Berlin-based health and life-science company Sanity Group has joined forces with a team of international scientists to develop pharmaceutical treatments for schizophrenia and anxiety targeting the endocannabinoid system.

The new company, Endosane Pharmaceuticals, is joining a research and development project led by German neurologist and psychiatrist Professor F. Markus Leweke from the University of Sydney.

The firm already has a development pipeline containing several psychiatric drugs for the treatment of neuropsychiatric and psychiatric disorders, in particular schizophrenia and anxiety. 

Professor F. Markus Leweke

With Phase II studies already completed and two ongoing, a potential schizophrenia drug is forecast to be approved as early as 2025.  

Professor Leweke has been systematically researching the endocannabinoid system and its role and therapeutic potential in psychiatric disorders since the mid-1990s. 

In collaboration with neurobiologist Dr Cathrin Rohleder, Professor Leweke collected data that indicated a clear connection between various psychiatric disorders and the endocannabinoid system. 

While most conventional psychiatric drugs primarily target the ‘visible’ symptoms of psychiatric disorders, this treatment aims to readjust the endocannabinoid system disturbed in many symptomatic patients.

Professor Leweke said: “Figuratively speaking, we are treating these disorders, schizophrenia in particular, much closer to the cause than current drugs.” 

He added targeting the endocannabinoid system would be a much “gentler” intervention in the molecular neurobiology of patients than currently available drugs.

Sanity Group co-founders and managing directors Finn Hänsel and Fabian Friede

Dr Rohleder said: “If the clinical data collected so far is confirmed in the further course of phases II and III, we would be in a position to offer a drug with a significantly improved side-effect profile.” 

“This would be a huge step in quality of life for affected individuals.”

Sanity Group already develops and distributes medicinal cannabis in various forms such as CBD oils and cosmetics.  

Co-founders and managing directors Finn Hänsel and Fabian Friede said in a joint statement: “Our goal is to explore and harness the full potential of the endocannabinoid system. We are glad to have found partners in Professor Leweke, Dr Rohleder and their team with whom we can realise our long-term vision with regard to the development of finished [products] in the field of psychiatric drugs.” 

Endosane’s management team comprises Professor Leweke as chief medical officer, Dr Rohleder as chief scientific officer, and Max Narr who joins from Sanity Group as managing director.

Hannah Adler

Hannah is a communications professional and early-career researcher in the disciplines of health communication and health sociology. She is a PhD student at Griffith University currently writing a...