NetworkNewsWire Editorial Coverage: With cannabis set to become legal for recreational use in July 2018 in Canada, and usage of the product for medical purposes steadily rising both in Canada and worldwide, cannabis companies have ramped up their efforts to make new scientific discoveries related to the plant’s medical uses. Companies leading the quest to demonstrate the potential of cannabis in a medicinal context are Veritas Pharma (CSE: VRT) (OTC: VRTHF) (FRT: 2VP) (VRTHF Profile), GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: GWPH), Canopy Growth Corp. (OTC: TWMJF) (TSX: WEED), Aphria, Inc. (OTCQB: APHQF) (TSX: APH) and Aurora Cannabis, Inc. (OTCQX: ACBFF) (TSX: ACB).
Among companies seeking to produce clinical data to validate medical marijuana claims, Veritas Pharma (CSE: VRT) (OTC: VRTHF) (FRT: 2VP) has carved its own niche with a multi-front approach to identifying the potential of its cannabis products for ameliorating a variety of maladies, including pain, nausea, epilepsy and PTSD.
Veritas Pharma’s overarching objective is to develop and commercialize the most effective cannabis strains, backed by clinical data, thereby solving the critical need for real science to support claims surrounding medical cannabis. This approach, in combination with the company’s strategic alliances, are expected to address the medical community’s concerns over the complexities of cannabis potency, efficacy, quality and content in the nearly 800 cannabis strains currently known in the world.
One such alliance is the recently established agreement between Veritas’ 80 percent owned research arm, Cannevert Therapeutics Ltd. (“CTL”), and the Fundacion de Investigacion (“FDI”), a well-known center for pharmaceutical investigatory projects in Puerto Rico. CTL’s partnership with FDI provides the structure and resources needed to conduct the first human study of CTL-X, its lead cannabis strain targeting pain. As Veritas CEO Lui Franciosi explained, the agreement is aligned with the company’s quest to perform clinical trials to prove the efficacy of the designated lead cannabis strains and to market the clinically effective cultivars as prescription medicines in a fast-track protocol.
“We are pleased to see Cannevert’s lead strain for pain is finally heading into human trials. It’s important to us to move quickly into this next phase of providing clinical proof of cannabis’ effectiveness, this after our chemical and animal assays delivered favorable results. FDI is a reputable group of clinicians and clinical trialists with a long history of evaluating treatments for major pharmaceutical companies. The Puerto Ricans are becoming world leaders in investigating and selling cGMP medical cannabis and their insights will be valuable. We aim to provide physicians and patients with scientifically tested and clinically proven cannabis therapies targeting pain. In the next year, Veritas’s goal is to have a branded analgesic strain in which its dose and method of administration are standardized to actively compete with over-the-counter analgesics as well as potentially reducing or eliminating opioid use in the acute and chronic pain markets,” Franciosi stated in the news release announcing the agreement (http://nnw.fm/Bl4fn)
Further expanding its research and addressing the global need for safe and effective cancer treatments, Veritas recently hired Dr. Dimitri Petchkovski of Fibroblast Consulting to spearhead its investigation into use of Veritas’ cannabis strains in lung, prostate, colon, breast, and melanoma cancer cell lines.
In Canada alone, there were more than 200,000 new cases of cancer and nearly 81,000 cancer-related deaths in 2017, according to Canadian Cancer Statistics 2017. Despite considerable need for effective therapies, the market lacks sufficient scientific evidence to demonstrate cannabis or cannabinoids can cut the risk of cancer. While most cancer scientists focus on understanding how different cancers respond to specific compounds in cannabis, Veritas’ approach will be to quickly access more cannabis varieties, systematically profile the effects of the whole plant using various in vitro and in vivo animal models of cancer alongside standard drugs, and quickly conduct a clinical trial.
Results of Veritas’ research to-date illustrate the company’s unique place in the medical cannabis industry, propelled by its focus on the biological effect of the actual spectrum of cannabinoids as it seeks to patent and protect results-driven strains.
