CA: Medical Cannabis Research Consortium Of Marin

Photo Credit: Bloomberg

Michael Moskowitz, MD, MPH and Randy Perretta of Anandamedicine, Bill Heriot of Liposome Formulations Inc, George Bianchini of Medi-Cone and Leonard Leinow of Synergy Wellness have joined to form the Medical Cannabis Research Consortium of Marin (MCRCM). These five long-term Marin County residents are making Marin County the national research center for vertically integrated medical cannabis research, maintaining California’s innovative leadership in establishing, maintaining and evolving medical cannabis as an effective, patient-centered treatment. Dr. Moskowitz stated, “We found each other through the research each of us has been doing with medical cannabis. We are researching it from seed to symptom.”

Dr. Moskowitz, the author of Medical Cannabis: A Guide for Patients, Practitioners and Caregivers is a Pain Medicine and Psychiatric practitioner. He wrote this book to bring together the most current research on medical cannabis with this rapidly developing, patient-led treatment. He learned that there was excellent pharmacological science, but scant clinical research or medical guidance. “Great preliminary work had been done. Now we have a plant with so many independent and synergistic pharmacological effects, but only minimal clinical research or mainstream medical involvement.” He has lectured across the country on medical cannabis and has integrated treatment with it deeply into his pain treatment practice. “The results of using cannabis with my patients and bringing to bear the latest research with traditional medical treatment has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional life.” Dr. Moskowitz has been conducting a prospective clinical case series for the last two and one half years, following 157 patients for an average of 18.5 months using medical cannabis to treat chronic pain and mood disorders. 86.9% of these patients have reduced pain and 66.1% of these patients using long term opioid treatment were able to lower their opioids, using medical cannabis. Similar improvements were seen with sleep, anxiety and quality of life.

George Bianchini felt that this was an underutilized treatment and decided to do something about it. He started growing and crossing strains with medically active cannabinoids that are extremely rare, creating several medical strains that have yielded a treasure trove of unique cannabinoid profiles. “I decided to breed the medical back into cannabis, because it had been systematically removed to develop stronger highs. He established himself as an up and coming leader in the medical cannabis community in 2008 when he launched Medi-Cone and began winning awards for his high quality medicine. One of Mr. Bianchini’s most unusual strains, Black Beauty, comes from a sub-Saharan African parent plant and is extremely high in Tetrahydrocannabivarin a very medical cannabinoid, completely absent in more than 99% of strains. “I’ve crossed it with many strains. I’ve gotten particularly interesting cannabinoid profiles crossing it with Industrial Hemp.” Mr. Bianchini has developed a Private outdoor research and conservation growing area, incorporating aquaculture and aquaponics for extreme water conservation and non-toxic pest control. He uses principles dating back to Newton and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. “There is a great deal of knowledge, going back centuries, in how to grow green in times where crop failure was synonymous with starvation.”

Bill Heriot has been a pioneer in chemical, pharmaceuticals and the development of pharmaceutical companies, here in Marin County. He is the co-founder of Omniglow Corp, a manufacturer of chemiluminescent lightsticks and glow devices. Omniglow was a contractor for the Department of Defense for both gulf wars producing chemiluminescent devices for the military. His scientific background and insatiable curiosity are rooted in his UC Berkeley education in chemistry and biochemistry. He has founded, owned and run several successful pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Mr. Heriot’s current company Liposome Formulations, Inc gives him ownership of 9 international patents for delivering various substances 4-5 times faster and more efficiently than in normal oral absorption. He has used his manufacturing technique to deliver supplements and Vitamin C, as well as drugs for osteoarthritis that are currently in clinical trials with FDA. The various cannabinoids lend themselves well to this process and the city of Novato has granted Liposome Formulations Inc a manufacturing license to research and produce Medical Cannabis as a pharmaceutical. Mr. Heriot notes, “Creating new delivery systems for the various plant based cannabinoids opens up whole new possibilities to develop pharmaceutical grade medicine.”

Leonard Leinow, the author of: (A Patient’s Guide to Medical Cannabis, Healing Without the High,) has been promoting, growing and breeding plants for the last decade. He is dedicated to medical cannabis as a treatment for patients of Synergy Wellness. “84% of the sales at Synergy Wellness are not psychoactive. He has gathered feedback on what works medically, from Synergy’s members. Additionally, Mr. Leinow has researched the literature on the medical benefits of cannabis, sharing this information with his staff, patients and the general public. He has more strains of low to no psychoactive plants than any dispensary in California, despite being smaller in patient base compared to most of them. Mr. Leinow, who has an engineering background, has been a pioneer in cannabinoid research as well as delivery systems for medical cannabis. He approaches each client from a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual perspective to create guidance tailored to the individual needs. He works with the life-force energy and the spirit of the cannabis plant, using meticulous organic and ecologically sound practices.

