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17 March 2017

Oxford boldly goes into cannabinoid research

Oxford University has partnered Kingsley Capital Partners to conduct research into cannabis-based medication through a new company dubbed Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies.

Author: Thierry Heles, editor

Oxford University has joined forces with private equity and VC firm Kingsley Capital Partners for a research program into the use of cannabinoids to treat a range of acute and chronic conditions.

The strategic partnership will be supported by an initial £10m ($12.4m) investment provided by Kingsley. The research will be conducted by a newly established company called Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies (OCT).

OCT will partner medical researchers from the university to understand the molecular, cellular and systems mechanisms of cannabinoids with the aim of developing therapies for conditions such as cancer and inflammatory disease.

OCT is expected to fund additional cannabinoid research programs with Oxford University across other therapeutic areas in future.

Cannabis is currently categorised as a class B drug in the UK; when caught by police, users face a warning or an on-the-spot fine of £90. In more severe cases, the maximum penalty is up to five years (for possession) or 14 years (for supply and production) in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.

There is currently only one cannabis-based drug licensed in the UK, the prescription-only Sativex, an oral spray that lacks the psychoactive components of the plant and is used to treat multiple sclerosis spasticity.

While OCT has attracted the high-profile support of actor Patrick Stewart and a cross-party group of members of parliament found in September 2016 that cannabis should be legalised for medical use, the government has made no such moves and several National Health Service bodies have rejected the calls pointing out the cost.

Ahmed Ahmed, professor of gynaecological oncology at Oxford University, said: “Cannabinoid research has started to produce exciting biological discoveries and this research programme is a timely opportunity to increase our understanding of role of cannabinoids in health and disease.

“This field holds great promise for developing novel therapeutic opportunities for cancer patients.”

Neil Mahapatra, managing partner at Kingsley, said: “Medical cannabis and cannabinoid medicine is already helping patients with some of the most distressing conditions across the world.

“However, research into the specific pathways and mechanisms that create this benefit is limited and long overdue. Through OCT, we hope our strategic partnership with Oxford will support the development of innovative new therapies to help millions of people around the world.

“The partnership gives the UK a global leadership role in this fast-growing field.”

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