With Cannabis Given the Green Light, Four Israeli Pharmaceutical Companies Race Down the Pipeline
By Paul Pot
Israel’s Ministry of Health takes the morality issue out of pot by putting government support behind real scientific research. Hundreds of trials are conducted and sanctioned by the government, drawing millions of dollars in research and development so far. Israel has long been a technology leader and exporter of new ideas that benefit global farming through innovations like drip irrigation. Now, there are many new pharmaceutical developments waiting in the wings or being investigated.
Israeli companies have not yet been able to export their medical cannabis products and extracts to the U.S., with a few exceptions, due to tighter regulations — but that will likely change soon.
The Israeli government has licensed eight growers to develop their own lines of genetics to target specific conditions and illnesses, reports ISRAEL 21c.org, an online news service that covers modern developments in Israel. Each of the growers are partnered with pharmaceutical firms to treat about 30,000-to-40,000 registered patients in controlled tests. Each pharma company has its own exclusive list of patients to work with and its own grower. Among the research teams that lead the charge are four noteworthy companies: Tikun Olam, Breath Of Life, One World Cannabis and Cannabics Pharmaceuticals.
Tikun Olam is currently cultivating more than 16 individual strains, which are used in over 20 clinical trials in Israel. Research shows their genetics can treat conditions such as HIV/AIDS, PTSD, epilepsy, chronic pain, cancer, colitis, Crohn’s Disease, depression, anxiety and more. They maintain a 20,000 patient database which is the largest of its type in the world.
This company was the first to create a high CBD, low THC strain in 2012, called Avidekel. It has proven to be an effective treatment for children with drug resistant epilepsy and neurological disorders. They are also using extracts from Avidekel and their Midnight strains on brain tumor cells. Tikun Olam’s active studies focus on the use of cannabis to treat Parkinson’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), tinnitus and pediatric cancer. The company is also conducting lab research on the effects of cannabis extracts on inflammation and pain.
Breath Of Life (BOL) CEO Dr. Tamir Gedo was the first to announce a partnership in 2016 with iCAN Israel-Cannabis to create a research center dedicated to cannabis and based on strict scientific guidelines. They have opened their arms to cannabis researchers around the world. As one of the eight licensed firms, they are dedicated to making Israel a global hub for medical cannabis research.
BOL maintains a giant greenhouse operation in Kfar Pines, Israel. Their unique strains include Crocus, Sum Sum and Sunflower. They also produce infused organic olive oil, and like other operations, they have their own patients, clinical trials and exclusive, targeted strains.
One World Cannabis (OWC) is currently doing trials on two products; One is a cream for psoriasis and the other is a treatment for chronic pain due to fibromyalgia and migraines. This research plan was first developed after warnings from the FDA about current medications, like NSAIDS — used for treating heart attacks and strokes — which have too many drawbacks. OWC stepped in to fill the gap.
OWC is currently studying Multiple Myeloma, and has so far developed a dissoluble tablet with cannabis, which more closely targets the condition. The alternative delivery system is proven to be more direct, and allows for more precise dosing than smoking or using edibles and extracts.
The company’s research division is focused on clinical trials, but also maintains a consultation division which works to help governments and companies navigate the complex international cannabis regulations.
Cannabics Pharmaceuticals is a U.S.-based company, located in Bethesda, Maryland, with their research sector located in Israel. The company is dedicated to the development of cancer treatments. Their latest cannabis oil pills are available throughout Israel and in Colorado. They are now developing a system for using a cannabis ingredient to help doctors more efficiently evaluate biopsies. Trials are being arranged at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Northern Israel. They also maintain their own grow site with Ionic Israel Medical Cannabis. The company hopes to be turning a profit by the end of 2017.
Professor Dedi Meiri is also busy with cancer research in Haifa, where he operates a lab at Israel’s Institute of Technology. He’s spent the last two years researching the therapeutic possibilities of cannabinoids on cancer, epilepsy, and diabetes, and has analyzed more than 400 strains. He and his team log clinical data on over 25,000 patients in Israel who’ve been prescribed medical cannabis. In addition to the focus on cancer, Dr. Meiri also states, “In the coming years we hope to identify specific cannabis strains to treat other life-threatening diseases alongside recommending optimal dosage and drug delivery methods,” in iCan, Israel’s CannaTech newsletter.
Kevin Nafte, an international entrepreneur who now works in the sustainable cannabis industry in California, previously lived in Israel for 10 years. He worked across the board in international trade and commerce, government and the tech industry. He watched the fledgling industry rise, and has visited several of the sites referenced here. After a recent visit he reports, “Israel is in a prime position to capitalize on the changing international cannabis landscape.”
“The ecosystem provides a fantastic model for other countries to follow with government, universities, hospitals, entrepreneurs and even Kibbutzim partnering and collaborating, creating game changing [research and development] and innovation,” added Nafte. “I look forward to seeing patients worldwide having access to medicine from Israel.”