CSIRO secures licence to develop medicinal cannabis

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CSIRO has announced plans to develop new medicinal cannabis products designed to assist people with a variety of conditions including multiple sclerosis and chronic pain.

Under a new licence, the agency will support the local industry and partner with local manufacturers to drive the development of new cannabis therapeutics.

CSIRO scientist Adjunct Professor Peter Duggan said the licence placed CSIRO at the forefront of research into the development of new cannabis medicines.

“Around the world, researchers are exploring the potential for medicinal cannabis to help with conditions such as epilepsy and the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy treatment, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain,” said Professor Duggan.

“We had been able to do early-stage work with cannabis, but the new licence will enable us to develop cannabis-derived cannabinoid medicines using innovative extraction, refinement and formulation techniques.”

CSIRO said this work will bridge the gap between the growing of plants and the manufacture of medicines. The researchers are developing the manufacturing protocols and preparing the first prototype products before transferring the technology to manufacturers for large scale production.

The TGA approved over-the-counter pharmacy sales of a low dose form of cannabidiol (CBD) late last year. Medicinal cannabis products, in the form of oils, capsules, oral sprays, lozenges or other drug formats, can also be prescribed through the TGA’s Special Access Scheme.

Peter Crock, CEO of medicinal cannabis company Cann Group and chair of Medicinal Cannabis Industry Australia (MCIA), said there were over 20 medicinal cannabis companies currently listed on the Australian stock exchange and a growing number of licenced cultivators and manufacturers.

"Cann Group has worked closely with CSIRO over the past three years and has been pleased with the results," said Mr Crock.

“With this independent license CSIRO will be able to play a key role in helping establish a vibrant industry in Australia.

“Research that creates new and enhanced medical products and improves manufacturing processes is important if we want Australia’s medicinal cannabis industry to be competitive in a global market.”