April 29, 2021 10:30 am ETEstimated Read Time: 5 Minutes
Dr. Raphael Mechoulam is already legendary in the cannabis community, where he has been dubbed the “Father of Cannabis”. Dr. Mechoulam is acclaimed for his discovery of the cannabinoid called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as well as for coining the concept known as the ‘entourage effect’. Dr. Mechoulam has been researching cannabis for a longer period than most other scientists and at 90 years old, he is still exploring some more interesting research on cannabis.
When Dr. Mechoulam discovered, isolated, and synthesized the active compounds in the cannabis plant, which led to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system in 1988. The Jerusalem Post has reported on Dr. Mechoulam’s new ventures in cannabis research. They reported that his latest research on cannabis-derived acids as having “taken cannabis research into a completely new phase”. The news release claims that this new phase could “finally bridge the funding gap between the potential for medical cannabis treatment and the funding that companies are willing to invest in its research and development”.
Live Cannabis Plants Don’t Actually Contain THC or CBD
Reshef Swisa is the CEO of EPM and an Israeli entrepreneur who states that “when we look at a cannabis field, none of the plants actually contain THC or CBD or any cannabinoids. All cannabinoids will appear on a plant only after that plant is dead”. Additionally stating that one will “learn that there is a big difference between the compound you find on a plant when it’s alive and the compound you’ll find when it’s dead”. EPM is the company of which Dr. Mechoulam leads the research team. EPM states that their mission is “to bridge the cannabis and pharmaceutical industries by increasing the potential development in cannabinoid-based pharmaceutical therapeutics”.
While most of the industry is focused on the compounds which decarboxylate when the plant starts drying up, the EPM team led by Dr. Mechoulam is focused on what happens on the plant itself. Swisa explained that “for pharmaceutical companies to show an interest in investing in a new drug, they need it to be either more potent, cost-effective, or have fewer side effects than the currently approved treatments”. Additionally, it was explained that pharmaceutical companies are likely avoiding cannabis since one can not put a patent on the formula for a natural molecule.
Swisa states that they have “so far developed 14 different molecules, eight of which are completely novel discoveries” and that they “own a very exclusive patent on them, since they are a new discovery to the scientific world”. Swisa goes on to explain that “each one of these molecules has the potential to be developed into several drugs, while many companies can do incredible things with even just one molecule”.
What are Cannabinoid Acids?
Simply put, cannabinoid acids are the compounds available on the plant before it gets taken down, trimmed, dried, and then cured. Dr. Mechoulam explains that the cannabinoid acids are “originally there is an acid that appears in the plant, and those acids are these mysterious worlds of compounds that are much more potent than cannabinoids”. The team was able to isolate and stabilize the acids through a chemical procedure known as esterification and have found that these compounds have no negative side effects.
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Swisa explains that cannabinoid acids are more potent than cannabinoids but are also more unstable. He stated that “the cannabis acids are very unstable, meaning they break apart into cannabinoids very easily. If you tried to take them from the plant or tried to consume them, the heat of your body would break them down and they would decarboxylate”. This then explains why these acids need very specific plant-growing conditions and more complicated forms of extraction.
Dr. Mechoulam’s team has synthesized these molecules which replicate the structure of the cannabinoid acids, however, they do not decarboxylate into cannabinoids as easily. This opens up the opportunity for large-scale reproduction without the need to “depend on living plants”.
Why You Should be Excited!
Why should we get excited about cannabinoid acid synthesis? It’s simple. The cost-effectiveness and increased potency of cannabinoid acid synthesis has the potential to treat, as Swisa puts it, a “massive range of inflammatory conditions” additional to the zero side-effects. Jullian Gangolli, a veteran British pharmaceutical businessman and the chairman of EPM added to the reasons to get excited about the new research led by Dr. Mechoulam by explaining that cannabis can clean up hazardous metals in the ground. While Swisa contributed again by explaining that their tests on colitis resulted in the out-performance of CBD products.
Swisa told the Jerusalem Post that “the finding was stunning” and that they “couldn’t believe it the first time” so they “repeated it another time, and a third time… six different times” because that “just couldn’t believe” what they saw.
Another reason to get excited over this research is that it has shown to be an effective alternative to steroids and opioids. Forbes explains that “EPM’s patent on the use of cannabidiolic acid is the first to prove that these drugs can essentially be substituted without major changes in their efficiency”.
Dr. Mechoulam explained that they have “compared” their “compound not only to cannabinoids, but to the existing drugs that are applied today”. For example, he provided that they compared their “compounds” to two convention products: one is the prednisone (the steroids) and one is the biological drug. And in both of them we have managed to prove that the activity of our compound is very similar to the common one”.
While EPM is making major strides in coming up with means to get cannabis into the pharmaceutical industry as a viable, reliable and regulated product, there is a waiting period to see how the compounds will be turned into products and integrated into pharmaceutical systems. Thankfully, Dr. Mechoulam and his team are addressing the concerns of the pharmaceutical industry while keeping the needs of patients in mind.
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