Expert: Biosynthesis of Rare Cannabinoids Has Led to ‘A Gold Rush of Investment’ Due to the Therapeutic Potential

Dennis O’Neill, president and board member of BIOMEDICAN, discusses the current field of research assessing biosynthesis therapeutics that use psychedelics and rare cannabinoids.

Pharmacy Times interviewed Dennis O’Neill, president and board member of BIOMEDICAN, on the current field of research assessing biosynthesis therapeutics that use psychedelics and rare cannabinoids to treat a range of health issues, from mental health disorders to diabetes.

O’Neill explained that this year, there has been a gold rush of investment in the psychedelic medicine field.

“Capitalism is falling in love with psychedelics,” O’Neill said. “Just in the last year, there's 28 clinical trials that are currently going on, there are 25 companies in the space, 6 of which are public. So, the great race is on to see who's able to deliver the best results.”

Additionally, positive results from these trials will likely lead to opening further doors to greater capital investment and larger markets, O’Neill noted. Specifically, research into the biosynthesis of certain cannabinoid compounds, such as cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), has helped to advance what is possible in the field to greater heights, because the biosynthesis of these compounds may allow for the production of a higher quality medicine at a lower production cost.

In light of this potential, O’Neill explained that the market of biosynthesis therapeutics using psychedelics, and cannabinoids in particular, is expected to reach $25 billion by 2025, which will make it the fastest growing market in the world, according to a Raymond James market analysis.

Among the psychedelics under investigation, CBD has had the greatest level of focus in recent years. However, there are other rare cannabinoids that may also pose some therapeutic value, leading researchers to investigate these compounds more thoroughly in clinical trials.

“CBD has had 16 clinical trials on it and there's probably over 100 ongoing now,” O’Neill said. “But we're focused on CBG, which has been around since the early 70s. There's been over 22 clinical trials done so far, so there is quite a bit of evidence and data proving out at least some of the claims that they're making for CBG. There are dozens of additional clinical trials that are going on now that will give additional validation on THCV as well, which is another one that we're focused on. There have been over a dozen clinical trials over the past couple of decades on THCV, and there are another 20 or so going on now.”

At first, there were no data proving the health benefits of CBD; however, people who were taking it found that they were receiving health benefits from its consumption, which fueled the interest of researchers who sought to assess these potential therapeutic claims, O’Neill explained.

In many markets, anecdotal evidence can be a starting point to raise researchers’ interest in pursuing clinical trials, O’Neill explained. Then, as these clinical trials progress and provide more data on the subject, the validity of these anecdotal claims can be clarified.

For example, clinical trials are currently underway to investigate CBG, which has a very similar chemical structure to CBD, but may be more specifically able to target health issues relating to inflammation, pain, and nausea.

“Research has shown that [CBG] significantly reduces intraocular pressure caused by glaucoma, and [cannabis] strains high in CBG may be beneficial in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn disease, and cancer, and it may have some benefits in treating anxiety,” O’Neill said.

Additionally, THCV has been found to potentially work as an appetite suppressant and may help regulate sugar in the body. This could make this compound specifically beneficial for people with obesity and diabetes.

“It regulates sugar and how the body intakes it,” O’Neill said. “Some diabetics have a resistance to insulin because their body has built a resistance to it overtime.”

O’Neill noted that currently, there are multiple phase 3 trials assessing THCV, but most are still in phase 1 and 2.

“The clinical trials will show what type of benefit it may have and to what degree,” O’Neill said. “The money's pouring in to these trials because people see that these are tremendously large markets that could be significantly disruptive. If you could get people off insulin, that would be a huge winner.”