MGC Pharmaceuticals is preparing to move forward with novel, unique and disruptive research in the medical cannabis sector after securing around €450,000 in flagship European Union (EU) funding.
The EU REDI (Regional Entrepreneurship and Development Index) money will be provided over three years and will underwrite three PhD students who will focus on research programmes developed on MGC Pharma’s CannaHub platform.
Launched in 2019, CannaHub is a joint international medical research centre for medicinal cannabis innovation and technologies between MGC, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), which has a European hub in Barcelona, and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI).
Ron Lipsky, MGC’s vice president, business development and international relations, said the funding will allow the company – which has its head office in Perth, Western Australia, corporate European headquarters in London, and pharma operations in Slovenia – to significantly accelerate the progress of its ongoing research projects and raise the level of academic engagement for cannabinoids by providing further legitimacy for the industry.
The pandemic means CannaHub – which is to include a digital library of cannabis medicine – has yet to make a significant impact, two years after its inception.
But Mr Lipsky said the REDI grant would help facilitate not just the doctoral students, but an agenda that would be aligned with MGC’s development programme.
It is anticipated that the PhD students will begin work in January 2022 with two tied closely to MGC’s agenda, possibly looking at delivery systems or improving the efficacy of phytocannabinoids in integration, with the third maybe working on what Mr Lipsky describes as a “moonshot, one of those things where you say ‘wow’, if this comes up with something it is going to be a super game changer.”
The REDI funded research can be carried out in the EU, Israel and Australia. MGC Pharma will be involved in the scientific publication of projects as the researchers publish their findings, whilst retaining the right to fully commercialise any, and all, IP developed under the programme.
Mr Lipsky says, at this stage, very little of what MGC is currently doing has come out of CannaHub. “CannaHub was designed to be an incubator and accelerator for ideas that would come out of universities. What we are seeing, and I guess this is a little ironic, is that ideas still aren’t coming out of academia; they are coming out of people who have already gone out of that environment.
“The level of research that we started getting from students within RMIT was not enough to be able to implement into our pipelines. Of course, every bit of research that is done and every published bit of research which our students have done, has an impact, but it has been less impactful on our active pipeline to this moment,
“The shift is going to be the REDI grant. The decision about what the specific modules of research will be will happen in September or October, then there is a recruitment period and in January the actual doctoral students will begin.”
Very Specific Agenda
CannaHub has produced some interesting work, however, most notably in the treatments of melanoma, prostate and brain cancers and an oral spray for cerebral palsy, all of which are in the preclinical stage. Mr Lipsky said: “We are very happy that we have got involved with this agenda and we think that at the end of the day it is building a wide piece of research that is crucial for this industry to move forward.
“There isn’t a significant number of medical cannabis forces parked at any major medical university. After doctors spend seven years studying and getting everything crammed into their head, there isn’t a lot of available room for new data, so it is very important to get in at those formative stages.
“The endocannabinoid system is a basic human system that is not being taught yet at medical school which is at this point, even based on the existing science, ridiculous. It is ridiculous that it is not acknowledged, that it is not explored, and not examined further, and again these are the kind of agendas we hope we can encourage through CannaHub.
“If more doctoral students are engaged in phytocannabinoid research then it is going to inspire universities to add those courses to the basic curriculum. The science of cannabis in the world of agriculture is just a whole thing waiting to be uncovered, so we are very excited by all the possibilities.
“There is a famous Yiddish proverb that says if you try to grasp too much you grasp nothing, and we have definitely learnt over the past years that it is very important to focus on a few very specific targets. I think where we are right now as a company has proven that agenda.”
MGC recently published first quarter results since its launch ion the London Stock Exchange earlier this year showed it was set to break even by the end of 2021 after posting record revenues of almost £500,000.