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Industry, Univ Labs Partner on Cannabinoid Pain Drug

Cannabis plant

Cannabis plant (Michael Fischer, Pexels.com)

2 Dec. 2020. A Canadian medical school lab is helping evaluate and develop a pain relief drug made by a company developing therapies from cannabis. Therapix Biosciences Ltd. in Tel Aviv, Israel is collaborating with Tuan Trang at University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, who studies chronic pain and biochemistry of opioid drugs.

Therapix Biosciences develops treatments from cannabinoid compounds derived from cannabis plants, largely for neurological disorders, including Tourette syndrome, epilepsy, and autism spectrum disorder, but also for obstructive sleep apnea and chronic pain. For chronic pain, Therapix is adapting research by Raphael Mechoulam, professor of medicinal chemistry at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and scientific adviser to the company, who studies the role of CB2 receptors in the body’s endogenous cannabinoid system. That system regulates the central and peripheral nervous systems, including responses to stresses such as pain.

The endogenous cannabinoid system is made up largely of CB1 and CB2 receptors, located respectively in the central and peripheral nervous system. CB2 receptors are less numerous than CB1, but when stimulated by CB2 receptor agonists from cannabinoids, as noted by Mechoulam in a Therapix statement, “are known to exhibit mainly a protective effect, acting on pain, in inflammation, in neurological diseases and in many other disease states.” And because CB2 receptor agonists act on the peripheral rather than central nervous system, they do not have psychoactive effects, such as euphoria.

Therapix Biosciences is developing a cannabinoid treatment code-named THX-160, based on a compound from Mechoulam’s lab. THX-160 is designed to activate CB2 receptors, and says the company, in preclinical tests with lab animals is shown to relieve pain more than animals not given THC-160. In addition, says Therapix, the pain relief measured comparably to high doses of morphine and in some cases showed more potency. And the company notes that the animal studies show THX-160 is well tolerated and does not cause serious adverse effects.

Tuan Trang’s lab at Calgary studies the neurobiology of chronic pain, as well as the chemical role of opioids to provide pain relief. Trang and colleagues are expected to thoroughly evaluate THX-160’s pain relief capabilities to help prepare for further development of the treatment.

Adi Zuloff-Shani, Therapix’s chief technology officer says, “We believe this research could further demonstrate the analgesic clinical utility of THX-160.” Zuloff-Shani adds that THX-160 can provide an alternative to opioid pain relievers in the U.S., where addicition and overdoses are reaching epidemic levels, and “pain therapeutics like THX-160 possess the potential to be a new and effective treatment option for pain patients, and reduce the risks of opiate addiction.”

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