November 2, 2020 8 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The current time is a turning point for medicine. Biopharmaceutical companies are working to develop treatments and immunizations to fight COVID-19 at an exceptional pace, which showcases the drug industry’s agility.
For well over a decade, the public has most often associated drug companies not with a dedication to noble endeavors (like vaccines to combat a deadly virus), but with greed, price-gouging and its role in the opioid pandemic. At the same time, we can expect to hopefully have lifesaving treatments within a year for a global pandemic only because of the ingenuity of pharmaceutical companies and the decades of scientific and clinical research that preceded our current crisis. There will be a foreseeable change in the pharmaceutical industry accompanied by a reset of expectations after the pandemic has been tamed.
Israel’s InnoCan Pharma’s is one such company leading from the front. The chief executive officer of the company, Iris Bincovich, talked to Entrepreneur APAC about the future plans.
She said the tipping point of COVID-19 is when an inflammatory process damages the cell and, among other damages, blocks the ability of the lung’s air sacs to oxidize. Recent publications indicate that COVID-19 affects the endothelial cells in several organs, including the lung, heart, kidney and intestine, and there is evidence of direct viral infection of the endothelial cells and diffuse endothelial inflammation.
Given the inflammatory process play a major role in the disease, InnoCan Pharma is developing a revolutionary CBD (cannabinoid) loaded Exosomes to treat inflammation, which is directly targeted at COVID-19.
The Israeli company thinks of CBD as an important ingredient as it has immense anti-inflammatory potential which can be driven by exosomes to damaged areas, thus becoming a key player in recovering from COVID-19. The company named the new approach CLX (cannabinoid loaded exosomes).
Journey since IPO in September 2019
The journey since the IPO is intensive for the company. “We are moving forward very fast with our program and as so, we have no moments of relaxation, but that being said, we are very excited about our achievements and the progress we achieved since the IPO,” said Bincovich.
Areas of medicine in which InnoCan operates
InnoCan is a pharmaceutical company with its activity divided into two segments—CBD pharmaceutical development (with the liposome and the exosome platform technologies) and another which is the CBD OTC-Derma cosmetic area. “We know the CBD has high therapeutic potential, but we don’t think that CBD is like the magic wand of Harry Potter — it cannot cure everything,” said Bincovich. The company’s approach is to integrate CBD smartly into pharmaceutical products enhancing the CBD or other ingredient’s activity. The OTC product line is a good example of this approach. The company has succeeded to combine high doses of magnesium oil, a very strong and immediate muscle relaxation with menthol, an FDA-approved analgesic CBD, and other ingredients. Each of the ingredients has a different role and mechanisms of action.
Collaboration with Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University
The company has signed two worldwide exclusive licensing agreements with highly reputed Israeli universities: the Hebrew University at Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv University. Each of them is developing a unique breakthrough technology platform that may be suitable for a wide range of different indications. The collaboration with Tel Aviv University is for the development of unique CBD-loaded exosomes.
Exosomes are endosome-derived small membrane vesicles, approximately 30 to 150 nm in diameter, which are released into extracellular fluids by cells in all living systems. They are generated by many cell types and contain proteins and lipids but also mRNAs and microRNA. Exosomes are well-suited for small functional molecule delivery. Increasing evidence indicates that exosomes have a pivotal role in cell-to-cell communication. Recently, it has been shown that the secretion of different factors through exosomes orchestrate the principal mechanisms of action of mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) after infusion. The use of MSC-derived exosomes may provide considerable advantages over their counterpart live cells, potentially reducing undesirable side effects. Exosomes can be loaded with different molecules and can carry and deliver molecules to damaged areas which may have a therapeutic effect. In contrast to transplanted MSCs, the MSC-derived exosomes do not proliferate, are less immunogenic and are easier to store and deliver than MSCs. Many studies showed that exosomes can efficiently deliver cargo, such as drugs, to the target cell. Therefore, exosomes can be used to deliver therapeutic cargo for treatment.
