UNC partners with PharmaCyte Biotech in cannabis drug research

Wednesday October 18, 2017 Tags: Greeley, UNC, PharmaCyte, cannabis research, Cell-in-a-Box

GREELEY/LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. -- PharmaCyte Biotech, Inc. (OTCQB: PMCB), a clinical stage biotechnology company focused on developing targeted cellular therapies for cancer and diabetes using its signature live-cell encapsulation technology, Cell-in-a-Box®, today announced that its research partner, the University of Northern Colorado (UNC), has identified an organism whose genome contains the genetic code for production of an enzyme capable of activating a cannabinoid prodrug into its active cancer-killing form.

“We are pleased that UNC has taken us one step closer to developing cannabinoid-based therapies to combat cancer utilizing our proprietary Cell-in-a-Box® live-cell encapsulation technology,” said Kenneth L. Waggoner, PharmaCyte CEO.UNC_logoUSE

“PharmaCyte’s innovative Cannabis Program has established PharmaCyte as a serious player in the medical cannabis sector, and we are exploring additional strategic relationships to advance product development and commercialization.”

PharmaCyte said its Cannabis Program has had two primary areas of focus. The first is confirming the anti-cancer activity of cannabinoids (constituents of the Cannabis plant), such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

UNC’s research has confirmed that a purified cannabinoid showed a potent dose-dependent decrease in cell viability for various cancers, suggesting that this cannabinoid exhibits significant anti-proliferative effects (stops the growth of cancer cells).

This activity has been demonstrated in glioblastoma (brain), pancreatic, breast, lung, colon and melanoma cancer cell lines.

The second area of focus is in finding an enzyme capable of converting an inactive, side-effect-free, cannabinoid prodrug into its active cancer-killing form. The research team at UNC has screened numerous cell lines and numerous enzymes.

As result of this extensive work, an organism has been identified that has been confirmed to produce an enzyme capable of catalyzing the desired cannabinoid-prodrug-activating reaction. Work is now underway to locate the enzyme’s gene.

“Our work at UNC continues to bear fruit,” said Dr. Mark L. Rabe, director of PharmaCyte’s Cannabis Program.

“The work with cancer cell lines not only confirmed cannabinoid anti-cancer activity, it generated important dosing data. The work to identify the needed activating enzyme has been intensive and time-consuming, and we are pleased to have identified a front-running candidate that has exhibited the desired activity.”

PharmaCyte said once the location of the activating enzyme gene has been determined within the organism’s genome, a series of steps will occur to amplify and clone the gene and confirm its activity.

The gene will then be used to bio-engineer a human cell line that will then become a cannabinoid-prodrug-activating enzyme “factory.” Importantly, the parental human cell line that will be utilized is the same cell line being utilized in PharmaCyte’s therapy for pancreatic cancer.

Upon confirmation of the desired activity by the bio-engineered cell line, the final steps include live-cell encapsulation with the Cell-in-a-Box® technology and validation.

Clinically, targeted cannabinoid-based chemotherapy would be accomplished by implanting the encapsulated bio-engineered cells near the site of a tumor, along with administration of a cannabinoid prodrug which would become activated at the site of the tumor by an enzyme produced by the encapsulated cells, PharmaCyte said.

The end goal is better efficacy than existing therapies with few, if any, side effects, the company said.