s important to us that we’re giving that information and providing that evidence and data to a variety of different stakeholders and really doing so in a way that always rolls back up to our values. You know, it’s about being transparent. As you can see from this alliance, it’s about collaboration and purpose and being evidence-driven and really trying to do things that people might’ve considered a bit audacious in the past. And we think they should be the way that we move forward boldly to create this movement.

Nicole: Well, Michelle touched on two of our trigger words, which is “audacity” and “transparency” in equal matter. And we put it right in our name for us. When we entered into this industry, you know, this industry was already underway, we were the new kid on the block. And to break through the noise and introduce ourselves, we led with transparency. We said, “First and foremost, come cross our threshold, come to where we operate, and be with our team.” And even that alone was audacious. That we had clients coming to us and saying, “I’ve been working with one of your competitors for 2 years and they’ve never invited me nor allowed me to even see where they operate. And, so, that was a differentiator.

And then everything that we do in display, whether it’s through our website, through our social channels, through doing talks like this, events, really introducing ourselves and our team, and then standing behind the products we make in the work that we do and letting that speak for itself. And that quite quickly attracted and brought people to us like a magnet that were so in need of the types of products that we make at the level of quality that we do. And the attention to detail and the collaboration, you know, quite similar to the Radicle Science and Michelle’s team, we’re collaborative with our clients. Our team is their team. We are right there with them helping them every step of the way, we are much more than a supplier or a product-development house. They really see us as part of their team, and that made us stand out quite quickly and establish ourselves in a very competitive industry and allow us to develop relationships with clients, develop our partnership with Radicle Science, which was a love at first sight just from our team’s alignment, from our mission alignment, and now be able to come together to continue to push things forward and raise the bar on this entire community that we’re a part of.

Scott: I love it. And folks, you know, if you’re curious, “So, how can I get things out there?” take some notes, play that back because I think there’s just so many great lessons there. We’re winding down our chat here but, Nic, were there any specific products that you guys are creating that you’ve really seen a lot of great response from? And just can you speak to that a bit because I know I’m always on the lookout for, “Hey, what’s a great CBD product that can help me out and be part of my wellness plan?”

Nicole: Oh, there’s so many I could name, Scott, but will talk…

Scott: “How long do I have,” right?

Nicole: I know, “How much longer we got?” So, one of our specialties here is in the rare cannabinoid space. And I think many listeners out there are familiar with some of them, such as CBN, which is very popular in many of the sleep products that you see in the market. And THCV, which I’m not supposed to have a favorite cannabinoid, that’s not allowed, but I do, and she’s it, it’s THCV. THCV is so powerful for several reasons. You know, despite its three letters in its name, it is very different from Delta 9 THC, quite the opposite. So, it’s not psychoactive and it supports appetite suppression and metabolic regulation, as well as providing stimulation and energy. And, so, all of those properties, when you include THCV in a product such as tinctures or gummies or tablets, all types of products we make, delivers an outstanding outcome and is supporting people who are looking for support with intermittent fasting or just looking for general energy levels and focus levels to be raised. And all of the clients that we work with that are putting products in the market with THCV have 100% reorder rates. People come back again and again. And, of course, that’s not data or science, we’re doing that next in Radicle Science. And Open Book Extracts are looking into some of the studies we’re going to do on that. But just the anecdotal evidence alone, this is going to be a singular cannabinoid that we think will be greater than everyone out there in the years to come. And it’s so exciting to be able to…we were the first to, you know, commercialize, at commercial scale, bring THCV to market last year. And, so, we are, you know, the global source for THCV for that reason. And it’s so exciting to think about all the potential people that we can help with various conditions and how THCV is gonna support them. So, that is the one that we are the most excited about here. There’s certainly more to come because there’s a whole road map of cannabinoids that we’re gonna bring to market, and that’s what we love to do here.

Scott: That’s so exciting to see. And, as we wind this down, my last question here is, I like looking to the future, what’s next for Radicle Science and Open Book Extracts? Any other exciting projects going on? Anything kind of coming up on the horizon that you can share, of course, that our listeners might find to be interesting?

Michelle: Sure. So, at Radicle Science, you know, our current focus is working with CBD and cannabinoid-based brands to help them better understand their products and help them differentiate themselves in the market. And we will continue to do that and then move on to adjacent natural-product markets, things like state-legal cannabis or THC Delta 9, as Nic was saying earlier, nootropics, functional mushrooms, other areas.

And to kind of circle back a little bit to the previous question, we know that much of the experience with these products is very personal. I mentioned the endocannabinoid system earlier, and we all have a slightly different wiring when it comes to our endocannabinoid system. So, one of the most exciting things coming up for Radicle is the release of Radicle aces, which is our advancing CBD education and science multi-brand study. And that will offer this huge aggregate body of evidence to help us better understand dosing and effectiveness across the board with a variety of products. So, it’s not sharing data on each of these products individually but it’s really collating it, bringing it together in that aggregate fashion so that you, as a consumer, might be able to look at that information and start to understand, “What place should I go to first?” And then you get to figure it out for yourself when it comes to choosing the ultimate dose and the ultimate product that works best for you.

Scott: It’s gonna be fantastic to see what you both and your organizations have for us in store. Michelle, Nic thank you so so much for joining me on the show today, sharing so many great insights. And if folks wanna find out more about either of your organizations, maybe the alliance, what you guys are working on, where can they go, where can they do that?

Nicole: So, for myself, you can go to our website openbookextracts.com. And I would also welcome anyone out there to please feel free to reach out to me directly. You can reach me at nicole, N-I-C-O-L-E, @openbookextracts.com. You can find me on LinkedIn. I’m always open to having conversations at any level and sharing more about what we do and what you might wanna learn more about.

Michelle: Similar story for Radicle Science. Our website is radiclescience.com, and it’s spelled R-A-D-I-C-L-E. Happy to chat as well, that’s michelle@radiclescience.com. And you can find us on LinkedIn, Twitter…

Scott: We’ll be sure to have all the links of course on the show notes as well. Thanks again, guys.

Michelle: Thank you so much, Scott.

Nicole: Bye.

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