Dr. Offen’s team at the Tel Aviv University demonstrated the ability to produce and load different molecules on exosomes. Recently, research teams led by Prof. Shulamit Levenberg of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel and Prof. Offen used loaded exosomes in rats after severe spinal cord lesions to show the recovery rate, according to Bincovich. They demonstrated that intranasal delivery of the loaded exosomes significantly elicited functional recovery in the rats with complete spinal cord injuries.
InnoCan’s approach is to load the exosomes with CBD. CBD plays a crucial role in the regulation of the immune system. CBD has been tested in several animal models and has been shown to protect organs via multiple anti-inflammatory pathways. Recent publications indicate that COVID-19 affects the endothelial cells in several organs, including the lung, heart, kidney and intestine and there is evidence of direct viral infection of the endothelial cells and diffuse endothelial inflammation. Innocan is developing a novel technology to allow the loading of CBD to the exosome and expects to obtain synergetic effects in COVID-19 patients suffering from acute respiratory distress as well as other indications related to the central nervous system, such as epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.
This unique approach, expected to be administrated by inhalation, targets the main infected organ directly and may be also tested for other lung infections and central nervous system diseases and disorders.
The development will involve several milestones, such as loading the chosen cannabinoids like CBD to MSC-Exosomes and proof of concept in animal models of various diseases. “Our first and immediate step will be the treatment of coronavirus patients suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome, septic shock, or multi-organ failure,” added Bincovich.
The liposome project in collaboration with the Hebrew University is taking a different approach, aiming to allow a new way of CBD administration and prolong/controlled release. We are looking to develop a platform that will allow us to inject CBD once every few weeks, treating chronic diseases such pain and arthritis, and on the other hand, immediate releases such as in cases of epilepsy.
Successes and developments
In a very short time, InnoCan succeeded to launch Relief & Go line, a unique OTC pain relief product, which demonstrated high patient satisfaction in a PMS clinical study. “We launched a high-end Derma-cosmetic line and signed some distribution agreements. On the technology development side, the company succeeded through collaboration with the Hebrew University to develop the CBD-loaded liposome and demonstrated the prolonged release capabilities in animal models following a single injection, resulting in 3 weeks of CBD in the tissue and the blood, compared to 24-36h in previous CBD administrations.
Exciting goal reached
“I think we have two exciting achievements—the Relief & Go line, which is accepted very well and has very good results with the PMS study, and the initial results in animals for the Liposome technology, showing a proof of concept and amazing prolonged release,” said Bincovich.
On being asked that how do you think the company has been able to reach that goal, Bincovich said the company has an exceptional team with accumulated tens of years of experience, and the company is not afraid to think out of the box.
The next big thing
“We think that as time passes, we will see more and more companies taking the pharmaceutical approach to developing CBD products, allowing exact dose, administration, and indication. We think that CBD in particular and Cannabinoids in general are holding great promise, but need to be developed into products under the pharmaceutical standards,” she added.
InnoCan & COVID-19
The deadly tipping point of COVID-19 is when an inflammatory process damages the cell structure and blocks the ability of the lung’s air sacs to oxidize. Given the major role that the inflammatory process plays in COVID-19, InnoCan thinks that CBD, with its immense anti-inflammatory potential, can be driven by exosomes to damaged areas and become a key-player in recovering from COVID-19.
CLX stands for cannabinoid-loaded exosomes and is the name we gave to this cutting-edge approach. “Recently, we were thrilled to see that two world-renowned journals backed our approach and findings. Unfortunately, I can’t reveal anything from our research labs but I’m certain that our recent co-operation with Recipharm, the pharma manufacturing giant, to develop a treatment that is based on our CLX approach speaks for itself,” said Bincovich.
According to her, the same state-of-the-art synergetic approach the company has towards CBD in pharma led it to develop and now launch ‘Synony’, a unique hemp-integrated derma cosmetic collection. It touches on the synergetic effect of hemp together with other active ingredients such as hyaluronic acid (which is known for its anti-aging characteristics), caffeine, haloxyl (which is a patented complex dark circles) and Fucogel, components that protect the skin and keep it hydrated.