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University of New Brunswick Launches Cannabis Health Research Chair

New Brunswick recognizes cannabis as an economic growth opportunity due to the significant increase in demand and legalization in several non-Canadian jurisdictions over the past few years. With the medical cannabis industry projected to grow exponentially into the future, and soon-to-be legalized recreational use across Canada approaching, New Brunswick is already capitalizing on these areas of growth.

Opportunities NB (ONB) has made cannabis a priority sector, actively aligning with the province’s Economic Growth Plan and efforts from the private sector to ensure the economic and regulatory portions of the industry connect.

One of ONB’s key provincial partners is the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation (NBHRF). Now entering its tenth fiscal year, the NBHRF advances its efforts to promote a healthy and prosperous New Brunswick through a variety of salary awards and operating grants.

In May, NBHRF announced it would contribute C$500,000 towards the creation of a health research chair on cannabis at St. Thomas University (STU). Today, a second cannabis-related research chair is being launched at the University of New Brunswick (UNB).

ONB spoke to Dr. Bruno Battistini, NBHRF President, CEO & Scientific Director, to learn more.

ONB: How will this research chair differ from the St. Thomas chair.

New Brunswick Cannabis Health Research Chair UNBDr. Battistini: The STU chair is dedicated to research on the social determinants of health. It focuses on how the implementation of cannabis, whether for medical or recreational use, will impact various aspects of healthcare as well as society as a whole.

This UNB chair is dedicated to the scientific biomedical and clinical aspects of cannabis as a potential medical treatment. We already know from anecdotal evidence that cannabis, via different routes of administration, can be useful for people with pain (arthritis, cancer) and those affected by PTSD, first responders for example. This chair is very much a biomedical, biochemical, clinical research chair to help move cannabis towards becoming a full-fledged, regulatory-approved treatment, by not only Health Canada but the U.S. FDA and other international agencies. We hope to see cannabis accepted as a completely valid medical treatment by physicians, pharmacists, health professionals, regulators, and health insurance companies.

Which UNB faculty or department will be home to this chair?

It’s an open competition process based on the excellence of the best propositions received and the CV of applicants so there will be a high level of competition within UNB. There could be multiple faculties and their respective departments involved. The Chair Holder can be recruited from within Canada or internationally.

Today’s formal announcement is meant to launch the process and kick-start advertisement and recruitment of the best health researcher and scientist in this field. UNB and its partners will then decide which faculty/department will be home to the chair.

Can you touch on your team’s relationship with ONB?

ONB is a key partner for us as it relates to this cannabis ecosystem. There are a lot of moving pieces here, and ONB has the lead when it comes to the overall strategy for cannabis implementation, and review of best practices relating to the legalization and commercialization of cannabis in NB. They are working hard to lead the economic development side of the equation, and access the science and innovation results that NBHRF and partnering universities and co-sponsors are conducting.

The STU chair received funding from Shoppers Drug Mart. Tell us about the private sector partner involved in this chair.

Tetra Bio-Pharma is an emerging Canadian biotech company engaged in New Brunswick, already partnering with the RPC and Ford Apothecary. They are a young company specializing in the development of biopharmaceuticals and other health products containing cannabis.

[Click here for a look at Tetra Bio-Pharma’s work]

The federal government has announced legalization of cannabis on or before July 1, 2018. What does that mean for New Brunswick?

New Brunswick intends to be the leader in this sector, and with leadership comes responsibility. We have the bases covered in terms of not only developing the scientific side of pharmaceutical cannabis for therapeutic applications but leading the way in research on the social determinants of health. As such, New Brunswick research will have effects on everything from treating pain from cancer or arthritis to alleviating PTSD, to helping people understand how THC affects you when used recreationally. That demonstrates that the province is taking its responsibility seriously.

Cannabis also gives us hemp—one of the fastest growing plants, and one of the first to be spun into usable fiber—which is being used and developed as a fiber with multiple applications. Hemp contains less than 0.003% THC and does not cause a psychoactive effect. Hemp has a great potential return on investment as it relates to economic development. It can be refined into a variety of commercial items including paper, textiles, clothing, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed.

Finally, is there anything we haven’t touched on that you would like to mention?

While the federal government works toward legalization, one of its Tri-Council Agencies, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), has launched a grant competition. The Catalyst Grant focusing on the impact of legalization and regulation of non-medical cannabis in Canada.

The total amount available for this funding opportunity is $1,000,000, enough to fund approximately 10 grants. The maximum amount per grant is $100,000 per year for up to one year for a total of $100,000 per grant. [View the full opportunity here.]

It should be noted that the deadline for applications is August 22, 2017.

Want to learn more about ONB’s work in the cannabis sector? Connect with our Business Development Executives the button below.

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