Biotech Pushes Forward Disease Treatment Potential of Non-Psychoactive Cannabinoids

There’s a global trend to prioritize research on cannabinoid medicines, and InMed Pharmaceuticals is leading the pack. By producing cannabinoids in a bacterial biosynthesis system, this pre-clinical stage biopharmaceutical company is developing therapies for multiple diseases, including Epidermolysis Bullosa, Glaucoma, and Pain.

InMed‘s pharmaceutical research is coupled with innovative drug delivery systems that have a futuristic feel – recently, the company announced success in creating topical eye drop that forms a “gel-like” lens over the eye, promoting extended absorption through the eye.

InMed’s commitment to treat the previously-thought-untreatable caught the attention of president and CEO Eric Adams, first as an investor, then as an executive.

“InMed takes medicinal marijuana (MMJ) to a completely new level, that of true pharmaceutical drug development. We don’t grow any plants, and you don’t smoke any of our products,” Adams said.

“We develop novel treatments, using many of the 90+ cannabinoids found in the plant, to treat serious diseases. This biotech approach will unlock a wide array of opportunities. Another differentiating factor between MMJ and biotech: the level of return to shareholders for biotech is significantly more than what you see in the MMJ space,” Adams said.

Prior to InMed, Adams had over 25 years as a biopharmaceutical executive, as CEO at enGene Inc. and in senior roles with QLT Inc. (Vancouver), Advanced Tissues Science Inc. (La Jolla), Abbott Laboratories (Chicago), and Fresenius AG (Germany). He’s also a previous Chairman of BIOTECanada’s Emerging Company Advisory Board.

Adams talked about the investment potential in the biopharmaceutical sector with Cashinbis.

What motivated you to personally invest in the cannabis industry?

I think what impressed me most with InMed is the diversity and depth of core assets in cannabinoids, which are a tremendous treasure trove of potential compounds to treat a wide array of diseases. It’s amazing that one class of compounds has such potential in treating a wide array of disease, including those which have a high unmet medical need. Its a rapidly growing sector; the US market for one cannabinoid in particular, CBD, is projected to be over $3 billion in the next few years.

I was also attracted to the company based on its lead compound, called INM-750, which is designed to treat a rare genetic disease called Epidermolysis bullosa (EB). Back when I was working for a company developing products for sever burn victims, I met a child with EB being treated in the burn ward (their wounds are similar to sever burns and thus were once treated in the burn wards), and it always stuck with me – the severity of the disease and that nothing can be done to treat the underlying disease, just the symptoms including wound healing, pain, itch, etc. InMed showed me there’s real promise for not only symptom management, but also some the potential for disease reversal in some patients using cannabinoids – that caught my eye as both an investor and as someone who wants to find novel treatment to treat these kind of conditions with very high unmet medical needs.

How can biotech expand our expectations for disease treatment?

The biotech industry in general is a game-changer.

GW Pharmaceutical, one of the leaders in the cannabis biotech industry, has one drug approved and they’re on the cusp of their second approved for various types of epilepsy. Zynerba has multiple Phase 2 trials either completed or underway. There’s a lot of headway being made and it’s an exciting space to be in right now.

Most people are familiar with THC as being the primary ingredient in cannabis responsible for psychoactivity. It is also known for its ability to affect several diseases, and this disease-fighting ability can be found across the cannabinoid family. Our focus at InMed is to use non-THC cannabinoids in products that can be applied topically to the skin or the eye, to treat at the site of the disease. We can thereby avoid systemic circulation (in the blood stream) of the drug and minimize side effects. A great example is pain: when it is localized to one part of the body, it’s best to treat it locally rather than putting something into the bloodstream, hoping the drug reached the site of pain. When you have more drug in the body than is needed, more things can go wrong and you see more side effects.

Any updates on InMed’s pipeline?

For our INM-750 [Epidermolysis Bullosa] program, we’re finalizing the formulation which will subsequently be used in advanced toxicology studies, and we anticipate filing an application for human trials in Q3-4 of 2018.

We continue to make progress with both the INM-085 for glaucoma program and the INM-405 for pain.

What are the benefits of biosynthesis over traditional extraction of cannabinoids?

Our biosynthesis program opens the gate to look at the use of minor cannabinoids in treating disease. There are over 90+ cannabinoids in the plant; however, in addition to THC and CBD, there are maybe three or four more that are borderline economical to extract from the plant. Beyond that, it is highly unlikely that it would be economical to extract them because there’s such low quantities.

Biosynthesis starts with DNA from the plant and instead of growing the cannabinoids in the plant, we grow them in bacteria. The bacteria (host) reads the instructions on the DNA and then has the ability to produce large quantities of the cannabinoids that have been. It’s a laboratory-based procedure, which means it’s very controlled and has significant cost benefits vs. extraction from the plant. InMed’s innovative process targets cost savings as well as enhanced production, purification and quality control compared to existing grow-harvest-extract-purify methods employed by other companies. Other benefits include: no herbicides or pesticides, it’s very quick (takes days to make a batch versus months to grow a crop), and you don’t have to grow thousands of acres of marijuana to get the quantities of cannabinoids desired. We are confident that we can produce any cannabinoid, even the rarest, at commercial scale in an economical fashion.

Why are new drug delivery methods important?

The issue with medical marijuana will remain: how do you effectively dose it to treat a specific symptom or disease? The important thing with any drug delivery is effective dosing – How do you monitor the amount of drug delivered in a puff of a cigarette? And, can you fully dose an effective amount without any psychoactivity?

It will be difficult for medical marijuana to reach the efficiency and safety levels you see with pharmaceuticals. We run exceptionally well controlled clinical trials and track data very closely. This is the type of information physicians need before writing a prescription – they need meaningful data and to see that regulatory agencies have reviewed and approved as safe and effective. This will position the cannabinoid pharmaceutical industry as a strong sector versus other medical marijuana sectors.

What will move cannabinoid medicine forward?

First and foremost, is having a team with the experience and track records of successful drug development, InMed is deep with experience in the biopharmaceutical sector. Also, as with any biotech company, accessing the capital required to conduct extensive testing and then making sure that the company’s assets are effectively deployed. We need to continue to invest in research and development to move the science forward. Also, the evolving regulations around the world will play an important role. From a regulation point-of-view, its the evolving understanding that cannabinoids, outside of THC, are non-psychoactive. They are important medicines that need to be studied in a meaningful way.

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