WHITEFISH, MT / ACCESSWIRE / February 17, 2015 / The market for legalized marijuana grew 74% from $1.5 billion in 2013 to $2.7 billion in 2014, according to ArcView Market Research, with medical marijuana accounting for over 80% of the market. These growth rates are being driven by favorable legislation across the country and growing public support for the legalization of both adult-use and medical marijuana, although there's still strong opposition by a lot of conservatives in the government.
Those opposing the legalization of marijuana are largely focused on the psychoactive component of the plant - tetrahydrocannabinol ("THC") - which gives adult-use marijuana users the "high" feeling. While cannabidiol ("CBD") and other cannabinoids have demonstrated medical efficacy for a number of conditions, THC has shown tremendous promise in the treatment of conditions like glaucoma, epilepsy, and cancer pain.
In these conditions, the problem has been delivering the right dose of THC to disease-affected organs without impacting the entire body. Inhaled cannabis has been found to lower intra-ocular pressure (IOP) in the treatment of glaucoma, but the systemic exposure to THC can lead to adverse events that undermine the local benefits seen in the eye, the most-common being a drop in blood pressure that reduces blood flow to the optic nerve.
In this article, we'll take a look at Nemus Bioscience Inc. (NMUS), which has developed a unique delivery mechanism along with a novel pro-drug technology for cannabinoids in conjunction with leading researchers that could pave the way toward strategic delivery of targeted doses.
Exclusive License to New Chemical Entity
The University of Mississippi has a long history with cannabis science and discovery. Since 1968, the university has been the sole provider of marijuana for scientific and medical researchers through a partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under the supervision of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The university's access to these resources means that its botanical sciences programs have become world-renown, especially in the area of cannabis research.
Nemus Bioscience has partnered with the University of Mississippi and licensed a proprietary pro-drug formulation of THC and several smoke-free delivery methods, including eyedrops, a gingival patch that slowly dissolves after adhering to the gum in the mouth, and a rectal suppository. The delivery methods are designed to resolve the absorption and bioavailability problems seen in other medical marijuana products like edibles, oral sprays, and pills, which go through the liver to be metabolized.
For instance, the company's suppository is designed to provide a consistent release of THC at low levels, so the patient experiences the benefits of pain management or appetite stimulation without the psychoactive effects that are commonly experienced with THC. The same principles apply to its aqueous form of THC that's applied via an eyedropper to treat glaucoma, since there's no need for the substance to go through the liver to be metabolized.
The company's initial focus will be on the glaucoma market, through its NB1111 program. Ocular products have a shorter development time to market and clinical trials are less complicated and more cost-effective to conduct. In early studies on rabbits, NB1111 successfully lowered intraocular pressure ("IOP") to a much greater degree than the current standards of care, including the beta-blocker timolol and the alpha-agonist,pilocarpine, therapies that constitute 40% of the current glaucoma market.
Glaucoma represents a large and growing market driven by the world's aging population, particularly in the United States. According to Markets and Markets, the global ophthalmology drug and devices market was expected to reach $36 billion by 2014, which represents a 5.4% CAGR between 2009 and 2014. The glaucoma segment of the market is also ripe for innovation, with many existing therapies on the market having limited effectiveness.
Execution-focused Management Team
A small-cap company is only as good as their management team and its ability to execute on their plans to develop long-term value for shareholders. Within the cannabis industry, Nemus Bioscience's team is unparalleled for a company of its size, putting it alongside larger competitors like GW Pharmaceuticals plc (NASDAQ:GWPH) in terms of talent.
CEO John Hollister, MBA, leads the team at Nemus Bioscience with over 25 years of leadership experience in the pharmaceutical industry, from start-ups to blue chips. As a strategic consultant, he has worked with a variety of early stage companies to refine their plans, while he was involved in hands-on work with companies like GlaxoSmithKline plc (NYSE:GSK) and Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ:AMGN) bringing products through clinical trials.
CMO Brian Murphy, MD, MPH, MBA, contributes more than 15 years of experience in drug development and evaluation to the team from both small and large companies. With a background in business, academia, and medicine, Dr. Murphy has diverse talents and a unique perspective on the market from all angles.
CFO Elizabeth Berecz, MA, CPA, rounds out the team with over 20 years of experience holding senior level positions in both private and public companies. With significant experience in strategic planning, financial reporting, and global systems integrations for companies of various sizes, she brings an air of financial credibility to the micro-cap company, which further differentiates itself in a space that remains somewhat foreign to investors.
Looking Ahead to the Future
Nemus Bioscience's exclusive university partnership has provided it with a proprietary delivery mechanism for cannabinoids and a pro-drug platform that could allow the therapy to evade first-pass metabolism by the liver thereby optimizing delivery in a more predictable and reliable way. The goal of the business model is to utilize this strategic pro-drug approach with other cannabinoids - including CBD.
With an initial focus on glaucoma, the company hopes to prove that the delivery mechanism is successful and attract an early commercial partner. The successful proof-of-concept should enable the company to move forward with other indications using THC and other cannabinoids, as well as open the door to licensing opportunities down the road. As a result, investors may want to keep a close eye on the stock over the coming quarters.
The company's modest market capitalization of just $112 million also leaves a lot of room for growth, particularly when it achieves a proof-of-concept for its delivery platform. By comparison, GW Pharmaceuticals trades with a market capitalization of $1.46 billion, while many smaller comps trade with valuations in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
For more information, visit the company's website at www.nemusbioscience.com.
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SOURCE: Cannabis Financial Network