Israeli firm Asana Bio Group Ltd. has invested $2.3 million in a lab that will provide clinical trial services to companies that are developing a wide range of medical cannabis-based products in a bid to help them get widespread legitimacy.
The Lumir Lab has been set up in the Biotechnology Park at the Ein Kerem campus of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the lab said in a statement on Monday, announcing the funding.
The initiative will be led by Prof. Lumír Ondřej Hanuš, a Czech chemist and an authority in the field of cannabis research who has worked closely over the years in Israel with Prof. Raphael Mechoulam, considered a pioneer in cannabis research. Hanuš has identified and isolated all the active ingredients in the cannabis plant — more than 140 cannabinoids and over 1,000 other active substances, the statement said. Cannabinoids are a class of medical compounds that act on cannabinoid receptors in cells in the brain.
In 1992 Hanuš and William Anthony Devane isolated and first described the structure of anandamide, a cannabinoid neurotransmitter that originates in organisms.
The establishment of a laboratory that provides clinical validity for research “is an important milestone for the cannabis industry in Israel and abroad,” said Yotam Hod, the CEO of Lumir Lab. “To date, the vast majority of cannabis products available in the various markets have no scientific basis, preventing the medical community from supporting the legitimization of cannabis-based therapies. Our goal is to provide tools and solutions that do not exist in the market today while setting an international quality standard in the medical cannabis market.”
Israel is a well-known internationally as a pioneer in medical cannabis. The nation has a critical mass of scientists and clinicians familiar with and open to medical uses for cannabis, a strong biotech industry, and researchers in leading medical institutes and universities who support the work. Researchers at the Hebrew University and elsewhere in Israel have shown that cannabidiol, or CBD, a naturally occurring cannabinoid constituent of cannabis, and CBD derivatives, work on epilepsy, schizophrenia and other psychiatric diseases, pain, some cancers and Type 1 diabetes.
The lab has already started to work with Gynica, a research and development company led by Prof. Moshe Hod, the father of Yotam Hod, a gynecologist and president of the European Association of Obstetrics, who specializes in cannabinoid-based products and has a permit from Israel’s Health Ministry for research in the field.
In their first joint study, Hanush and Moshe Hod will study the use of cannabinoids to treat endometriosis, a disease that affects some 180 million women worldwide, the statement said. There already are studies showing a direct link between the effect of cannabis on various symptoms of the disease, affecting the immune system and even stopping the spread of disease. However, the statement said, further research is needed to understand how the agents work and which are the most effective and active ones to treat the disease, which develops when tissue that makes up the lining of the womb is present on other body organs.
In addition to the laboratory in Israel, Asana Bio Group holds a cannabis production license in Malta under the Terrapeutics brand. Asana intends to export the intellectual property and do its manufacturing in a laboratory in Israel for production and commercialization in the European market, the statement said.
The Asana group is an Israeli firm that does cannabinoid-based research and development in treatments in the field of women’s health, according to its website, which provided no other details.