Insights from APAC: how can the global medical cannabinoid category learn from APAC’s thriving market?

By DSM Pharma Solutions Editors
  • The cannabinoid market continues to flourish – fueled by intense research, powerful collaboration and a focus on innovation.
  • The APAC market, in particular, is taking positive steps to make cannabinoids available to more patients in the region, illuminating the potential of the cannabinoid category globally.
  • Last month, DSM’s Pharma team attended ACannabis 2023 in Melbourne, Australia, together with its valued partner, Brains Bioceutical, to unearth what’s in store for cannabinoid-based drug development in APAC, and beyond. Read on for the key takeaways from the conference, including key lessons the global industry can take from recent advancements in the thriving APAC market.

The innovation opportunity in the cannabinoid-based drug development space is vast. Indeed, the category has been the focus of intense research in recent years – with new scientific discoveries, novel technologies and rising interest from the scientific community making headlines across the world.

As a global, end-to-end partner in the cannabinoid space, DSM and Brains Bioceutical offer a unique innovation platform to unlock bespoke cannabinoid-based solutions and ultimately expand treatment options and convenience for patients worldwide. DSM strongly supports advancements – and takes inspiration – from countries and regions that are taking positive steps to improve access to cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals, one such region being APAC. Interested to explore the reasons behind recent successes in the APAC market – and to uncover important learnings for the global cannabinoid industry – DSM and Brains Bioceutical recently attended ACannabis 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. ACannabis brings together specialists from across the medicinal cannabis ecosystem, including policy makers, government authorities, global leaders, healthcare professionals, scientists, patients and industry participants to share knowledge, inspire change and showcase leading-edge industry technologies and opportunities. Hear from Kenneth Chua (Pharma Segment Lead APAC, DSM), Conor O’Malley (Market Development Manager in Oceania, DSM) and Beata Silber, PhD (APAC Business Development Director, Brains Bioceutical) on the rapidly advancing Australian market for cannabinoid-based drug development and key lessons for innovators, formulators and researchers across the global industry.


What are the latest opportunities in cannabinoid-based drug development?

Conor O’Malley comments: “It’s a really exciting time to be a player in the cannabinoid market. We’re at the very start of novel discoveries in the space and as new findings emerge – most of which are extremely promising – the potential of cannabinoids in new health areas is being realized. In Australia specifically, the market is very much in a growth phase and has witnessed significant progress in a short period of time. Like the global landscape, this has been largely fueled by rising interest from both the medical community and patients, as well as the rising positive science coming to light. A big difference in Australia though, is that the number of authorized prescribers has increased in recent years, improving patient access to cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals. The volume of medicinal cannabis products that are available on the market has also grown significantly. Five-to-seven years ago, there were less than 50 products on the market. But today, there’s an estimated 500-plus. Ultimately, that’s more options for patients who do not respond to traditional drug products.”

Kenneth Chua adds: “From my perspective, the development of cutting-edge bioavailability-enhancing technologies will create considerable opportunities in the cannabinoid arena. By improving the bioavailability of the molecule, formulators can support better patient safety as lower doses of cannabinoids are made to be effective. Moreover, these technological advancements can help to support the patient experience, by improving the taste of cannabinoid drugs for instance – and boosting compliance as a result. Furthermore, the development of cannabinoid isolates, like cannabinol (CBN), cannabichromene (CBC) and cannabigerol (CBG), is anticipated to break new grounds in the market because of their more targeted actions in specific diseases.”

…and challenges?

“In such a rapidly growing, fast-paced environment – like the cannabinoid market – it’s normal for challenges to arise, making the landscape sometimes difficult to navigate. Some of the biggest challenges the market faces today include continual regulatory changes, confusion, low understanding and limited awareness and inconsistencies linked to ingredient quality, good manufacturing practice, molecule absorption, health benefits and safety of the cannabinoids. Not to mention the differences that also exist across countries and regions,” remarks Beata Silber, PhD. “But of course, these challenges create opportunities too. The cannabinoid market is still very much in its infancy, and while the emerging science is promising, more gold standard clinical trials will help to navigate the complex pharma segment and lead to more regulatory approved cannabinoid drugs.

