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Infusion of Biotechnology Into Cannabis Market Leads to Booming Growth

CannabisNewsWire Editorial Coverage: The tremendous growth of the licensed cannabis market has naturally led to an increase in research in this area. A number of specialist biotech companies have emerged, creating innovative cannabinoid applications. Lexaria Bioscience Corp. (CSE: LXX) (OTCQX: LXRP) (LXRP Profile) has developed technology to improve the palatability and speed of absorption of cannabinoid therapeutics, leading to a range of licensed products and related patents. Plant biotechnology company 22nd Century Group, Inc. (NYSE American: XXII) is altering the level of active ingredients in both cannabis and tobacco, allowing new strains to be grown for medical and other purposes. GW Pharmaceuticals plc (NASDAQ: GWPH) has developed extensive expertise in research, regulatory allowances and manufacturing, creating a pipeline of products for illnesses including epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. INSYS Therapeutics, Inc.  (NASDAQ: INSY) is creating drugs for previously unmet patient needs, researching novel systems to deliver active ingredients as effectively as possible. Even rare illnesses are being addressed by this research boom, with Zynerba Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: ZYNE) focusing on neurological disorders, including fragile X syndrome and Tourette’s syndrome.

The Importance of Cannabis Biotech

As the cannabis market grows, biotechnology is taking an increasingly important place in that market.

From a position of almost global illegality 20 years ago, cannabis is evolving into a multibillion-dollar legal industry. Shifting social attitudes have led to the legalization of licensed medical cannabis in more than half of the United States and in many other countries around the world. A handful of countries are also now moving to legalize the recreational use of cannabis, accelerating the growth of the industry. Because of these changes, much of the public’s attention has been on social and legal developments.

This focus ignores the groundbreaking work emerging from cannabis research and design departments. Biotechnology has become a crucial part of the cannabis market as researchers explore new applications for the plant’s active ingredients and new ways of delivering drugs derived from them. This has led to exciting efforts in tackling opioid addiction, helping brains age more healthily and managing the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, just to name a few. The medical application of cannabis is becoming more sophisticated, and the cannabis biotech sector is growing in both power and profitability.

Business-to-Business Biotech

Lexaria Bioscience Corp. (CSE: LXX) (OTCQX: LXRP) has taken an important place in this part of the market.

Lexaria is a research-driven company whose work focuses on improved drug delivery systems. This expertise started with DehydraTECH™, a technology that has been proven both in the laboratory and the market to improve the consumption of beneficial compounds.

Many of these compounds are lipophilic, meaning they are fat soluble. They taste and smell unpleasant, are poorly absorbed by the body, and are vulnerable to being broken down by the stomach and metabolized away by the liver. This leads to poor bioavailability, or how much of the compound the body can use. Smoking, vaping and added chemicals have all been used to try to alleviate this, but DehydraTECH offers a different solution. The lipophilic compound is combined with fatty acids in a process that makes it nearly odorless and tasteless while protecting it from hostile stomach conditions to increase both its speed of delivery to appropriate biological systems and rate of absorption.

This technology can also be applied to vitamins, supplements, nicotine and pharmaceuticals. And it is particularly applicable for both cannabis and tobacco-derived drugs because it allows patients to benefit from the active ingredients without having to smoke, thereby reducing harmful side effects from smoking. By increasing the efficacy of drugs, the technology also reduces quantities needed, cutting costs and minimizing drug-related side effects.

Lexaria has focused on licensing out its technology utilizing a business model similar to that used by software companies. Through licensing agreements with companies in Canada, the United States and beyond, Lexaria’s technology could benefit patients around the world. Meanwhile, the company itself can stay focused on biotechnology research without the burden of expensive commercial operations.

Piling Up the Patents

The result is a company that has developed a significant volume of intellectual property in its short history — and that volume continues to grow. Currently Lexaria has 15 patent applications filed in the United States and over 30 pending in more than 40 countries, plus two patents granted for cannabinoid delivery in the United States and one granted in Australia. With researchers continuing to refine the DehydraTECH system, the patents keep piling up.

In March the company received a Notice of Allowance from the United States Patent and Trademark Office relating to substances that improve the taste and absorption of cannabinoids  (http://cnw.fm/A14bT). This is expected to lead to the granting of yet another U.S. patent soon to add more protected commercial values for Lexaria’s partnered companies.

