Brown, who directs the Natural Health and Food Products Research Group at BCIT, brings with her a portfolio of natural product formulas that she has been developing over her years of research. Brown exchanged rights to the formulas for 400,000 shares in Abattis, according to a company statement.
“This is a collection I developed from doing research for the last 14 years, I’ve been writing down what I think would really highly effective products in the realm of cognitive function, pain management and immunity and inflammation,” Brown told NutraIngredients-USA.
Focus on cannabinoids
While nutraceutical development based on Brown’s formulas is on the horizon for Abattis, the primary focus of the collaboration is to develop growing and characterization methods for medical marijuana, Brown said.
"We are very pleased to have Dr. Brown join the Board of Biocell Labs Inc. with her extensive knowledge, the Company continues to deliver on its plan to become a fully integrated bioceutical company that offers cutting-edge proprietary products to the medicinal, nutraceutical and cosmetic industries," Mike Withrow, chief executive officer of Abattis said.
The regulatory picture for this plant is complex, both in Canada, where Abattis is based, and in the US. In Canada, Brown said, the plant is regulated by Health Canada under a law governing medical uses of marijuana (spelled marihuana in Canada). Changes to the governing legislation were proposed in December, and Abattis is working with Brown to develop the framework for bringing both properly characterized medical marijuana and cannabinoid-related nutracueticals to market. Other companies are lining up to access this market, too. The proposed changes to Canadian regulations are scheduled to take effect in 2014.
Which part is the drug?
Part of the issue with marijuana and hemp relates to what parts of the plant are scheduled as drugs, Brown said. In the US, the narcotic fraction of the plant, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is scheduled as a controlled substance, whereas in Canada the whole plant is regulated that way. While the narcotic effects of THC are well known, the effects of other constituents of the plant have beneficial properties not related to narcotic effects, Brown said. These include other known compounds with biologic activity such as cannabinol, cannabidiol (CBD), cannabichromene, cannabigerol, tetrahydrocannabivarin, and delta-8-THC. Cannabidiol, in particular, is thought to have significant analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity without the psychoactive effect of delta-9-THC. Depending on the regulatory environment, using these fractions of the plant could open avenues for their use as functional ingredients, Brown said.
Shifting legal landscape
The legal picture for marijuana is still somewhat murky in the US. Recreational use of marijuana has been approved by voters in Washington state and Colorado, and those states are among 16 that have approved medical marijuana. There is no federal medical marijuana legislation, however, and the plant remains illegal under federal law, putting the situation into something of a legal limbo. Abattis is positioning itself for entry into the US market with cannabinoid-containing products insofar as that is feasible from a regulatory standpoint, Withrow said.
Along those lines, Abattis announced today a multimillion dollar supply agreement with Cromogen Biotechnology to purchase cannabidiol or CBD's for the use of creating infused products to be sold in the US.
"We are very excited to become the first company to work with a specialty raw source CBD producer like Cromogen, focusing on the emerging US CBD-infused products market. We see this as a very high growth opportunity,” Withrow said.
Brown said she has been working with Roy Upton, founder and executive director of the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, to develop a marijuana monograph, work that Withrow said is being sponsored by Abattis. Brown has also reviewed and contributed to several other AHP monographs including Black Cohosh and Ginseng.