The company’s approach positions it among the ranks of more recognizable names in the industry, including GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: GWPH), which has taken the lead in searching for evidence of the efficacy of cannabinoid products in treating specific medical conditions. The company focuses particularly on neurological conditions, including therapeutic areas such as schizophrenia, glioma, and epilepsy. The company’s primary product candidate Epidiolex (cannabidiol) is targeted at certain rare and severe early-onset epilepsy syndromes that are resistant to current drugs. GW developed Sativex, which is the first prescription medicine derived from cannabis. The drug has been approved in more than 30 countries for use in treating spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis.
While GW Pharmaceuticals leverages a partnership with a UK-based greenhouse grower to cultivate cannabis for its Epidiolex treatment, other cannabis companies utilize crop from some of Canada’s leading licensed producers – all of which play a considerable role in the global push for cannabis-based therapies.
Canopy Growth Corp. (OTC: TWMJF) (TSX: WEED), currently the leading supplier of medical marijuana in Canada, operates a diverse collection of brands and curated strain varieties. The company has more than half a million square feet of production capacity. With the introduction of its Spectrum Cannabis Brand to the Canadian market, it has helped encourage simplification of the classification of cannabis products by using a color-guided code in relation to THC and CBD levels. This innovation is designed to help increase consumer acceptance of cannabis by making it easier for them to understand the characteristics of the product they are buying.
Aphria, Inc. (OTCQB: APHQF) (TSX: APH) is another major producer of cannabis for the Canadian market. It grows all of its product in greenhouses, helping to keep lighting costs low, making the company one of Canada’s lowest-cost producers of cannabis. Aphria recently invested in Scientus Pharma, a drug development firm which is developing drugs targeting the endocannabinoid receptors found in the body to help treat diseases of the organs, brain, and connective tissues. The company’s goal is to introduce pharmaceutical standards in manufacturing, formulations, and dosing to the medical cannabis market.
Aurora Cannabis, Inc. (OTCQX: ACBFF) (TSX: ACB) is a producer of medical marijuana for the Canadian market with a growing facility in Mountain View County, Alberta. After product recalls were announced at other Canadian cannabis producers earlier in 2017, the company took a strong stand for transparency in the industry by announcing that all products sold by the company will be accompanied by a certificate of analysis by a third-party testing laboratory. Aurora’s stated hope is that this policy will increase consumer confidence in the purity of the products the company sells.
By gathering evidence of the ability of cannabis-driven compounds to help individuals who have varied ailments and by developing new approaches to the processing and sale of the product, these companies can help the industry as a whole progress while solidifying their own positions in the industry. Veritas specifically mentions among its goals making Canada a world leader in cannabis research. The company aims to play its part in this process by discovering new cannabis cultivars for specific disease conditions, developing cultivars to set standards that can be clinically evaluated over the next two years, and becoming the leader in prescription cannabis.
Veritas hopes to become an active participant in the market for global cancer pain drugs and plans to apply for patent protection for any discoveries resulting from its research into the use of cannabinoids for this purpose. With a report from Zion Market Research projecting that the global cancer drugs market will rise to $161 billion by the end of 2021, the addressable market for cannabis-related cancer therapeutics is substantial. Veritas’ research arm has already filed for a provisional patent application from the US Patent and Trademark Office in 2017 for using a specific cannabis strain in neuropathic pain. Such pain occurs chronically with tissue and nerve fiber damage in conditions such as cancer and diabetes. The Global Neuropathic Pain Market Research Report Forecast to 2023 projects the market to reach $5.5 billion USD, making this a condition well worth targeting.
Canada’s decision to legalize the recreational use of cannabis in 2018 heralds what is expected to be continued growth of the cannabis market for medicinal use, not only in that country but worldwide as people become more comfortable with its use and as expected new discoveries of its therapeutic properties are announced.
Substantial growth in the cannabis market has occurred as a number of countries have allowed the use of the product to one extent or another, and the potential for growth in the market is high as more users become aware of the benefits of using the product for medicinal purposes and as more governments are expected to approve its use.
An August analysis of the global market for medical cannabis by Toronto-based Eight Capital forecasts a potential for CAD$180 billion (or US$142 billion) in revenues over the next 15 years. By taking steps to expand scientific knowledge concerning conditions for which cannabis can provide treatment options, companies operating in the cannabis industry have laid the groundwork for continued industry and corporate growth for many years to come.
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