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University of Toronto teams up with a cannabis company to explore possible epilepsy treatments

Sep 16, 2022 | Media Partners, The GrowthOp

This post is presented by our media partner The Growth Op
View the original article here.

Toronto-based Avicanna, in collaboration with U of T, will evaluate anti-seizure properties of rare cannabis compounds

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Canadian-based Avicanna Inc. has expanded its Epilepsy Research Program through a new partnership with the University of Toronto (U of T) that will explore the efficacy of the company’s proprietary formulations in pre-clinical models.

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The research collaboration led by Mac Burnham, Ph.D. — a professor emeritus of pharmacology and toxicology at U of T whose research interests include animal models, anticonvulsant drugs and epilepsy — and his team will test the efficacy of Avicanna’s drug candidates in animal models.

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Additionally, “the research collaboration will evaluate the anti-seizure properties of rare cannabinoids in isolation and in combination,” notes a statement from the biopharmaceutical company focused on commercializing evidence-based, cannabinoid-based products.

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“The cannabinoids, alone and in combination, are some of the most promising anti-seizure drugs that I have seen in many years of research,” Burnham says in the company statement.

Effect of cannabis on epilepsy studied

Cannabis compounds as a treatment for epilepsy have received plenty of attention. Research published in Neurology in 2021 “establishes the feasibility of whole-plant medical cannabis as an effective and well-tolerated medicine for reducing seizure frequency in children suffering with intractable epilepsies. These findings justify the potential value of further research.”

Released this past spring in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, a small study involving 37 patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy (TRE) looked at the effectiveness of therapy with a standardized CBD-based oil. “We showed the efficacy of a CBD-based oil formulation with few significant side effects in patients with TRE,” study authors wrote.

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“Early evidence from laboratory studies, anecdotal reports and small clinical studies over a number of years suggest that CBD could potentially help control seizures,” according to the Epilepsy Foundation.

“In recent years, a number of studies have shown the benefit of specific plant-based CBD product in treating specific groups of people with epilepsy who have not responded to traditional therapies,” the information adds.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved less than a handful of cannabis-derived drugs, but all of them are for epilepsy.

In a post, the FDA reports it has approved one such drug product, namely Epidiolex (CBD), and three synthetic cannabis-related drug products, namely Marinol (dronabinol), Syndros (dronabinol) and Cesamet (nabilone).

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The products are only available with a prescription from a licensed healthcare provide and “the FDA has not approved any other cannabis, cannabis-derived or CBD products currently available on the market,” the post notes.

New collaboration expands existing research partnerships

The research to be done by Burnham and his team expands on an existing collaboration with the University Health Network and Dr. Peter Carlen, a professor of medicine and physiology at U of T.

Earlier electrophysiological studies, a test used to evaluate the heart’s electrical system and to check for abnormal heart rhythms, indicated one of Avicanna’s proprietary drug candidates, AVCN319302, “had significant anti-convulsant effects and demonstrated strong potential to treat patients diagnosed with intractable forms of epilepsies and those at risk of seizure-induced sudden unexpected death,” notes the company statement.

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“We are excited to continue expanding our research on cannabinoids and their anti-seizure properties in the field of epilepsy and to be doing so with leading Canadian institutions and key opinion leaders,” says Karolina Urban, vice president of scientific and medical affairs for Avicanna, adding that epilepsy patients are showing early acceptance of the company’s CBD drops, which launched in 2020 and are available through Medical Cannabis by Shoppers.

“The combination of real-world evidence and ongoing research collaborations enable us to further develop our pharmaceutical pipeline and further progress our drug candidate in the field of epilepsy,” Urban maintains.

Avicanna partners frequently

This past July, Avicanna announced it had entered into an Intellectual Property Licensing and  Royalty Agreement with Ei.Ventures, Inc. to develop and commercialize functional fungi-based products.

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“We look forward to working towards developing the new products in the nutraceutical area in a standardized and evidence-based way, as we have with our initial cannabinoid-based products,” Aras Azadian, CEO of Avicanna said at the time.

Also in July, Re+Play, the performance-based wellness and recovery line of Harrington Wellness, reported it had penned a new multi-year partnership with the National Basketball Players Association designating the brand as an official partner.

The first product release from this new partnership was to be a line of formulated recovery creams, which were developed in partnership with Avicanna.

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