Randy Perretta is a systems and computer analyst and scientist, who has managed huge projects for aerospace, oil and gas, large scale manufacturing projects, business process development and data management. He is an expert in computer programming and secure database development. “The only way to get useful information about medical cannabis use is to collect, store, secure and evaluate large sets of data.” Mr. Perretta has developed granular search techniques that allow for big data to be quickly analyzed to identify trends, as well as clinical similarities and differences. “Applying these techniques to crowd sourced data can yield more reliable information to determine pharmacologic properties of strains, individual cannabinoids and cannabinoid synergies.” He brings his data, business and software skills to bear in the consortium where, using the latest data engines, he is developing a state of the art custom search engine and data repository capable of processing real time patient data and collecting clinical data worldwide. It will feature an analytics capability for profiles, symptoms and treatments heretofore unseen in the cannabis world.

The consortium is working with city governments in Marin to position the county to develop and integrate agricultural and clinical research with its budding pharmaceutical business development. “We formed this consortium to research all of the cannabinoids that have known pharmacologic properties. To accomplish this we need the skills and experience of all involved. The ability to design plants, preserve their genetics, cross breed them with cannabis and hemp, research and develop new pharmacologic delivery systems, manufacture and deliver products , perform clinical research and collect and use data requires much more than any one person can provide,” noted Mr. Perretta.

So how did an internationally known pain medicine and psychiatric physician and teacher, a systems based technology expert with deep skills in software, hardware and large scale database development and management, a pharmaceutical delivery system, manufacturer, chemist and defense contractor and two pioneering cannabis breeders, with deep roots in the medical cannabis community get together and why? The answer is simple. Medical Cannabis, as a treatment made sense to all of them before they met, and once each connected with the other, the bond was instant and “just feels right,” according to Mr. Leinow. Each had established themselves in their own fields and felt it was time to apply their multidisciplinary skillsets to the issue of researching the medicinal qualities of cannabis, in order to help develop improved ways of delivering treatment options for patients seeking a more effective and collaborative type of care.

“For me the pieces just all fell together. Leonard and George were in the medical cannabis business for all the right reasons and had each developed incredible strains. Randy had highly sophisticated skills for collecting and analyzing the data and Bill had this amazing pharmaceutical operation. The businesses weren’t located all over the world. They were right here in Marin County,” observed Dr. Moskowitz. Mr. Heriot stated, “We have taken unique strains and are sequencing their genomes, while preserving them with tissue culture. In the meantime we are developing clinical research models that establish new paradigms. It’s a really great story.” Mr. Bianchini has been very visible in promoting the cause of medical cannabis and has taken tremendous risks to his own welfare to be a strong advocate for its use. “The development of recreational cannabis in the state provides an opportunity for the medical dispensaries to work more closely with patients who are looking for more. I have been developing unique medical strains and they need to be studied to see what they can really provide as medicines.” Mr. Leinow has dedicated his work with medical cannabis to finding ways to use it for treatment , while not needing to be impaired. “THC is a great medicinal cannabinoid, but there is no way to make this a mainstream treatment, if people have to be high all of the time.” His interest in pursuing his research and blending this with the rest of the consortium’s work is to help answer the questions he has heard over the years from the patients at his dispensary. “What works for a headache?” How can I take this without being altered.?” “Can it help with my cancer symptoms and side effects?” “Which cannabinoid is more medicinal?” “What can the other cannabinoids do to help?”

The Medical Cannabis Research Consortium of Marin formed to look at all aspects of medical cannabis. All involved are strongly attached to their lives and businesses in Marin County and feel that with this group and the county’s interest in providing the best healthcare for its citizens, a mutually beneficial plan makes great sense. Dr. Moskowitz stated, “Look, it’s in everyone’s interest in the country to have high quality research on medical cannabis from the way it is grown, combined and refined to the effects it has on health. This is probably the most medicinal plant on this planet, and it must be studied. Since we have all of the elements to do so, we’re going to do our research and development in Marin County.”