Article by Grant Granger, Burnaby Now
A research lab that aims to identify marijuana molecules that can be turned into non-addictive pharmaceutical drugs will soon be open in Burnaby.
The lab is being built by Medipure Pharmaceuticals in a Discovery Parks building on the east side of the B.C. Institute of Technology campus.
The company expects to be moved into the new space by the end of this week, with an official opening of the new lab planned for January.
Medipure plans to scientifically explore the medicinal benefits of cannabis.
“Physicians have known for many, many years there are health benefits from various molecules within this plant, but there’s never really been any significant data. Everything’s been anecdotal,” said Boris Weiss, chief executive officer of Medipure. “The big, open door was actually to look at this as a pharmaceutical product.
“You’re talking about providing the physician with the opportunity to prescribe something that is not opiate based, that does not have the significant side effects of opiate use, the addiction.”
And, he adds, avoid the need to keep increasing the dosage of the addictive painkillers, eventually rendering them ineffective. If these drugs can become reality it would be a big benefit in the global war against the opiate drug problem, he says.
“How do you solve that? You solve that by creating something, at least on a prescription level, that doesn’t hook these people,” said Weiss.
Medipure’s chief scientific officer is Nihar Pandey, who has a doctorate in biochemistry. A few years ago, he published a paper from research he had done at the University of Ottawa on a compound that was being used to treat diabetes. He said when his team did testing on animals they noticed the diabetic animals were anxious. But when they were treated for diabetes and obesity, the anxiety disappeared. So they tried to figure out why and discovered a molecule, known for being a cannabinoid (active compounds found in marijuana), that was impacting a receptor in the animals. When they treated the animals with the cannabinoid molecule they got a good result.
Pandey said, so far, 114 molecules in the cannabis plant have been identified and categorized. He is confident some “very good results” will come out of the Burnaby lab.
“These molecules are working, they’re not addictive,” said Pandey. “We are very much sure we are going to reach some milestones in these areas.”
Pandey added the molecules have the potential to be converted to pharmaceuticals to treat inflammation and skin care conditions.