A Matter of Mood: This Scientist is Changing the Way We Think About Cannabis


Meet Dr. Jon Martin, ebbu’s Director of Clinical Pharmacology

By ebbu Staff

Ebbu’s cannabis science lab truly takes a team to carry out our innovative research and development. Dr. Jon Martin, a molecular and cell biologist with added expertise in biochemistry, plays a key role as the company’s Director of Clinical Pharmacology.

While his title might sound intimidating, it basically means he’s in charge of measuring the effects that ebbu cannabinoid, terpene formulations have on people. He works in tandem with the cellular pharmacology team, which tests formulations on cultures of cells to see how different cannabis formulations affect specific human receptor activity.

People in the cannabis community have known for decades about the “couch-lock” body-high effects of indica strains or the energizing, cerebral stimulation tied to sativa strains, and Dr. Martin sees his work as a more rigorous, controlled way to move beyond anecdotal reports to statistically confirm effects of specific formulations of cannabinoids and terpenes.

When the cell lab reports which combinations increase receptor activity in cells the most, Dr. Martin creates a small-batch formulation to submit to human volunteers. He decides how much of each cannabinoid or terpene to put in the formula. Then he calls on a set of vetted volunteer participants to try it out and report to him what they experience.

After he collects the results from the volunteers, he can tweak the formulation and pass it back to the cell lab to do more testing, and continue that cycle until they get the formula just right.

Dr. Martin specifically appreciates the collaborative scientific effort at ebbu.

“You’re focused on your subject matter, and you’re trying to contribute good work to the other members of the science group, and it’s challenging. And everyone is with you and trying to make best use of your contribution. You can think about all the ways that it can do good. You ask questions like, ‘What would happen if we could make a topical?’ It’s fun to come up with something and make it real.”

So how did he get such a cool job? His background started with plants, but then it branched out.

Dr. Martin earned his Bachelor of Science in Plant Biotechnology from the University of California-Davis. He went on to earn his Ph.D in Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Florida. His dissertation was on chloroplast biogenesis in plant systems, requiring research in biochemistry and molecular biology.

He conducted post-doctoral research at the University of Colorado at Boulder, working with human brain cells, looking at how neurons grow and assume shape.

In subsequent research before joining ebbu, he applied his expertise in genetics and molecular biology to modify yeast to synthesize isobutanol, an alcohol that has industrial applications including processing into renewable jet fuel.

When he was first approached by a colleague to consider working at ebbu, he was a bit wary, as he didn’t know much about cannabis. But as he dug into the science of the plant and learned about the business around it he realized, “Cannabis is a really fascinating and exciting industry.”

Dr. Martin loves the “collaborative, positive, congenial environment” at ebbu, where scientists work in several disparate, yet complementary areas, like cell biology, plant genetics, clinical research and chemistry.

“All the areas are technically sophisticated—cannabis science is challenging!”

He says focusing on any of these areas could be the work of an entire company. “But ebbu is succeeding with all of these subjects—it’s amazing.”

He says the best part of working with his colleagues is sharing their discoveries. “We’re all trying to succeed within our projects, and we’re all cheering each other on. We each benefit from eachother’s successes.”

As for his specific area of research, he admits he was initially skeptical about measuring mood effects in a group of human participants. Humans are complex, and studying their emotional states isn’t easy because it typically doesn’t conform to objective scientific models. He was worried that the effects reported by study participants would be all over the map, and it would be hard to measure and interpret data.

But it turned out that exercising some thoughtfulness around experimental design permitted measuring statistically significant effects for each formulation.

As a non-consumer himself, he likes that the research he’s doing means less guesswork for consumers. “You don’t have to be so savvy about strains. You can focus on mood effect or therapeutic effect. You can enjoy being a connoisseur if you like, but it isn’t necessary — the only thing you need to know is what you want.”

While he admits his trials are different than more formal and in depth clinical trials take years to conduct and cost tens of millions of dollars, Dr. Martin is excited about ebbu’s research into the cannabis plant’s dozens of cannabinoids. “By accessing and testing precise formulations of cannabinoids and terpenes, ebbu is breaking new ground,” he says. “There are not a lot of public results out there for the types of formulations and data that we are collecting. We think our work will be pretty impactful.”