Harvard, Canadian cannabis firm Atlas ink ‘groundbreaking’ research partnership

Harvard University is spearheading what participants are calling one of the largest international efforts for research on medical cannabis – and the school has chosen Alberta, Canada-based Atlas Biotechnologies as a founding partner of the initiative.

Atlas will initially be the sole supplier of marijuana and its derivatives for the research.

The new International Phytomedicines and Medical Cannabis Institute (IPI) – unveiled Sunday at the Global Health Catalyst – will be based at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

The university partnership with the private sector could validate certain treatments by proving the efficacy of formulations, ultimately making those treatments more marketable, according to participants in the program.

“If we can prove the efficacy, we will be tapping into an existing medical market but also opening up what I believe to be a very lucrative opportunity for business. But what we’re looking for primarily are less harmful treatments,” Atlas CEO Sheldon Croome told Marijuana Business Daily.

“We believe we’re on to a good market opportunity, but it’s a great opportunity for us to bring something that’s not toxic for the body to market – and hopefully help a lot of people without the risk of addiction and other issues.”

Seed funding for the program is being provided by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, both based in Boston, as well as from industry participants.

Industry partners so far include Atlas, Flavocure Biotech of Baltimore, Cannabis Science of Colorado Springs, Colorado and the consortium Locker Room Consulting-Nestre-Primative.

Atlas has committed 3 million Canadian dollars ($2.2 million) to the research program.

As part of the collaboration, Atlas will supply cannabis products to Harvard Medical for use in trials from its cultivator subsidiary in Canada Atlas Growers – and potentially to other post-secondary institutions in the United States for research and development purposes.

The Canadian company’s research with Harvard will focus on neurological disorders and pain.

Any new intellectual property generated in those areas will be shared equally between the two parties.

“We, nor the director of Harvard Global Health Catalyst, have come across a group that involves a similar caliber of institutions and industry all striving together to achieve one goal,” Atlas Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Gossain said. “By combining all these groups into one institute, we have created the best possible way to achieve unprecedented health and wealth from medicinal plants.

“If we can come out of it with really good indications on things that lead to alleviating some of the symptoms for those patients, that would be really beneficial.”

The first shipment of medical marijuana from Atlas is expected in July.

“As you kind of move forward, the more research that we have around cannabis, the more comfortable doctors will be prescribing cannabis derived products for all these different symptoms,” Gossain said.

“And that’s kind of the vision we have. To create the world’s most trusted cannabis products. And trust is going to be based on the research and development we do as a whole industry.”

Harvard’s partnership with Atlas involves funding over the next three years based on targeted research goals.

Croome called the collaboration “the most important institutional partnership in medical cannabis to date.”

“It is truly groundbreaking and exciting to have one of the world’s leading institutions doing clinical trials and efficacy studies on cannabis compounds,” he said.

Matt Lamers can be reached at [email protected]

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