As the medical marijuana market continues to grow, so does the number of biotech companies expanding their research into the development of innovative cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals and delivery systems. It is estimated that the U.S. consumer market for cannabinoid pharmaceuticals will increase exponentially in upcoming years, exceeding $50 billion by 2029, according to Statista. This doesn’t appear to be a lofty forecast, given the prominence this market segment has gained by the sustained efforts and innovations of leading biotech companies such as InMed Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (IMLFF) (InMed Profile), GW Pharmaceuticals plc (GWPH), Zynerba Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (ZYNE), AXIM® Biotechnologies, Inc. (AXIM) and OWC Pharmaceutical Research Corp. (OWCP). From multiple sclerosis symptoms to gastrointestinal problems and rare skin conditions, cannabinoids are increasingly demonstrating potential for a variety of medical conditions. The biotech companies developing and commercializing these new therapies are on a path to market stardom.
Topical delivery, targeting to treat diseases on a local (rather than systemic) basis, is a preferred approach for various cannabinoid therapies, especially those targeting skin conditions. Canada-based InMed Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (IMLFF) (InMed Profile), flagship product, INM-750, is a cannabinoid-based topical therapy for a rare skin condition called Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB). INM-750 is the first treatment ever developed specifically for this disease. Although, as of now, there is no cure for EB, INM-750 has the potential to accelerate wound healing and skin regeneration; alleviate several symptoms such as inflammation, itching and pain; and modulate keratin levels in the skin, with potentially regenerative and restorative effects. With a potential global market of $1 billion per year, the treatment is being developed for topical application so as to maximize efficacy while minimizing side effects. InMed’s second product candidate, INM-085, is targeting glaucoma and is also being developed for topical (eye drop) application. With an estimated 2.7 million patients in the U.S. and a global market exceeding $5 billion, INM-085 will be the first glaucoma treatment designed to be a multi-mechanism, multi-target of action therapy based on cannabinoids.
In addition to its innovative drug delivery systems, what sets InMed apart further is its groundbreaking, proprietary biosynthesis process for the manufacture of all 90+ known cannabinoids that occur naturally in the marijuana plant. This cost-effective, innovative approach has already proven successful at laboratory scale, and it is likely to make InMed a game-changer in the booming cannabinoid pharmaceutical market. Most biotech companies in the field, including giants such as GW Pharmaceuticals (GWPH), focus on traditional cannabinoid extraction methods that require tons of marijuana plants and tens of millions of dollars in expenses. This costly process is also resource intensive, with various factors that can impact quality control, just to get the two most common cannabinoids: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The extraction of less common cannabinoids is even more expensive, making such traditional processing methods highly unfeasible.
But InMed’s biosynthesis process, much like Eli Lilly’s current method for making human insulin, can change all of that. The company’s high-yield/low-cost approach will allow the industry to tap into the potential of cannabinoids present in marijuana plants by creating them in a laboratory setting in a safe and scalable manner. With its top-tier management and board, which includes Chief Scientific Officer and global leader in cannabinoid science Dr. Sazzad Hossain and Chief Medical Officer Ado Muhammed – a former senior member of GW Pharmaceuticals and a proven leader in the development of cannabinoid-based therapies, InMed has the right expertise, the right team and the right science to cause a major shift in the market and turn it into a billion-dollar business.
Another company that focuses on transdermal cannabinoid-based therapies with very encouraging results is Israel’s OWC Pharmaceutical Research Corp. (OWCP). The company manufactures products for various conditions, including PTSD, multiple myeloma, migraines and psoriasis, and it is focused on the development and optimization of two proprietary delivery systems: a sublingual tablet and a topical compound. OWC’s research efforts are spearheaded by Chief Science Officer Dr. Yehuda Baruh, former head of the medical cannabis program of the Israeli Ministry of Health for over 10 years. Last month, the company received Institutional Board Review approval to run safety testing on its topical cream for the treatment of psoriasis and related conditions, making it the first topical delivery mechanism and proprietary cannabinoid-based psoriasis formulation to be included in the NIH Registry.
Yet another innovative delivery method for cannabinoid-based therapies comes from AXIM® Biotechnologies, Inc. (AXIM). With a market cap of $490 million, AXIM® is a leading cannabinoid research and development company that focuses on creating pharmaceutical, cosmetic and nutraceutical products. Its pharmaceutical products target mostly pain, anxiety and spasticity, as well as other medical conditions that can benefit from cannabinoid-based treatments. Its flagship products both use an innovative delivery method, being manufactured in the form of chewing gum, including: CanChew® – a CBD-based controlled release product for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and MedChew Rx – a CBD/THC combination currently undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of multiple sclerosis-associated pain and spasticity. The company recently announced the launch of a phase 2 clinical trial for CanChew Plus®, which enrolls 40 trial patients suffering from IBS.
Another successful cannabis biotech company, Zynerba Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (ZYNE), has taken the process one step further, focusing on the development of novel synthetic cannabinoid treatments designed for transdermal delivery. With a market cap of more than $260 million and a stock price of over $20 per share, Zynerba is developing two proprietary therapies: a synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol pro-drug transdermal patch for peripheral neuropathic pain and fibromyalgia, and a transdermal synthetic cannabinoid gel for osteoarthritis, fragile X syndrome and refractory epilepsy. Earlier this year, the company launched an underwritten public offering of 2.8 million shares at $18 per share, with expected proceeds of over $50 million to continue funding the clinical development of its proprietary therapies.
As mentioned above, GW Pharmaceuticals plc (GWPH) is a leading industry player and a clear example of a medical marijuana firm whose stock has been skyrocketing as a result of successfully isolating different cannabinoids from marijuana plants and turning them into efficient medical therapies. The UK-based biopharmaceutical company has discovered an oromucosal spray for multiple sclerosis spasticity, which is already being successfully marketed in dozens of countries. Furthermore, it has isolated another cannabinoid to be used for the treatment of epilepsy, which is currently in the final clinical trial states before approval, and the company is also developing other product candidates for a wide range of medical conditions such as tuberous sclerosis complex, Dravet syndrome, infantile spasms, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, glioma and schizophrenia. The company’s success in developing effective and innovative cannabinoid-based therapies over the last few years has earned it a market cap of more than $3 billion and a share price of over $120.
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