Australian biotechnology company CannaPacific and the University of Newcastle have announced a collaboration to advance the development of new cannabinoid-based pain treatments.

CannaPacific’s pharmaceutical development team are producing high-purity actives, isolated from in-house developed cannabis strains, which will be screened at the University of Newcastle using pain signalling assays.

It is hoped the insights gained will enable the development of improved pain medicines.

CannaPacific chief scientific officer Tim Bowser said: “Attaining insights into the ancient human endocannabinoid system is leading researchers to believe that medicinal cannabis has an untapped role to play in both pain signalling and perception.

“This will provide CannaPacific with the ability to produce novel cannabinoid product formulations to address the unmet needs in pain management.”

Palliative medicine specialist Dr Erica Cameron-Taylor, who is working with CannaPacific on the development of cannabinoid medications, described improving treatments for acute and chronic neuropathic pain – particularly for patients with cancer and those in palliative care settings – as one of the “holy grails” of medicine.

She added: “This research to understand the mechanisms behind how cannabinoids can treat pain is an exciting development for the future of pain management.”

Associate Professor Brett Graham’s research at the University of Newcastle is aimed at
understanding the complex relationships between pain and spinal cord signalling.

He said: “Thankfully, we’re coming into a time when the techniques we can use to study these connections and circuits are rapidly advancing.

“What we really want to do is identify the different types of sensory nerve cells in the spinal cord, work out how they’re connected and what that means for pain signalling.

“Along the way, we’ve developed a number of assays that allow us to test if novel compounds can disrupt spinal pain signalling.”

CannaPacific and the University of Newcastle are aiming for a long-term collaborative research partnership, including PhD students who will gain direct experience in the pharmaceutical drug development process.

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