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Polish researchers probe CBD extract for pain pills

Professor Ryszard Słomski, Poznań University of Life Sciences.Prof. Ryszard Słomski of the Poznań University of Life Sciences.
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Polish researchers have embarked on a €2.75 million ($2.5 million) study aimed at developing a low-cost painkiller capsule based on CBD. The effort, called Onkokan, combines the resources of five Polish research institutions. It raised €2 million from EU funding with the remainder provided by private sources.

The idea is to find hemp cultivars that are low in THC and high in CBD, and which will produce optimal growth in Poland’s climate, then to develop low-cost capsules helpful in treatment primarily of cancer patients. But the group says the medication could also be used to aid those suffering from asthma, Parkinson’s disease, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis.

Minimal funding, but confidence

While the research funds are low by international standards, the group says it is confident it can develop the low-cost capsule by early 2017.

A lag in legalization efforts for medical marijuana, in part, spurred the effort to develop cures from industrial hemp, the project’s leader, Prof. Ryszard Słomski, the lead scientist on the project, recently told Soft Secrets, a Dutch-based cannabis newsletter, noting that hemp is a traditional Polish plant that was used in folk medicine. Słomski is from the Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology at the Poznań University of Life Sciences,

Cheap plants, big payoff

The Polish scientists say their effort is unique in its goal to grow relatively cheap hemp plants to obtain CBD, a concept some industry analysts have pushed for years. And they note that a high amount of valuable hemp matter goes to waste, for example, in China, where hemp is mostly grown to get fibers for textiles. If that leftover plant matter were used to extract CBD, the scientists said, the global market could be flooded with cheap pain remedies.

The group says it is already testing highly-concentrated CBD extract in rats and pigs. And they stress that both dry leaves and flowers were used as base material to derive the extract. That process followed research on fertilizers, soils and the Polish climate which had the aim of finding the optimal combination to grow plants with high CBD levels but which are low in THC.

On the science team

Onkokan, which comprises 30 Polish scientists, combines the forces of the Poznań University of Life Sciences; the Institute of Natural Fibres and Medicinal Plants (IWNiRZ); The University of Medical Sciences/Poznan (UMP); and the Institute of Human Genetics, Academy of Sciences (IGC). Private firms participating in the project are PozLab, and the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics (LGM), also headed by Słomski.

The project is implemented under INNOMED, a program of the EU-funded National Research and Development Centre, which backs innovation in regional economic growth initiatives.

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