Partnering for patient-centric solutions: How are dsm-firmenich and Zerion Pharma enhancing cannabinoid bioavailability?

By:  Pharma Solutions Editors



  • dsm-firmenich is entering a new stage of cannabinoid innovation as it accelerates the path to improved bioavailability with Zerion Pharma’s cutting-edge Dispersome® technology.
  • The collaboration will enable the creation of cannabidiol (CBD)-based formulations with three to four times higher drug loading than existing commercially available products, which will be tested in human clinical trials.  
  • Read on to explore how this new alliance will impact the wider pharma community, making patient-centricity a reality for cannabinoid-based therapeutics.

dsm-firmenich is bolstering cannabinoid research and development with a game-changing strategic partnership recently forged with Zerion Pharma – an innovative pharmaceutical technology company. This pioneering start-up is transforming the landscape for formulation of poorly soluble drugs, such as cannabinoids, with its cutting-edge Dispersome® technology.

This exciting partnership empowers dsm-firmenich to transform cannabinoid-based drugs into stable formulations with improved bioavailability and increased drug loading. Through collaborative expertise and innovation, this alliance will inspire a new era of patient-centric cannabinoid therapies.

Here is how this collaboration is set to impact the wider cannabinoid industry, from formulators to patients.

1. How will the new partnership contribute to advancements in cannabinoid bioavailability?  

The partnership combines dsm-firmenich's in-depth knowledge and research capabilities in the cannabinoid space with Zerion’s unique technology that will allow us to accelerate innovation in the area of bioavailability enhancement. Bioavailability relates to the proportion of a drug that enters the systemic circulation, where it ultimately achieves its therapeutic effect. To date, the low bioavailability of cannabinoids, specifically CBD, has prevented their full therapeutic potential from being unlocked.

Zerion’s Dispersome® technology relies on the innovative use of a naturally occurring protein – beta-lactoglobulin – as an excipient, which improves drug solubility by keeping it in an amorphous state. We have successfully utilized Zerion’s technology to optimize the balance between drug loading, physical and chemical stability and CBD’s pharmacokinetic profile.

The integration of Zerion’s technology into dsm-firmenich’s cannabinoid innovation platform is driving continuous research aimed at identifying the best approach for enhanced bioavailability. Our innovation team is actively investigating the impact of various drug delivery technologies – including liposomal and lipid-based delivery, amorphous solid dispersion technology and nano-emulsification-based solid dosage forms.

2. In that ways will this new alliance benefit pharma customers? 

The combined expertise of dsm-firmenich and Zerion is set to revolutionize the bioavailability of cannabinoids, which will help pharma customers develop superior cannabinoid-based therapeutics. We have demonstrated in animal models that the Dispersome® technology can successfully enhance the bioavailability of CBD, in comparison to pure (crystalline) CBD. This means that more of the active cannabinoid ingredient will reach the circulation, improving its therapeutic efficiency.

Improving cannabinoid bioavailability is also key to creating solid oral dosage forms – the preferred administration route for most patients, representing a pivotal advancement in patient-centric care. Solid oral medication – like tablets, capsules or oral disintegrating tablets (ODTs) – therefore hold significant importance for drug developers in the cannabinoid space. The current need for many patients to administer large volumes of liquid CBD oil to achieve a positive therapeutic outcome underscores the urgent demand for improved formulations.

For example, the daily dosage required to treat drug resistant epilepsy with CBD varies between 5-20 mg/kg body weight. In adults, this can translate to more than 1g of active ingredient in 10 mL of oil – equivalent to two teaspoons. This is not only inconvenient but also increases the risk of unwanted adverse effects. The new partnership aims to benefit pharma customers through the development of solid oral dosage forms, offering improved patient convenience and experience compared to the CBD oils which currently dominate the market.

In addition, improving cannabinoid bioavailability will enhance drug loading, requiring a smaller amount of drug to be effective. Zerion’s IP-protected technology will enable the creation of CBD formulations with three to four times higher drug loading than existing CBD oil products. This in turn, lowers the dosage, which is more cost-effective and limits the probability of side effects. Moreover, it increases convenience and compliance – as patients can avoid having to administer high dosages in unpleasant formats – which is music to a drug formulator’s ears.

Therefore, the new partnership will accelerate the path to superior cannabinoid -based drugs, providing enhanced bioavailability and solid oral dosage formats with higher drug loading. This will enable patients to effortlessly administer cannabinoid-based therapies that are compliant with regulatory access pathways.

3. What is the therapeutic potential in clinical practice?

We hope that optimizing the bioavailability of cannabinoids will support the rapidly expanding range of health areas where CBD has demonstrated potential therapeutic benefits, addressing common yet unmet patient needs and convenience.

For instance, chronic pain affects 1 in 10 people globally – with a prevalence as high as 20-25% in some countries and regions.  Pain stands out as the most prevalent condition treatable with cannabinoids. However, no single cannabinoid drug has received widespread approval for pain management. Developing superior cannabinoids with improved compliance and efficacy will accelerate the availability of novel therapeutics for pain management, potentially helping millions of patients worldwide. Beyond pain, this holds true for other health areas where cannabinoids are under investigation, such as central nervous system (CNS) diseases, mood disorders, brain health, cancer and more.

4. How else is dsm-firmenich advancing innovation in the cannabinoid space?

The partnership with Zerion is the latest pillar in our vast ecosystem of important partnerships, all of which have been specially established to elevate dsm-firmenich’s offering in the cannabinoid market. For instance, dsm-firmenich has recently joined forces with Bod Science to power progress towards pioneering CBD-based drugs for insomnia. We also have a long-standing partnership with Brains Bioceutical – an evidence-based and science-led pioneer of high-quality cannabinoid solutions. This collaboration grants dsm-firmenich access to one of the purest botanical CBD isolates on the market, which enables our unique end-to-end innovation cannabinoid innovation platform.

5. What’s in store for the future?

Looking ahead, dsm-firmenich will continue to advance cannabinoid research and ultimately increase access to more patient-centric therapies worldwide. With confirmed plans for a clinical trial starting 2024, we’re excited to evaluate the bioavailability of our new, pharma-grade CBD formulations, developed using Zerion’s Dispersome® technology and other dsm-firmenich owned formulations, in patients. Ultimately, this will open opportunities for new clinical investigations across a number of therapeutic areas. Moreover, the technologies being used to enhance CBD could benefit companies looking to overcome similar challenges in the minor cannabinoid sphere.

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Published on

16 February 2024


5 min read


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