Atlas Biotechnologies will fund and provide support to three research projects at the University of Alberta to possibly identify cannabis component(s) that could help people with neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS).
The cannabis plant produces hundreds of biological compounds, the best-known being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the psychoactive compound primarily responsible for the cannabis ‘high’ — and cannabidiol (CBD), a main component of medical marijuana.
Under the terms of the new agreement, Atlas Biotechnologies, which focuses on developing cannabis-based therapies for medical use, will provide funding — totaling just under $300,000 over two years — for three separate research projects that will assess the benefits of cannabis-derived compounds in three diseases: MS, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s.
In recent years, there has been renewed interest in how compounds in cannabis might help people manage a variety of conditions. But solid scientific evidence for such uses is lacking.
“A lot of people will tell you, ‘My mom had cancer’ or, ‘My friend had an illness, and they took cannabis and it helped.’ But then for other people they don’t have as effective results,” Jeffrey R. Gossain, the chief operating officer of Atlas Biotechnologies, said in a university news story.
“Part of the problem is that you don’t really know what product they took, how they dosed it or the combinations of chemicals in the product that helped. It’s not as simple as just saying, ‘The plant’s got THC and CBD.’ You’ve got to get a lot more detailed than that,” Gossain added.
Ross Tsuyuki, MS, PharmD, a professor at University of Alberta in Canada, also noted: “People are touting (cannabis) for all kinds of things, but without solid scientific evidence.” Still, “there likely are benefits for some conditions.”
In addition to funding, Atlas will also provide the researchers with materials, like cannabis compounds, produced at its facility. The company has stated that furthering good research into medical cannabis use is critical for its ability to bring effective products to market.
“Our vision is to have a product that will actually help patients with these different ailments and make their lives better,” Gossain said.
“Our team is exploring the areas that we think have the highest likelihood of success, and we will follow where the science leads,” Tsuyuki said. “If it comes to the point where Atlas wants to develop targeted products, we’ll be there for that as well. But for now we’ll be the ones to give them the signals about what’s worthwhile to pursue.”