This spring, Denver is on track to award Colorado's first cannabis research and development licenses, and a local business is hoping to use one of these licenses to conduct a landmark trial on cannabis and Alzheimer's.
The Denver Department of Excise and License will propose these new research licenses to the city council on March 17. If the council approves, the city can give licenses to businesses for cannabis research, allowing them to operate outside of the constraints of the adult-use business licensing system. "It would be great if the City of Denver is leading that charge and we find some great advancements," said Eric Escudero of the excise department to ABC affiliate Denver7.
It is not yet certain if the council will approve the proposed research licenses, but one Denver company is betting that the answer will be “yes.” MedPharm Holdings recently announced that it plans to apply for one of these R&D licenses in order to study whether THC, CBD, or other cannabinoids could help treat patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's or dementia.
"There’s been a lot of anecdotal evidence that says, 'Hey, [cannabis] helps with epilepsy,'" said MedPharm CEO Albert Gutierrez to Denver7. "We’re going to legitimize this industry even more to say, 'This will help with one condition or another and this is how it’s going to help.'” Gutierrez added that the fight against Alzheimer's is a personal issue for his company, as “some employees as well as myself... have had family members who have been impacted by dementia."
Researchers have linked Alzheimer's to a buildup of a protein called amyloid in the brain. Previous studies have found that THC and other cannabinoids can break down this protein on nerve cells grown in a lab, but most of the research on the topic has been observational in nature. A Canadian medical cannabis firm recently launched a two-year-long study into whether cannabis can help treat this disorder, but MedPharm hopes to be one of the first American companies to launch a double-blind clinical trial on Alzheimer's and marijuana.
If MedPharm succeeds in its goal of acquiring an R&D license from the city, it will be able to conduct a placebo-controlled trial on a group of human patients. The company has developed a specific, proprietary blend of cannabinoids and nootropic nutrients that it believes will be effective in the fight against Alzheimer's. The company has also partnered with a leading neurologist, a functional brain imaging and analytics firm, and a blood-testing company that will use advanced technology to evaluate levels of neural inflammation.
“MedPharm will investigate a proprietary compound that contains naturally derived cannabinoids and excipients that have been scientifically demonstrated to positively affect brain function, with the goal of helping us better understand and treat Alzheimer’s,” explained Dr. Tyrell Towle, MedPharm research scientist, in a statement.