Earlier this week, Australia's Botanix Pharmaceuticals (ASX: BOT) released new data from studies recently conducted with its antimicrobial product BTX 1801
The studies were conducted in collaboration with Dr. Mark Blaskovich at The University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience's Centre for Superbug Solutions and supported by Innovation Connections, an Australian Government grant.
Studies revealed that BTX1801 has managed to tackle a range of different bacteria, among both humans and animals. The synthetically-produced CBD in Botanix's product kills bacteria within three hours and lessens the bacteria's ability to develop resistance to the antibiotics.
The drug has proven effective against two superbugs so far: staphylococcus (staph) and methicillin-resistant staph Aureus (MRSA).
As a result of the successful trials, Botanix' stock has risen 25%. This surge shows that medical discoveries are a huge point of interest for those with their eyes on the medicinal cannabis market.
One type of bacteria, MRSA, showed no signs of cannabidiol resistance after 21 days of treatment. This is a hugely important factor for the future of antibiotic treatment, as there is a growing global issue of resistant bacteria.
Due to the overuse of medication, bacteria have developed significant resistance to current antibiotic treatments. On top of this, antibiotics are said to remove more drug-sensitive forms of bacteria, leaving the more resilient forms to propagate.
Bacterial resistance was a cause for concern as early as 1945, and has only grown more concerning over the years.
The overuse of medication is occurring primarily because in many cases, they are being incorrectly prescribed. Studies show that antibiotic therapy is incorrect in 30% to 50% of cases. This alone can cause unnecessary antibacterial resistance, but it isn't the only factor involved.
The Centre for Disease Control announced that humanity has entered the "post-antibiotic era" in 2013, and in 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) also expressed concern for the bacterial resistance issue.
Previously, the pharmaceutical industry would develop new drugs in response to antibacterial resistance as a way to ensure our medicine would remain effective. However, in recent years the number of antibacterial drugs has diminished, with 15 of the 18 largest pharmaceutical companies no longer working in the antibacterial field.
This is precisely why Botanix' new drug presents such an emergent opportunity for cannabis in the antibacterial space.
The main condition that BTX 1801 is targeting, is staph infections, which can be caused from something as trivial as a dirty fingernail, and have in some cases can cause blindness and multi-system organ failure in individuals.
BTX 1801 utilizes Botanix's skin technology known as Permetrex, a non-chemical technology which avoids skin dryness and is instrumental in increasing the amount of CBD that is delivered to the skin (and associated disease). They also use synthetic (read lab produced) CBD that means they don't have to waste money on capex-intensive growing greenhouses, and can generate a standardised product every time – which is critical in the pharmaceutical industry.
Botanix founder and executive director Matt Callahan spoke of his excitement towards the new drug:
"This new data significantly expands the potential for BTX 1801 to not only serve as a powerful antibiotic option for patients and doctors but provides further confirmation antimicrobial activity may be a significant contributor to the overall efficacy of Botanix's phase two products for acne (BTX 1503) and atopic dermatitis (BTX 1204)," he said.
"The fact that CBD kills resistant bacteria quickly when combined with the drug's newly validated anti-inflammatory properties gives us confidence that BTX 1801 has significant potential as a powerful antimicrobial for use in skin and other infections," Mr. Callahan concluded.
Botanix not only works on drugs with antibacterial properties but is also working to treat other skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis.
Botanix is currently developing a drug known as BTX 1308, which contains a synthetic form of cannabidiol and focuses on psoriasis. A study was performed with 15 psoriasis patients who were treated over 19 days with either BTX 1308, a placebo, or a comparable product. The study found that when effectively delivered to the skin, BTX 1308 showed "significant alterations in inflammatory and immune response pathways".
Professor Jim Krueger from the Rockefeller University in New York stated that the benefits of the drug may extend beyond curing just psoriasis.
"This anti-inflammatory and immune modulation activity potentially makes BTX 1308 a very important treatment option for patients, not only with psoriasis, but other skin diseases that have an inflammation and/or an immune response component."
About Botanix Pharma (ASX:BOT)
Botanix focuses on a number of skin conditions, primarily acne, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, through the provision of new treatment options for conditions that are either poorly addressed or where current treatments have negative side effects.
And while their work in the antibacterial space is groundbreaking, the acne market may be where the money is. Acne is the most prevalent skin disorder in the United States, affecting between 40 – 50 million Americans. In 2008, the total amount spent on acne treatments exceeded $2.2 billion. This could be a massive market for Botanix to break into with their acne products moving along the pipeline.
Botanix's progress in the antibacterial and skincare space represents a unique facet of the Australian medicinal marijuana industry, of which there's an estimated 3,100 medicinal cannabis scripts that have been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) since the Federal Government eased restrictions in March 2018.
In the U.S. there have been 33 states where medical marijuana has become legal, and yet only one product on the market has met FDA Approval – GW Pharma's 'Epidiolex.' This is presumably where the TGA found their evidence in support of medicinal cannabis, as Epidiolex is used to reduce seizures caused by Lennox-
Though estimates suggest that as many as 100,000 Australians self-medicate with cannabis procured illegally, with others turning to legal cannabis alternatives such as hemp-derived proteins and skin products as a supplement.
It's clear there's a space for cannabis in the wellness as well as pharmaceutical industries, and tapping into the acne and antibacterial spaces may be how Botanix makes their mark.
As Botanix's trials continue to move along the pipeline and their desired effects are continually met, we may see them paving the way for new, unforeseen benefits to medicinal cannabis.