Home' Australasian BioTechnology : Vol 27 No 2 Contents Australasian BioTechnology | Volume 27 | Number 2 27
Investment and Funding
Today, the US recreational and medicinal cannabis
market is valued at US$3.5 billion, with approximately
65 per cent of the market attributed to patients using
medical cannabis for chronic pain (IBISWorld, 2016).
The fact is that cannabis THC is a very safe drug and
has been widely used by people for centuries; it is
only now that the science is catching up. Pre-clinical
studies show that animals can tolerate doses of up to
1000 milligrams per kilogram. This would be equivalent
to a 70-kilogram person swallowing 70 grams of the
drug -- about 5000 times more than is required to
produce a high. Despite the widespread illicit use of
cannabis, there are no instances of people dying from
an overdose. So, with this in mind, let's look at the
potential future for cannabis as a medicine in Australia.
Many companies that have sprung up in the medicinal
cannabis space are engaged in a range of activities,
from growing the plants, right through to prescribing
medicines for patients.
In Australia, medicinal cannabis was legalised in
November 2016. Imports of medicinal cannabis have
been approved to treat patients immediately until a
local industry can be developed. The first Australian
licences to grow medicinal cannabis and produce local
medicines are being granted now.
I am proud to be involved in two Australian companies
that are fast emerging as global leaders in their field.
AusCann is involved in the production of high-quality
clinical-grade medical cannabis medicines, and Zelda
Therapeutics is building on the learnings from the
experiences in the United States and Chile, where
medical cannabis has been used to treat patients for a
number of years. We have seen the anecdotal evidence
that certain medical cannabis formulations work against
a number of disease targets. This is the basis of our
clinical trials to validate these cannabis medicines for
widespread medical use.
AusCann Ltd (ASX: AC8) is an Australian company
that has been licensed to grow medicinal cannabis
in Australia and Chile, and it is focused on treating
patients for chronic and neuropathic pain. There are
more than three million patients in Australia that suffer
from these conditions. AusCann has a partnership with
Canopy Growth Corporation in Canada, the largest
producer of medicinal cannabis in North America,
with a valuation of more than A$1.2 billion. Canopy is
also the major shareholder of AusCann. AusCann has
expanded its operations into Chile, where it holds the
only licence to grow medicinal cannabis. The Chilean
Government is a leader in Latin America, with a high-
quality regulatory body and health ministry.
While cannabis has been clinically validated in a
number of key disease areas such as neuropathic pain,
there are other opportunities where there is a good
deal of anecdotal patient evidence, but a lack of high-
quality clinical trial data. Areas here include insomnia,
childhood epilepsy, Crohn's disease and inflammatory
Zelda Therapeutics Ltd (ASX: ZLD) is focused
on clinical trials of specific medicinal cannabis
formulations that were developed in California and
Chile. The company will soon commence a clinical
trial in Australia for insomnia and are getting ready
to perform several clinical trials, in Chile, in autism,
insomnia and eczema.
Another very interesting area for cannabis is cancer.
Currently, medicinal cannabis is being used in Canada
and the United States to control the side effects of
cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy-induced
nausea; however, there is emerging preclinical data
that demonstrates the potential use of cannabis
formulations to slow or stop the growth of cancer.
Zelda has achieved some positive pre-clinical results
with THC-rich cannabis formulations against several
human breast cancer lines, including hard-to-treat
triple negative cancer cell lines.
So, the future looks brighter for patients that suffer
from these conditions as cannabis-based medicines
become available for them. Companies in the
cannabis medical space have large opportunities in
front of them if they can navigate the strict legal and
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