Early Stage Cannabis Technologies…Potentially The Next GW Pharma
VANCOUVER, BC / ACCESSWIRE / July 31, 2014 / Deep in the brain, buried within the central nervous system as well as lymphatic tissues and organs throughout the body are cannabinoid receptors; patiently waiting to help address a myriad of diseases. With the advent of cannabis research and therapy development many patients will likely trigger them very soon.
Two known receptors in the Endocannabinoid system are CB1 and CB2. There is mounting evidence that there are many more. Simply put, this system of receptors is involved in dealing with a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood and memory.
Activating these receptors by introducing the appropriate drug based on a specific formula of cannabis, primarily utilizing Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has already shown remarkable potential efficacy, albeit somewhat anecdotal, in the treatment of a host of afflictions ranging from cancer to epilepsy, glaucoma, MS, Tourette’s and even eczema.
To date there have been approximately 100 cannabinoids identified; each with the potential to be an integral component of a lower cost treatment; countering the expensive and frequently toxic Big Pharma drugs and therapies.
The current level of research and development of cannabis therapies is analogous to where the Internet was in the mid 1990’s. What is known is that the introduction of targeted phytocannabinoid formulations, such as those with CBD and THC, signal the body to make more endocannabinoids and open more cannabinoid receptors enhancing the body’s ability to fight pain and disease.
"At this point, we don’t actually know how many therapies are possible utilizing phytocompounds, but we suspect hundreds, if not thousands," stated Craig Schneider, President and CEO of Cannabis Technologies (CAN: CSE, CANLF: OTCQB). "To that end, CAN has developed a proprietary Cannabinoid Drug Design Platform (CDP) to identify new bioactive compounds within the cannabis plant that interact with certain genes responsible for specific diseases."
The poster stock in this Life Sciences sector is GW Pharmaceutical (GWPH: NASDAQ). The Company IPO’d at $8.90 in May 2013 and traded as high as $107 in 2014. When investors compare the metrics of peers GWPH and CAN, the case for the latter appears compelling.
While it would be easy to draw the usual David and Goliath analogy, in this case the participants, while competitors are really more peers, working toward the same therapeutic goals. And, as a result of the focused CDP development process, cannabis therapies can be on the market in 4-6 years versus 10-15 years as is the norm through the Big Pharma pathway.
GW currently trades at $87 has a market cap of $1.5 billion and had trailing twelve-month (ttm) revenues of $50 million, is virtually debt free and has approximately $163 million in cash. Cannabis Technologies trades at $0.37 is pre-revenue and has a market cap of $12 million with roughly $600k in cash. CAN shares have a 2014 high of $0.71 and low of $0.33.
GWPH market cap is 30 times revenue. Translating that multiple to eventual revenues to early stage CAN evidences compelling growth potential.
GWPH, as CAN, decided early on to dedicate R&D to therapy development and plant their respective flags firmly in Life Science space instead of the class of ‘Medical Marijuana’ companies with all the different connotations.
These companies are involved in serious and life saving science. There are others as well, including AbbVie, which makes the FDA approved chemotherapy nausea treatment Marinol, which is a synthetic formulation of THC. Valeant Pharmaceuticals produces Cesamet, which is a like treatment. The best known to investors is likely GW’s vapor delivered Sativex, used currently in 25 countries outside the US for treatment of the spasticity associated with MS. Sativex is currently in clinical trials for approval as a treatment of cancer pain.
CAN’s Schneider notes: "The media has categorized CAN as an early-stage GW Pharma, a comparison we welcome. We are currently entering Phase 1 trials for our glaucoma treatment CTI-085, which showed great therapeutic promise in pre-clinical trials relieving the ocular pressure associated. This initial therapy is much more, being a proof of concept of the ability of our CDP to identify specifically engineered treatments to deal with many debilitating and deadly diseases."
For context, the $12 billion ocular disease market includes $5.7 billion for glaucoma.
Other drugs in development include GW’s Epidolex for the treatment of rare diseases as well as other compounds in clinical trials for treatment of autoimmune, diabetes and schizophrenia.
The key to therapy going forward is this specific engineering and the ability to replicate the compound for quality and consistency. Sativex is basically 50% CBD and 50% THC. The CBD component has the dual task of being the active ingredient as well as damping down the psychotropic effects of the THC. CBD comes from the hemp plant and has only trace THC.
As new cannabis drugs develop, individual formulations will be more therapy specific, have non-cannabis ingredients added and undergo stringent quality and consistency controls.
Big Pharma has a right to be nervous. Side effects from cannabis therapies are virtually non-existent, development costs are extremely low by comparison-$5 billion on average per Big Pharma drug-and companies like CAN are confident that as it progresses it can develop therapies in a period of 60-90 days instead of decades.
Part of the strategic engineering is not just how much of this and that goes into a compound. The key is to develop plants that produce the right material for each formulation. It is not inconceivable that if there were 500 cannabis therapies, there would be 500 different strains of cannabis plant as ‘feed stock’.
The label of Medical Marijuana companies, when referring to enterprises such as GW, CAN, AbbVie and Valeant, are the exception to what appears to be a wild west show at times. These are serious life science companies. To include them with the plethora of Medical Marijuana initiatives, whether junior mining companies looking for a new direction or those that feel simply growing generic marijuana is a sound business plan, many will likely fail or be swallowed.
Like the Internet of old where there are few survivors today from that era, the cannabis space will eventually be littered with casualties as it builds out. What is not in dispute, is that the efficacy of cannabis appears undeniable and therapy development will continue and likely speed up, building on early successes. GW and CAN will likely be among those to grow and prosper; a good thing for both shareholders and, more importantly, those millions of patients suffering from particularly nasty diseases and conditions.
Innovative science requires scientists. Rounding out CEO Craig Schneider’s 20 years of capital market and biopharmaceutical experience CAN has two world-class scientists. Dr. Sazzad Hossain Ph.D, M.Sc., Chief Science Officer, brings two decades of experience in new drug discovery and natural health product development. His practical experience includes senior scientist at the NRCC bringing and has generated over $500 million in revenue from therapies he has been involved in developing from the discovery to commercialization.
Key as well is the Company’s breeding, genetics and cultivation division led by Dr. Hyder Khoja, Ph.D., M.Sc., A.Ag. who brings 17 years of extensive research and business provenance in life sciences and business services.
Management has spoken frequently about addressing larger therapy markets including cancer, metabolic diseases and pain and inflammation. On par with GW, CAN has plans to produce medicines in-house initiated by its CDP technology, breeding and cultivation division and proprietary formula engineering. Even at this early stage, the Company is keenly aware of the need for not just the development of therapies but the ability to replicate each with strict quality and consistency.
Further adding to shareholder value is a patent pending for CAN’s CDP and a plan to protect IP by filing patents as therapies are developed.
If you are considering investing in the cannabis space, buy the science. Hype has a very short shelf life.
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Source: Financial Press