Dr Raphael Mechoulam Reveals Synthetic Cannabinoids for Clinical Use
Image credit: Medicinal Genomics
Dr Raphael Mechoulam – the cannabis researcher credited with the first synthesis of THC – may well have made cannabis history again. Speaking at the cannabis conference CannMed 2019 in Pasadena, California, last week, the 88-year-old organic chemist announced his latest cannabis creation: synthetically stable cannabinoid compounds, fit for clinical use.
The discovery could pave the way for a whole new clinical line of cannabinoid formulations able to treat a number of health issues, from arthritis to inflammatory bowel disease.
Raphael Mechoulam and the search for a stable cannabis solution
“We have taken the unstable acid molecules of the cannabis plant and synthesized them to provide a stable, consistent basis for researching new therapies across a wide range of medical needs,” Mechoulam explained during his conference presentation.
This unstable acid molecule is CBD acid (CBDA), a naturally occurring precursor to the more well-known CBD. Yet despite its lower status, CBDA is a thousand times more potent than CBD in binding to a particular serotonin receptor thought to be responsible for alleviating nausea and anxiety.
It’s this great clinical potential that drove Mechoulam and his team to eventually stabilize CBDA with a methyl ester addition, making it “a potential medicine for treating some nausea and anxiety disorders.”
“This is exciting and unprecedented research,” Mechoulam commented in a press statement. “We have taken the unstable molecules of the cannabis plant and synthesized them to provide a stable, consistent basis for researching new therapies across a wide range of medical needs – from CNS disorders to inflammation and many more.”
“In addition, we have provided several delivery mechanisms including tablets, topical applications and others to facilitate several approaches. Our work is a catalyst for the development of potential new therapies from a source long thought to have huge potential.”
From lab bench to pharmacy shelf
In conjunction with Mechoulam’s team, the CBDA-methyl ester discovery was made with the help of several universities in Israel, Canada, and the United States, a topical cream manufacturer, a testing lab, and the start-up company EPM.
To bring the molecule further investment, the latter launched its intellectual property portfolio to the healthcare industry last week for potential licensing partnerships.
“This marks the start of a new era in medical research as EPM introduces the world's first innovative licensing platform for the use of our fully stable acid-based cannabinoid molecules,” said Reshef Swisa, EPM’s chief executive officer, in a press statement. “The work of our world-class research team has enabled us to be the bridge between the promise for therapeutic uses from cannabis and the ability of pharmaceutical companies to utilize stable, consistent molecules that researchers can use to potentially discover new medicines.”
The company hope that the new compound’s first applications will enter Phase 1 of FDA testing in six to twelve months. Yet, as the average time for a drug to gain FDA approval is 12 years, it could be some time before clinicians get to test the benefits of Mechoulam’s compound for themselves.
Urging the scientific community to support more medical cannabis research during his conference speech, Mechoulam lamented the research time already lost and the patients that missed out on cannabis-based treatments for conditions such as epilepsy.
“Did we have to wait 30 years? No,” he said. “We could have helped thousands of children, and we didn’t.”