Partnership for new drugs derived from cannabis to prevent vision loss

Partnership for new drugs derived from cannabis to prevent vision loss
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A new partnership has been formed to license two new synthetic drug candidate formulations derived from cannabis.

The cannabis research program at the University of Mississippi (UM) School of Pharmacy has partnered with pharmaceutical company Emerald Bioscience Inc. to license two new drugs derived from cannabis in the hopes of providing nonaddictive pain management, preventing blindness and alleviating the threat of irreversible vision loss from glaucoma and other eye diseases.

The two formulations include a synthetic prodrug of THC, and a synthetic analogue of CBD.

The CBD analogue, developed by the University of Mississippi and ElSohly Laboratories Inc., a small business and drug development company in Oxford, has potential to be used as a pain reliever that is equivalent or more effective than opioids.

Pain relief

A multidisciplinary team led by Ken Sufka, Ole Miss professor of psychology, pharmacology and philosophy, demonstrated that this synthetic form of CBD provides analgesic pain relief comparable to opioids when treating a condition known as chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, or CIN, in a validated animal model of the condition.

Sufka said: “When a patient with CIN cannot tolerate opioids, they often must decide to stop chemotherapy altogether, meaning they are rolling the dice on whether they have had enough chemo to be tumour-free.

“Our team believes this novel CBD compound can fully manage neuropathic pain and change the quality of life for those coping with cancer treatment.”

Eye diseases

The second drug candidate, the THC prodrug, is an inactive form of THC that becomes activated when absorbed into the body. Along with Emerald Bioscience, Ole Miss and ELI researchers developed a THC prodrug to treat glaucoma that can be absorbed through the tissues in the eye after a simple eyedrop application.

Soumyajit Majumdar, professor of pharmaceutics and drug delivery and leader of the THC prodrug research team, said: “Getting to this pivotal point took almost 10 years.The Ole Miss and ELI research teams developed many iterations of the THC prodrug, balancing the characteristics of the compounds to come up with a molecule and an ophthalmic formulation that has the optimal characteristics to treat glaucoma effectively.”

Brian Murphy, CEO of Emerald Bioscience, said he is thrilled that his company is licensing these formulations and is eager to develop them further.

“These molecules are some of the most promising cannabinoid-based therapies anywhere in the world,” Murphy said. “We will be able to use these derivatives of natural cannabinoids to further develop our programme based on the precept of precision medicine: drugs that can be delivered to a target tissue in the correct dose, in a formulation that best balances safety and efficacy.”

Like all drugs in the development stage, the availability of these products will depend on regulatory and economic factors, as well as the successful completion of clinical trials.

Ole Miss and ELI researchers showed that both the prodrug of THC and the analogue of CBD successfully enter the eye and reach the retina, which is an important finding in the goal of preventing blindness.

David D. Allen, UM pharmacy dean, said: “The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy is incredibly proud to be home to the inventors and scientists who have been working on these emerging technologies in collaboration with ELI for years.

“Our partnership with Emerald Bioscience has the potential to benefit the global population.”

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