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Chris Altomare, co-founder and CEO of Nova Analytic Labs – Interview Series

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Nova Analytic Labs is at the forefront of innovation, employing gas chromatography technology with liquid injection for terpenes analysis. What sets them apart is their commitment to delivering comprehensive results, offering testing for an impressive 58 terpenes – a substantial leap beyond the industry standard of 23. This dedication to a more comprehensive analysis of terpenes not only empowers cannabis cultivators and producers with valuable insights into their product's aromatic profile but also elevates the quality and transparency within the cannabis marketplace. In this interview with MyCannabis, Chris Altomare, co-founder and CEO of Nova Analytic Labs, sheds light on the groundbreaking advancements that his company is bringing to the cannabis testing industry.

Beyond their pioneering work in terpenes analysis, Nova Analytic Labs is also making significant strides in the realm of pesticide testing within Maine's burgeoning cannabis industry.

Can you tell us about Nova Analytic Labs and the unique gas chromatography technology you've developed for cannabis testing? How does it stand out in comparison to traditional methods?

At Nova, we utilize a gas chromatography testing technology featuring liquid injection for terpenes analysis, which excels in assessing concentrates, oils, and flower samples. This approach offers superior identification and quantitation capabilities with a broader linear range compared to the prevailing headspace analysis employed by most testing labs for terpene evaluation. It also offers increased accuracy in both flower and concentrates over a larger linear range, a larger number of analytes, and has the capability to identify minor terpenes that are typically overlooked.

Nova Analytic Labs offers testing for 58 terpenes, a significantly higher number than the industry standard of 23. How does this expanded terpene analysis benefit cannabis operators and consumers, and what insights can they gain from this data?

Terpenes play a pivotal role in imparting distinct aromas, flavors and perceived effects to different cannabis strains. A comprehensive understanding of the terpenes present in a given cannabis plant enables more accurate predictions of the consumption experience. This is a significant advantage for consumers, who can select products based on their preferences with far more specificity. If they know they enjoy the flavor of a particular terpene, they would be able to look for more strains with that terpene in it.

Your lab is known for providing a deeper understanding of cannabis products. Could you elaborate on how this advanced testing technology enables operators to offer more consistent and predictable consumption experiences to customers?

In the realm of product consistency, data is paramount. Taking terpenes as an example again, knowing the dominant flavors is invaluable to operators. For instance, if a particular strain gains popularity due to its distinctive flavor profile, our terpene analysis allows operators to pinpoint the precise combinations responsible for that flavor. This not only facilitates the replication of the original strain's success, inching closer to a perfect flavor every time, but also aids refinement. A brand is a promise, and consistency holds supreme. The extra data helps brands promise consumers a product that consistently matches their preferences, fostering brand loyalty and customer retention. The only way to provide that consistency is in consistent data, which this new methodology affords.

Nova Analytic Labs is pioneering pesticide testing in Maine's cannabis industry. Could you explain the significance of this accomplishment and how it contributes to ensuring product safety for consumers?

Nova Analytic Labs became the first laboratory certified for pesticide testing in Maine, due to the very real threat pesticides pose to consumer health. Certain pesticides, like Myclobutanil, also known as Eagle 20, can emit hazardous fumes like hydrogen cyanide and chloride. Ensuring the safety of cannabis products is a fundamental pillar of legalized cannabis, so testing for pesticides is a major priority of ours. In Maine, adult-use cannabis undergoes mandatory pesticide testing, with products failing such tests being destroyed. Medical cannabis in Maine’s market does not share this requirement and does not have to be tested for any contaminants.

In light of this lack of testing, Nova recently conducted an independent study of adult-use and medical cannabis that were voluntarily submitted for testing, finding dangerous levels of pesticides, including Myclobutanil, which can produce life-threatening fumes such as cyanide, posing serious public health concerns. Further, a staggering 20.73% failure rate in voluntary/medical samples was observed. While this data raises concerns, it represents a crucial starting point in enhancing consumer safety in Maine and across the country.

As the first ISO accredited lab in Maine, what does this accreditation mean for Nova Analytic Labs and the quality of the services you provide? How does it reflect your commitment to industry standards and excellence?

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a globally recognized independent standards body that assesses companies across diverse industries. Our accreditation, conforming to ISO/IEC 17025, serves as a testament to our competence and ability to generate scientifically valid results. ISO accreditation underscores our commitment to adhering to high-quality scientific practices and offers a third-party guarantee to all of our clients. We firmly believe in transparency and adhere to the stringent standards set forth by ISO.

Maine has a rapidly evolving cannabis market. How do you see Nova Analytic Labs' technological advancements impacting the growth and development of the state's cannabis industry?

We are dedicated to consumer safety and assisting cannabis operators in Maine in this pursuit. For example, Nova has an active project aimed at assessing mold species across various geographical regions within the state. By analyzing samples that have tested positive for mold, we conduct speciation to determine whether targeted areas exhibit a higher prevalence of certain types of molds and microbes. Accumulating this data provides invaluable and practical insights for cultivators, enabling them to better understand and manage the most common microbial challenges associated with their regions. This data-driven approach enhances the effectiveness and efficiency of our response in addressing these challenges as they arise going forward.

Looking ahead, what are Nova Analytic Labs' future goals and aspirations? Are there any upcoming innovations or developments in the cannabis testing field that you're excited about?

We’re looking into a study focused on determining what contaminants, such as molds and pesticide residues, enter the smoke inhaled by consumers. This involves conducting smoke analyses on cannabis known to be contaminated with pesticides or molds to shed light on the actual amount of pathogens that reach consumers' lungs. While current regulations impose a 10,000 cfu/g limit on mold, we are critically evaluating whether this limit is practical and well-founded, considering the minimal data available in support of this threshold. Our aim is to contribute to the refinement of such standards, driven by a commitment to enhancing the safety and quality of cannabis products in the market.

We are also excited about our joint venture with Certified Testing & Data (CTND), launching a state-of-the-art cannabis testing lab in New York this fall. With a vision to revolutionize the sector, our new lab (CTND NY) aims to set the cannabis industry standard for scientific innovation, operational success, regulatory compliance, and consumer safety and education.

With their unwavering commitment to scientific excellence and innovation, Nova Analytic Labs is poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of cannabis testing, setting new industry standards, and fostering greater consumer trust within this rapidly evolving market. It was a great pleasure to have this conversation with  Chris Altomare, co-founder and CEO of Nova Analytic Labs. Readers who wish to keep up with what the company is doing are invited to do so through the company’s website.

 

Lydia K. (Bsc. RN) is a cannabis writer, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. Currently, she is a regular writer for Mace Media. In the past, she has written for MyBud, RX Leaf & Dine Magazine (Canada), CBDShopy (UK) and Cannavalate & Pharmadiol (Australia). She is best known for writing epic news articles and medical pieces. Occasionally, she deviates from news and science and creates humorous articles. And boy doesn't she love that! She equally enjoys ice cream, as should all right-thinking people.


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