BAT invests $10 million in U.S. venture to develop hemp drug

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Cigarette giant British American Tobacco (BAT) said it will invest $10 million for a 20% stake in a new joint venture between two Colorado hemp companies.

London-based BAT said it is working with AJNA BioSciences PBC and Charlotte’s Web (CW), related entities, and will seek U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for a hemp-derived novel botanical drug to treat an unidentified neurological condition.

Boulder-based Charlotte’s Web, one of the biggest CBD companies in the U.S., makes a range of hemp extract wellness products. AJNA, Littleton, is a botanical drug development startup focused on neurological disorders which was co-founded by Joel Stanley, former CEO and board chairman at CW.

Closer ties

The deal expands ties between BAT and Charlotte’s Web following the British company’s roughly $60 million direct investment in CW last November which gave it a 20% equity stake in the CBD maker.

Charlotte’s Web and AJNA each hold 40% in the new joint venture, which the partners said will file an Investigational New Drug application with the FDA and start Phase I clinical development this year. The drug will contain Charlotte’s Web hemp genetics, and AJNA will provide lab, regulatory services and clinical expertise for the initiative.


“I believe the properties of cannabis and hemp are well suited for the FDA’s new Botanical Drug Development pathway,” said Orrin Devinsky, Chief Medical Advisor for AJNA.

Devinsky is the Director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at NYU Langone Health, a part of New York University, and a Professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. He was a principal investigator for the development of Epidiolex, a CBD pharmaceutical that is one of few cannabis drugs so far approved by the FDA.

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