Nearly every week, there is another cannabis-themed headline such as “New Study Says 97% of Elderly Patients Say Cannabis Makes Them Feel Better, Decrease Prescription Meds”.  While multitudes of people are turning to cannabis to treat everything from anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, glaucoma, or other all-to-common ailments like pain, there are sufferers of conditions so debilitating, that they are in need of anything that works. Available treatments may include a litany of prescription drugs, often with deleterious side effects of their own, which might help one problem, while creating another. And while scores of people will tout that indicas will help you sleep, or that sativas will help you energize, who’s out there looking farther onto the horizon, and deeper into cannabis’s full potential using proven science through pharmaceutical-grade R&D efforts?
InMed Pharmaceuticals represents one company in search of something deeper and certainly more impactful than what will or will not give you couch-lock. Rather, InMed strives to mine the most out of cannabinoid-based therapeutics without actually having to cultivate anything. And they are creating novel cannabinoid formulations meant to treat extremely painful, incapacitating medical conditions.
I spoke with Eric A. Adams, the Chief Executive Officer of InMed Pharmaceuticals, a bio-pharmaceutical company based in Vancouver, British Columbia. The four-year old company specializes in generating therapeutic products designed from cannabinoids. That’s not to say the company is actively growing cannabis plants, however. “We don’t work with the plant,” Adams explained. “And there’s no THC in any of our products. We believe that there are more active cannabinoids than THC in the cannabis plant.”
And this is exactly why InMed cannot simply grow cannabis. Since they are not working with THC, the levels of the cannabinoids they seek are just too low in the natural plant. So, InMed prepares their formulations from biosynthesized cannabinoid compounds. Thus, they are developing a technology to make all the cannabinoids they need at a fairly low cost. “We never need to grow a single plant. Essentially, we’re borrowing from other medical areas, such as insulin production,” Adams explained. To do this, the genes for cannabinoid production are inserted into Escherichia coli, a bacterium which in turn produces the cannabinoid of interest. This is a similar process to inserting the gene into yeast; however, InMed has found it more cost effective to use the bacteria.
InMed, to date, has been a company that has thrived in creating topical cannabinoid formulations. Like other companies, capitalizing on the increasingly lessened restrictions on cannabis R&D, InMed has been focused on designing products meant to go through governmental organizations like the US Food and Drug Administration, or HealthCanada. “We’ve been preparing products containing two cannabinoids. We’ve also been evaluating different mechanisms of action, and are looking at a host of other receptors throughout the body,” Adams added.
InMed’s forerunning drug, INM-750, is a skin cream that is designed to treat Epidermolysis Bullosa. While this drug is still in the research phase, the need for it to help sufferers of this condition is profound. In short, this genetic disease, which often is expressed at birth, results in blistering of the skin and mucous membranes with only minor trauma or friction. “The epidermis sheers off with the slightest touch,” Adams explained. “It’s really one of the worst things seen in medicine.” While there are diets of pills the afflicted can take with the hope of obtaining some comfort, there is no known cure.
InMed’s early research showed that cannabinoids could up- or down-regulate certain proteins, called keratins, that are present throughout the body. K5 and K14 proteins form the bond between the epidermis and dermis. “In EB patients, one of these two keratins does not work, and the epidermis is essentially ‘free-floating’ over the dermis,” Adams explained. “Our goal is to provide another keratin capable of filling the void.” With INM-750, the company is looking to up-regulate a compensatory keratin called K15.
EB treatment has five key attributes: accelerated would healing, pain reduction, treating itch, inflammation, and antibacterial coverage. Cannabinoids can do all five. “What we are working towards is a single product, that can address the five key symptoms of EB, and also that may have other would healing applications,” Adams discussed. “This is a relatively rare condition, but there is nothing out there for EB patients. And the current treatments can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and require full-time care.”
InMed is planning to conduct human clinical trials of INM-750 in 2019. They are forging ahead into the frontier of the cannabinoid therapeutic landscape” Adams conferred.
Another drug in InMed’s R&D arsenal is INM-405. “Smoking cannabis can alleviate pain,” Adams explained. “Which components are active, though? We ran a panel of cannabinoids predicted to be active in pain relief. We used THC as a control, since we already knew it worked. And we found a cannabinoid combination that outperformed THC.”
The goal of INM-405, a topical cream, is to treat areas where the nerves are close enough to access transdermally. “Conditions like arthritis of the hands, or trigeminal neuralgia, which is likened to being struck in the head with a lightning bolt. It’s also called the suicide pain.” Simple daily tasks, such as talking, eating, or drinking can trigger the pain, which can last for seconds or days. Known treatment options include opioids, Botox, or surgical ligation of the nerve. Relief has been found through chronic cannabis smoking. “We’re just scratching the surface, as a company, and as an industry,” Adams mused. “We’ve been looking at options for sufferers of Huntington’s disease, cognitive disorders – there’s hundreds of applications for cannabinoid medicines.” He continued, “Our sense is that most large producers of cannabinoid-based products that source their material from the cannabis plant would prefer to exit the farming business altogether if there would be an alternative source, rather than having to deal with the myriad of concerns and consideration in the horticulture business. They are simply looking provide safe and effective cannabinoid-based medications to those in need as efficiently as possible.”
Reference Abuhasira et al., “Epidemiological characteristics, safety and efficacy of medical cannabis in the elderly”, Eur J Intern Med. 2018 Mar; 49:44-50. (impact factor=2.049; cited by 8)