The company is also exploring the use of DehydraTECH in the absorption of drugs through the skin. Lexaria has recently filed a new patent to improve the speed and quantity of absorption for transdermal applications (http://cnw.fm/4sYzF). A recent breakthrough in testing discovered that DehydraTECH can double the transdermal absorption of cannabidiol  compared with leading commercial alternatives. This will allow the company to newly license its technology to create improved patches, creams, cosmetics and more.

In addition, the company’s work has been enhanced through an R&D agreement with the Canadian government’s National Research Council. This agreement is expected to result in a better understanding of how Lexaria’s technology works, leading to more agreements with other businesses.

It is ironic that this technology was developed for the cannabis industry but has already received patent protection for many other commonly used drugs. Anti-inflammatory drugs, vitamins and nicotine could all be deployed using Lexaria’s disruptive technology. Supplements, pain relief and smoking-cessation or smoking-alternative nicotine products are all possible as a result of Lexaria’s research. To this end, the company recently commenced a study into nicotine absorption (http://cnw.fm/DLo69). Who would have thought that cannabis research might lead to broader biotechnology applications that could benefit non-cannabis consumers?

Immediate Benefits

Cannabis is a fast-growing sector; moving quickly to develop and deploy new technology is important. Every year sees new areas of the world opening up to licensed cannabis use, as well as new products being commercialized to make the most of this market. Companies are rushing to develop the products that will fill this developing market.

The sooner these products can be patented, the sooner they can be brought to market, and Lexaria may again have a distinct first-mover advantage in this area. With patents filed and backdated to 2014 for a range of related technologies in dozens of different jurisdictions, the company may soon be able to commercialize its systems around the globe. Lexaria’s IP is steadily increasing, covering more effective bio-delivery of medical cannabis, recreational cannabis and over-the-counter pain remedies such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Through licensing to partner companies, Lexaria may soon be using this technology to drive value and prove the advantage of its systems worldwide.

The Broader Picture of Cannabis Biotech

Of course, Lexaria isn’t the only company applying biotechnology to cannabis in a search for new products. A wide range of research is leading to a diverse range of innovations set to disrupt this exciting sector.

Plant biotech company 22nd Century Group (NYSE American: XXII) is focused on changing the chemical composition of plant strains. Initially working on tobacco, the company has developed plants that have both very low and very high levels of nicotine. This broad range can be used to help smokers quit or reduce harm to those still smoking. Through its Botanical Genetics subsidiary, 22nd Century Group is turning its attention to controlling the level of active ingredients in cannabis. This has potential not only to create more effective medicines but also to support industrial hemp growth by removing active ingredients so that the plant can more easily be farmed for fibers and food.

Based in the United States and the United Kingdom, GW Pharmaceuticals plc (NASDAQ: GWPH) is a developer of cannabinoid-based medicines. Twenty years of work have given the company extensive expertise in research, regulations and manufacturing, allowing it to manage the whole pipeline, from research inspiration to a complete product. Its medicines are used in tackling the symptoms of epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, with more in the research pipeline.

Like Lexaria, INSYS Therapeutics (NASDAQ: INSY) is focused on producing new cannabinoid medicines and delivery systems to make better use of the drugs. The company is also studying how to use the newly unleashed potential of cannabis to create drugs for previously unmet patient needs. New drugs developed by the company’s researchers may help medical professionals support patients who previously lacked effective treatment. Drugs in the pipeline include an oral treatment for treating spasms in children.

Zynerba Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ZYNE) is developing cannabis-based treatments for rare and near-rare neurological disorders. The company is working on transdermal drugs to help patients suffering from fragile X syndrome, certain forms of epilepsy and Tourette’s syndrome.

Cannabis biotech efforts are unleashing a range of new treatments. As more is discovered about the cannabis plant’s potential, treatments for a range of previously hard-to-manage conditions are being found along with better options for widespread illnesses. In providing innovative solutions and new products, the sector is growing in sophistication and strength.

For more information on Lexaria, please visit Lexaria Bioscience Corp. (CSE: LXX) (OTCQX: LXRP).

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