MGC Pharma and RMIT develop the 'Google of medicinal cannabis' to support R&D and NPD

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

Nicknamed the "Google of medicinal cannabis" by MGC's co-founder Roby Zomer, the ILC contains detailed information from clinical research on different cannabinoid sequences and their potential therapeutic uses. ©Getty Images
Nicknamed the "Google of medicinal cannabis" by MGC's co-founder Roby Zomer, the ILC contains detailed information from clinical research on different cannabinoid sequences and their potential therapeutic uses. ©Getty Images

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Aussie CBD firm MGC Pharmaceuticals and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) have recently completed the first stage of development of the digital interface for their database on medicinal cannabis.

The interface, which is both web- and mobile-based, will provide access to the International Library of Cannabinoids (ILC), allowing manufacturers, researchers and doctors to search for relevant information.

Nicknamed the "Google of medicinal cannabis"​ by MGC's co-founder Roby Zomer, the ILC contains detailed information from clinical research on different cannabinoid sequences and their potential therapeutic uses.

Multi-sectorial benefit

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia​, Nitin Mantri, associate professor in biotechnology at RMIT, said: "We started discussing this partnership in 2017, and we signed an MoU for an agreement to work on two different projects.

"One involved the breeding and cultivation of the CBD strains MGC had developed in Europe, in order to further refine them to produce strains that were more effective against prostate cancer and melanoma.

"The ILC is our other project. This database — which will provide comprehensive details such as each strain's ID, origin and genetic fingerprint, conditions for cultivation, time of harvest, and extraction and analysis methods — will help doctors, researchers and patients to enter and access data from clinical trials on CBD."

He added that once there was enough data on the strains from these trials, there would be enough information to determine which combination of compounds is good for which disorder.

This would also provide support for MGC in terms of R&D of new CBD strains for both its nutraceutical and pharmaceutical businesses, which have seen steady growth so far.

The database uses an open-ended platform, which means that it can be used not only by MGC and its partners, but also other companies that approach MGC and RMIT with their research in this area.

At the same time, MGC and RMIT have developed a mobile app to support CBD research by facilitating easier communication between researchers and study participants involved in clinical trials.

Mantri said that MGC would soon embark on a clinical trial on epilepsy in Melbourne, and would be using the app to allow patients to provide the researchers and their doctors with regular updates on their experiences with treatment and CBD supplementation.

"Doctors can view patient histories and conduct follow-ups, and the relevant information will all be entered into the ILC.

"Ultimately, our goal is to have as much information as possible in one place, so the users of the platform can not only have sufficient evidence for reference, but also develop products much more quickly.

"The medicinal CBD space is quite new, and everyone is doing things differently. But we hope that over time, there will be enough information to help researchers, manufacturers and consumers better understand the health benefits of specific compounds."

He added that while RMIT was constantly looking for industry partners through the open-source platform, its developers understood that some potential partners would have reservations about sharing publicly accessible data, due largely to patents and copyrights.

To meet the needs of such users, RMIT and MGC have created locked systems within the database, which only they can access.

Covering all bases

The database and mobile app will no doubt come in handy for MGC on both the R&D and NPD fronts, as the firm expects to begin its phase II clinical trial for CogniCann, its medical cannabis product that targets dementia and Alzheimer's disease, soon.

The trial will see 50 participants aged 65 and above supplemented over 18 weeks with CogniCann, in order to test its effects on symptoms of mild dementia and Alzheimer's, as well as the patients' quality of life.

It is expected to end a year ahead of schedule, thanks to the unexpectedly overwhelming interest from potential participants.

Zomer said: "The volume of applications has meant that the recruitment process will not take as long as originally anticipated, and will result in considerable time-saving for the study, which we now look to complete in Q2 2020, significantly ahead of schedule."

He added that the overwhelming response in the trial's recruitment phase was indicative of the rising interest in and awareness of medicinal cannabis and its potential health benefits, which are also fuelling the growth of its nutraceutical business.

MGC recently launched its range of CBD nutraceutical products in China​ under a partnership with Chinese e-commerce import platform YuShop, tapping into Chinese consumers' mounting interest in CBD and innovative health products.

It is also eyeing Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea with its nutraceutical products, albeit taking a more cautious approach due to the varying degrees of regulatory restrictions in the APAC region.

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