Vitality Biopharma of California has developed a new class of cannabis-derived cannabinoid prodrugs, known as cannabosides, which can enable the selective delivery of cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid compound, to the intestinal tract, and reduce the delivery of the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to the brain.
Vitality Biopharma, which is developing cannabinoid prodrug pharmaceuticals to treat neurological and inflammatory disorders, has released an update on its clinical development roadmap, which includes cannabosides for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The company, formerly known as Stevia First Corp, changed its name to Vitality Biopharma, Inc., in June with the goal of developing these pharmaceuticals.
Vitality explains that prodrugs are medications or compounds that are metabolized (i.e., converted within the body) into a pharmacologically active drug, often to improve bioavailability when a drug itself is poorly absorbed, or to address other issues that make particular molecules with therapeutic potential unappealing as candidates for future product development. A prodrug may also be used to selectively target a specific tissue or organ, such as the brain or gut, enabling the drug to have effect in that organ.
“A long-standing pursuit of pharmaceutical and medical researchers is to provide the benefits of cannabinoids in a more targeted manner, and our cannabosides are poised to deliver this,” said Robert Brooke, CEO and co-founder of Vitality Biopharma, in a press release. “Our drug development plans continue to highlight therapeutic areas that stand to benefit most, and gastroenterology is a clear example.”
In its latest update, Vitality cites independent clinical trial results suggesting that cannabinoids can help induce remission in Crohn’s disease patients, and that the vast majority of IBD patients administered cannabinoid medication experience symptomatic relief, with more than 75% reporting improvement in visceral pain and abdominal cramping symptoms. The company observes that approximately 1.4 million Americans have inflammatory bowel diseases, which include Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, with most patients being diagnosed before age 30 and requiring life-long treatment.
Vitality notes that cannabidiol is of considerable interest due to its non-psychotropic nature and demonstrated therapeutic effects for neurological conditions, and has very few adverse side effects, making it an ideal candidate for combination treatment regimens. The company maintains that its prodrugs could provide the same beneficial therapeutic effects with notable improvements, such as better-tasting oral formulations that enhance patient compliance, better oral bioavailability that provides safer and more reliable dosing, and delayed-release formulations that facilitate long-lasting relief.
Currently, the company said, high concentrations of psychoactive THC reaching the brain limit the dose of cannabinoids that can be used to treat pain and inflammation elsewhere in the body.
Vitality also notes that it pioneered industrial-scale processes for modifying the herbal sweetener stevia to make its prodrugs taste better, developing a process known as glycosylation, which over the past decade has become appreciated in the pharmaceutical industry as a way to generate new, natural product libraries with improved drug properties referred to as glycorandomization, or glycodiversification.
Using the same technology, Vitality says it has been able to produce and characterize more than 15 novel cannabinoid prodrug glycosides, and has recently filed intellectual property applications for more than 30 cannabinoid prodrugs, including variants of THC, CBD, and CBDV, demonstrating the ability to create a proprietary prodrug of every significant cannabinoid pharmaceutical available today.