Corporate patent scramble for CBD applications

Posted on May 31st, 2018 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .

cannabisSomething of a corporate scramble is underway to secure patents for the various curative properties of CBD, and associated products and procedures. Pharmaceutical firms see a windfall, but some activists raise concerns about the creeping privatization of a cannabinoid that should belong to the genetic and intellectual commons of the human race. How realistic are fears about the imminent arrival of "corporate cannabis"?

Things are moving fast in the international pharmaceutical industry's push to turn chemicals behind the remarkable properties of the cannabis plant into trademarked products. A special emphasis is on cannabidiol, or CBD—a compound with wide-ranging medical potentials still being uncovered. Just over the course of May, several patents and intellectual property agreements were sought or secured for CBD's applications.

In the first entry, Peak Health of San Francisco announced it had filed a patent application for testing the "bioactivity" of the CBD molecule. According to the company's press release, "bioactivity" is the complex interplay between a drug and its corresponding receptor in the human body, enabling its ability to produce a biological response.

This testing method could be key in the development of effective drug products from CBD. "All research papers published about CBD, from plant sources, have not accounted for variations in their bioactivity," said Dr. Sharma Kristipati, director of the company's new lab to measure CBD bioactivity. With various governments now considering certifying CBD as an Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API), Kristipati believes a consistent standard has to be established. "Governments should only certify CBD as an API if it has a bioactivity greater than 80%," Kristipati said.

Next up is Kalytera Therapeutics of Marin County, which was issued a US patent for the use of CBD for the prevention and treatment of "graft versus host disease" (GVHD), a complication that can follow transplants of tissue from a donor to a patient. "We now have very strong intellectual property protection that will provide us with market exclusivity for the use of CBD in GVHD through early 2034," said Kalytera CEO Robert Farrell in the press release.

Callitas Therapeutics of Vancouver meanwhile announced an "intellectual property agreement" for development of CannaMint Strips, a method for oral delivery of cannabinoids. "Our patented and patent-pending technologies have the potential to be game-changers as delivery mechanisms for CBD and THC," said Callitas CEO James Thompson in a press release. An intellectual property agreement is a contract between a business and its partners in the development of a product that is still patent-pending, recognizing the company's claim to the product.

Then there are licenses to develop a patent held by another entity. Kannalife Sciences of Pennsylvania boasts in a press release that it currently holds two licenses, one of them exclusive, with the National Institutes of Health for the commercialization of US Patent #6630507, for "Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants." Specifically, the firm will research the efficacy of CBD in combating hepatic encephalopathy, decline of brain function due to the failure of the liver to remove toxins from the blood. As Cannabis Now has reported, the US Department of Health and Human Services, the NIH parent agency, secured a patent in 2003 for the use of cannabiniods in these functions.

GW Pharmaceuticals, a UK-based multinational with globe-spanning ambitions, also has a portfolio of intellectual property related to the use of cannabinoids in the treatment of cancer, with several patents and pending applications in both the US and Europe, according to New Cannabis Ventures.

All this activity is setting off alarm bells in certain activist and scientific circles.

Mowgli Holmes, chief scientific officer with Phylos Bioscience, an Oregon-based research outfit focused on cannabis genomics, in an interview with GQ last year warned that a firm called BioTech Institute LLC has started to register "utility patents"—that is, patents for a particular new product or application—on the cannabis plant. "Utility patents are big. Scary," Holmes said. "All of cannabis could be locked up. They could sue people for growing in their own backyards."

A report on business site ProTrader Today calls BioTech Institute an "extremely secretive company" that "doesn't have a website, doesn't manufactures products, and doesn't own pot shops." ProTrader Today looked up public records to track the company down, which turned up two Los Angeles addresses—but these only led to lawyers who refused to talk. "Outside its patents, Biotech Institute hardly exists," the report concluded, calling the company a "potential Monsanto of marijuana."

Online records indicate that BioTech Institute does hold several patents, protecting "methods for the breeding, production, processing and use of specialty cannabis."

Mowgli Holmes is currently involved in a Cannabis Evolution Project, which he described as developing "a geneological map of the evolution of the plant" in a video interview with The Oregonian. A part of the aim here is to establish which strains and applications of the plant are part of an established intellectual commons, and therefore free from patenting.

Fears about corporate cannabis have been mounting among small growers and their activist allies since the big push for legalization began nearly a decade ago now.

The Press Trust of India notes a conference that just opened this week in New Delhi, to pressure for a re-opening of negotiations at the World Trade Organization on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). India wants greater assurances that its ancient traditions of herbology in Ayurvedic medicine will be protected from "theft" by corporate patenting. The Convention on Biological Diversity protects this form of "traditional knowledge"—defined as collective intellectual property, which is passed on from generation to generation within a community. India's government is particularly concerned to stop "reckless patenting" of traditional knowledge such the healing properties of neem and turmeric

Cannabis growers, advocates, patients and users will also have to grapple with this question: Which aspects of the plant's applications qualify as "traditional knowledge," and which are truly novel and therefore open to patenting? With the list of patents on cannabis applications growing fast, this issue demands attention from the cannabis community.

Cross-post to Cannabis Now

Photo by Drome

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