CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, will develop new medicinal cannabis products to help people with a variety of conditions including multiple sclerosis and chronic pain.
Under a new licence, CSIRO will support the burgeoning local industry and partner with local manufacturers to drive the development of new cannabis therapeutics, in a move that will create new jobs in Australia.
The global market for medicinal cannabis is projected to be worth USD $44 billion by 2024.
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," Professor Duggan said.
"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 is currently the only independent research institute in Australia able to develop drug manufacturing protocols in the medicinal cannabis space.
This work will bridge the gap between the growing of plants and the manufacture of medicines, with the researchers developing the manufacturing protocols and preparing the first prototype products before transferring the technology to manufacturers for large scale production.
The use of cannabis for medicinal purposes is highly regulated in Australia.
However, in December the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved over-the-counter pharmacy sales of a low dose form of cannabidiol (CBD), one of the key components of cannabis that can help with a range of medical conditions.
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 industry leading 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 ASX, and a growing number of licenced cultivators and manufacturers now in Australia.
"Cann Group has worked closely with CSIRO over the past three years and has been pleased with the results," Mr Crock said.
"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."
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