O’Malley agrees: “The increasing interest in the cannabis plant and its various applications in pharma and other industries has resulted in greater scrutiny from regulatory agencies and how to best manage the use of cannabinoids in their populations. A clear trend is the emphasis on safe use. Consequently, regulations are moving in this direction and tightening quality standards to protect patient welfare.”

What do you consider the key to advancements in the cannabinoid space?

“Scientific evidence is critical to improving access to cannabinoid-based therapies,” says Chua. “Science helps to build confidence in cannabinoid solutions – especially for prescribers and regulatory communities who, in some cases, still associate cannabinoids will illicit drugs. For these individuals, more information about the safety and effectiveness of cannabinoid products is essential to convince them of the benefits these ingredients can have for patients. Education is another big factor that will hugely further the growth of the category. Increased awareness – supported by the development of educational campaigns and outreach from experts across the industry – will help to inform and open up the wider medical community to the benefits of cannabinoid solutions.”

O’Malley continues: “It’s important to remember – the key to successful drug development is clearly defining what has caused the observed health outcome. With this in mind, the use of high-quality cannabinoid isolates will become increasingly necessary in this field of research. To minimize the risk of research failure and increase the possibilities of real therapeutic advancements, I recommend that drug developers carefully consider their ingredient choice going forward. My advice is to make sure the active is clinical-trial ready and has the required certifications, licenses and documentation, such as GMP and a DMF or ASMF.”

Silber agreed: “My top tip for success in the cannabinoid arena is that it’s paramount to start with a high-quality ingredient that meets the regulatory demands.” But also added: “For me, collaboration is the powerhouse for transformative innovation. Partnerships between the industry and research communities, especially, are crucial to building a robust bridge between science and industry innovation. Creating products that will make a real difference to patients’ lives, are efficacious, scientifically valid, safe and commercially relevant, necessitates experts that are passionate about powering new science and discovery. Having these individuals on board will help to build and leverage ground-breaking research in the field, and ultimately, deliver solutions to patients that they can trust and afford.”

How can businesses benefit from a partnership with DSM and Brains Bioceutical for cannabinoid-based early-stage drug development?

“The cannabinoid market is full of promise, but it takes more than ingredients to enter the market with confidence,” states Chua. “From my perspective, it’s important to identify partners that have experience in the cannabinoid and pharmaceutical market – as well as expertise in assessing commercial viability of actives, clinical trial design and regulatory evaluation. Through an exclusive strategic partnership with cannabinoid trailblazer, Brains Bioceutical, we’ve created an innovation platform to help innovators explore the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD) and other minor cannabinoids. With more than 70 years’ worth of experience in producing and securing the supply of quality APIs, paired with unique expert services and customized solutions, DSM and Brains Bioceutical together are the ideal end-to-end partner for the co-creation of purpose-led cannabinoid- based pharmaceuticals that can support patient health on a global scale.” 

Silber adds: “Brains Bioceutical is an evidence-based and science-led pioneer of cannabinoid health and wellness solutions. We produce the highest-quality pharmaceutical active ingredients to unlock therapeutic innovation in healthcare and mitigate the risk of quality-related failure in clinical trials. With a full range of independent licenses and registrations, our trial-ready actives provide confidence for researchers seeking to advance science and product development in the cannabinoid arena. Coupled with DSM’s formulation and application expertise, regulatory and quality services, scientific knowledge and global reach, together, we’ve created a unique ecosystem for cannabinoid innovation in the pharmaceutical industry.”

Key takeaways from ACannabis: learnings at a glance

  • Scientific evidence will increase confidence in cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals – and ultimately expand treatment options and convenience for patients worldwide.
  • Quality active pharmaceutical ingredients backed by the correct regulatory documentation will support the success of clinical trials and increase the possibilities of real therapeutic advancements.
  • Collaboration across the industry is the powerhouse for transformative change.
  • A partner with robust experience in the cannabinoid field, formulation and application capabilities, regulatory and quality services, and scientific expertise can support with the necessary due diligence considerations and help businesses enter the market with confidence.

Find out more about how DSM and Brains Bioceutical’s unique innovation platform is making cannabinoid-based drug development and discovery a reality.

Published on

14 April 2023



7 min read

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