Seattle-based SōRSE Technology, which powers OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder’s hemp-infused sparkling water Mad Tasty and over 40 other products in the red-hot CBD and cannabis space, is breaking the next frontier by delving into cannabinoid drug research and development.
The venture capital-backed company’s patent-pending technology converts oil into SōRSE – a water-soluble emulsion – that can be used to infuse CBD and other functional ingredients into beverages, food, nutraceuticals, and topicals. It turns out, the company’s science may also have medical applications.
SōRSE Technology has partnered with Canadian biotech Pascal Biosciences to initiate a clinical trial of Pascal’s PAS-393, a cannabinoid-based cancer therapy. Scientists at SōRSE and Pascal will optimize a cannabinoid formulation and will then test the experimental PAS-393 treatment, to enhance the so-called checkpoint inhibitors that activate the immune system to kill tumor cells.
“We were thrilled when Pascal Biosciences reached out to us in the summer of 2019, asking to use our emulsion in their research study on immune recognition markers on cancer cells,” SōRSE CEO Howard Lee told Proactive.
“We are excited to continue to support pharmaceutical studies of cannabinoids with Pascal and other world-class researchers,” added Lee, who has over 20 years of street cred in the tech and start-up space.
Lee was the co-founder and CEO of patent-rich Spoken Communications, which was acquired by Avaya Holdings in 2018.
SōRSE will pay $750,000 to Pascal for research during the 15-month collaboration. After a Phase 1a clinical trial, Pascal and SōRSE may choose to continue clinical development as partners in a Phase 1b cancer trial, in combination with a checkpoint inhibitor.
“We’ve got the drug discovery and development expertise, and SōRSE has formulation capabilities that will help get the drug into the clinic,” Pascal CEO Patrick Gray told Reuters.
SōRSE intends to connect the dots of opportunity by working with other researchers and product developers to study cannabinoids in other medical applications.
Powering Mad Tasty
In 2016, Ryan Tedder, the lead vocalist of pock rock band OneRepublic, had logged 400,000 miles in seven months and was burnt out from promoting a new album and going on tour. He said he had developed heart palpitations and a major sleeping problem. That was when he found relief through CBD. He said that in 2017 and 2018, the only way he could take CBD was with tinctures and eye drops.
“I knew there had to be a more delicious method to delight in CBD, and out of sheer luck and timing I got presented to a business out of Seattle called SōRSE,” Tedder, a three-time Grammy winner, told Fortune.
If you try to put oil (hemp) into water, it floats right to the surface, which means that many CBD drinks end up with separation and uneven dispersion of the CBD. Tedder discovered that SōRSE had a method to nano-emulsify hemp oil to the point that it preserves the integrity of the beverage.
SōRSE’s technology takes an oil, breaks it down into small, stable droplets, and then emulsifies it, which means it can be evenly distributed into a liquid. This also ensures 12 months of shelf stability.
As a result, Mad Tasty collaborated with the SōRSE team to develop one of the best tasting hemp-derived CBD beverages on the market, using the company’s water-soluble emulsion technology. From formulation to securing the co-packer, SōRSE got Mad Tasty to market in under 90 days.
Mad Tasty’s hydrating, 20 mg hemp extract sparkling water comes in three flavors — Watermelon Kiwi, Grapefruit and Unicorn Tears. The hemp is sourced from a farm in Oregon, and thanks to SōRSE’s technology, the drinks have no cannabis flavor or scent.
The SōRSE advantage
SōRSE’s emulsion technology masks the taste and smell of cannabis, offering a better flavor profile, consistent dosing, and safe ingredients. More importantly for the consumer, the technology delivers a consistent experience, including a quick onset of 10-to-15 minutes. Traditionally, these have been the top challenges for CBD and cannabis-infused beverages, foods and topicals.
The company currently licenses its water-soluble cannabinoid emulsion technology and works with over 40 brands in the US, Canada, and the EU, including leading CBD beverages APRCH and CENTR. Clients use SōRSE, which comes in liquid, standard powder, and an agglomerated powder form (aimed at RTM beverages), to make their own products.
“Consumers have redefined a healthy lifestyle to include regular exercise, relaxation, and attention to mental/emotional health, which is even more relevant now with the coronavirus pandemic,” said food scientist Donna Wamsley, who is the director of Research and Analytics, at SōRSE.
“With that, functional foods and beverages are becoming more and more influential,” she added.
Expanding into the beer industry
In 2021, SōRSE is expanding into the beer industry with hop oil emulsion, a project spearheaded by Michael Flemmens, VP of Technical Business Development. The company is partnering with a hops grower and supplier and emulsifying their hop oil. Three products are in the testing phase: an emulsion for hop flavor, an emulsion for bittering acid, and cloud emulsion for haze.
“Hop oil emulsion can not only make a beer taste better, but it can improve shelf-life stability and efficiency in production processes,” said Lee. “A Seattle brewery has tested the emulsion and successfully commercialized two products using it.”
Working with Valens
The deal also allows for Valens to license, produce and sell SōRSE’s branded products. This includes the top two infused beverages in Washington state — Happy Apple, a top-selling cannabis-infused apple cider, and Major, a cannabis-infused fruit drink and No.1 THC-infused beverage in the state.
An amended manufacturing and distribution agreement between SōRSE and Valens closed at $10 million, with $6 million in cash and $4 million in Valens shares. Valens will also pay royalty to SōRSE, calculated as a percentage of sales, subject to an annual minimum of $2 million over the five-year term.
“We reviewed over 80 different emulsion technologies in North America and Europe. SōRSE presented us with clear advantages for some key needs in developing cannabis beverages and edibles,” said Valens Executive Vice President Everett Knight.
In the spring of 2020, A1 Cannabis Company, in partnership with Valens, brought its first two cannabis drinks to Canada using SōRSE’s emulsion technology – Summit THC Citrus Water and Basecamp CBD Iced Tea.
Best company for innovators
A thoughtful risk-taker, Lee leads a company with top food scientists, flavorists and experts in consumer-packaged goods and manufacturing.
SōRSE ranked 61 on Fast Co's “Best Workplaces for Innovators 2020” list, which included heavyweights like Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) and Dell Technologies Inc (NYSE:DELL). The fast-growing company clinched its ranking for routinely sending employees for training in food science and for its innovations in food and beverages. It was the only cannabis-adjacent company on the list.
“In under two years, we’ve established ourselves as the leading water-soluble emulsion technology for functional ingredients, with nearly 25% of our clients requesting “Powered By SōRSE” to be on their packaging because our brand is synonymous with quality, safety, and consistency,” said Diana Eberlein, VP of Marketing, at SōRSE.
Food scientist, chemist, and Chief Science Officer Scott Riefler continues to propel innovation with a team of more than 30 scientists and product developers in the company’s light-filled Fremont lab.
“Our technology can be used in every processed product in the grocery store – anything outside of produce and meat,” quipped Flemmens.
With SōRSE’s versatility, the possibilities for infused food and drinks could be limitless.
Contact the author Uttara Choudhury at email@example.com
Follow her on Twitter: @UttaraProactive