A Biotech Company Is Making a Cannabis-Based Drug to Treat COVID-19
The under-development drug, which would be made from cannabis compounds, could prevent inflammatory damage caused by viruses such as SARS-CoV-2.
Published on December 27, 2022

It’s been about three years since the COVID-19 pandemic started, and one company says it’s currently developing medications made from cannabis to treat the disease.

The Las Vegas-based company, Gb Science, released a white paper last week detailing the early progress of its new weed-based project. The company is also using AI to help develop the drug. 

"Our research shows promise for the potential use of cannabinoids within cannabinoid-containing mixtures as a treatment option for hyperinflammation,” said Gb Sciences’ president and chief science officer, Andrea Small-Howard, in a press release. “There is still a need for effective treatments to combat the hyperinflammatory effects of certain viruses.”

However, the project is still in its infancy. No cannabinoid mixture has yet been determined, nor has the drug even been named yet.

But, according to the white paper, here’s how it would work.

First, the drug or drugs are not designed to prevent or reverse infection from viruses such as SARS-CoV-2. Rather, they would treat a serious symptom of viral infections, a condition known as cytokine release syndrome. Cytokines are a type of immune cell which attack foreign bodies, such as viruses or bacteria. 

While cytokines evolved to stop infections, they come with their own side effects. Namely, they can damage nearby healthy cells, especially if they behave unchecked. 

With infections such as COVID-19, the body may respond to the viral infection by releasing a “cytokine storm,” particularly in the lungs. The cytokine storm is what ends up causing lasting respiratory damage to the patient, not the virus itself. 

The white paper states this drug, if it actually works and receives FDA approval, would be administered at the first sign of a viral infection. 

“For example, a patient would begin the therapy immediately after exposure to COVID-19, continuing until test results are complete,” according to the white paper. “If the patient tested negative, the treatment would have been moot, with no side effects. However, had the patient tested positive, the Gb Sciences’ drug would have been actively working in the background to prevent the hyperinflammatory response that would have accompanied the viral progression.”

Which cannabinoids would end up in the drug. Since it’s still in development, no one knows. However, Gb Science funded recent research which tested cannabinoids such as CBD and cannabichromene for their anti-inflammatory behavior. The same study also looked at common cannabis terpenes, such as limonene and linalool

Furthermore, the company’s white paper notes this new cannabis-based drug or drugs could treat a variety of viral infections which cause inflammation, not just SARS-CoV-2. 

“Our cannabis-inspired therapeutics were designed to reset the immune system after hyperinflammation has been triggered, providing relief by targeting our human immune response to a virus, without being tied to a specific variant or the virus itself," Small-Howard said in a press statement.

In October, the company announced it was working on a kava-based drug for treating anxiety. Kava is a root which is currently sold as a calming supplement, though some components of the root can cause liver damage. Gb Sciences’ anti-anxiety drug aims to remove the harmful compounds from kava root to deliver only the medicinal portions.

Unfortunately, it may be a few more years before these plant-based drugs ever hit the market, as the FDA approval process takes time and can be costly.

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MERRY JANE is based in Los Angeles, California and is dedicated to elevating the discussion around cannabis culture.
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