As Canada’s prime minister talks up the imminent legalization of marijuana, a Vancouver-based pharmaceutical startup is taking the cannabis plant apart to find compounds that could treat disorders ranging from glaucoma to a rare skin disorder.
InMed Pharmaceuticals aims to use the more than 100 different “cannabinoids” as the raw materials for a number of clinical applications.
“We’re going far away from any so-called recreational (use),” said InMed chief medical officer Dr. Ado Muhammad. “We’re going away completely from that direction, to make sure that the product is comparable to any other antibiotics or drugs.”
Senior vice-president Chris Bogart said the four-year-old company is about four years of clinical trials away from getting approvals in Canada and the U.S. for a topical cream made from one of those compounds that could treat epidermolysis bullosa — a potentially fatal skin condition affecting about 500,000 children worldwide that causes severe blistering of the body, mouth and throat.
Historically, medicinal marijuana use has involved using the whole plant, either by smoking it or use as an oil, Bogart said.
“Anecdotally, everybody knows that the cannabis plant intersects with the body to treat glaucoma, but actually nobody knows why,” he said. “The clinical path that we take is, let’s find out which of those chemicals are going to react in the human body to treat glaucoma, instead of having to ingest all of them.”
Muhammad earlier worked for the British-U.S. firm GW Pharmaceuticals, which pioneered a cannabinoid-based treatment for certain severe epilepsy syndromes.
“There’s a few companies doing this,” Bogart said. “It’s a very new space.”
Unlike most of what’s known as the medical marijuana industry, he said, his company isn’t waiting for marijuana laws to be relaxed.
“In Canada the big question is, are we going to (legalize) recreational,” Bogart said. “But our regulatory path is Health Canada and the (U.S.) FDA. It’s the pharmaceutical governing bodies that we follow, so we’re insulated from those moves.”