A team of Canadian scientists from the cannabis company Avicanna alongside members of the pharmacy faculty at the University of Toronto is working on a new cannabinoid-based drug that can help reduce some of the respiratory symptoms and illnesses associated with COVID-19. Certain cannabinoids have been found by scientists to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can be especially beneficial for treating lung inflammation caused by the virus.
The Canadian government has awarded the team a Mitacs grant, which means that the government will finance a significant portion of the study and that the project and its feasibility have been successfully peer-reviewed.
Aras Azadian, CEO of Avicanna, has stated that this study’s primary focus is to find the ideal amount of naturally occurring cannabinoids that they should deliver directly into patients’ lungs to help them fight symptoms of the coronavirus in addition to other ailments such as asthma.
Scientists at Avicanna’s lab. Photo courtesy of Avicanna.
“We have been collaborating with the University of Toronto for over 3 years now, and we have developed cannabinoid products from R&D through clinical development to the market,” said Azadian. “Given our combined expertise and proven track record, this new project is very real and has the potential to save lives.”
Dr. Christine Allen is the leader of the research group at the University of Toronto. In a press release, she stated, “I am very pleased to leverage our knowledge and expertise in cannabinoid research and drug formulation to mitigate the suffering of patients with severe COVID-19. This is another terrific example of our productive collaboration with Avicanna.”
The team is currently running trials on the drug in Canada, where approval times are usually faster than in the U.S. Still, it is important to state that expectations have to be appropriately managed. There still isn’t an expected release date for the drug. And more importantly, this is not a cure for COVID-19 but merely a treatment for its symptoms and lung associated ailments.