Innovation That Matters

Octarine Bio is developing synthetic versions of cannabinoids and psychadelics in the lab | Photo source Canva

Lab-grown, bio-based drugs could transform mental health care

Health & Wellbeing

New versions of cannabinoid and psychedelic therapeutics could be easier to store and use

Spotted: For many years, researchers interested in pursuing psychedelics and cannabinoids as potential mental health treatments were unable to access funding to make their work possible. Having shown significant potential for helping with a variety of conditions, including alcohol addiction, psilocybin is increasingly available for study. Cannabinoids too are much more readily available, as many countries continue the move towards legalisation for both medical and recreational use. 

Both therapeutics have side effects, and minimising these side effects could greatly expand interest in prescribing and using the drugs. Danish synthetic biology company Octarine is seeking ways to create the therapeutics in the lab, without additional chemicals. The goal is to create safe, more targeted versions of the drugs.

New treatment options could help the many people who, for a range of reasons, cannot use the drugs that are currently available. For example, many people have a resistance to treatments for diseases such as epilepsy, major depressive disorder, and anorexia.

By engineering the biology of cannabinoid and psychedelic therapeutics, Octarine hopes to change the ways the drugs are stored and used, in addition to reducing unpleasant side effects. For cannabinoids, a synthetic bio-based version could have a longer shelf life, making the treatment more accessible. It could also be water-soluble, making it much easier for patients to take. For psychedelics, a synthetic bio-based version could reduce or eliminate hallucinations and trip length, while more efficiently targeting the correct serotonin receptors in the brain.

The company has recently closed a €2 million funding round, which it will use to continue developing its platforms. Its treatments remain at the pre-clinical stage of the development pipeline.

Technology is helping improve health care in myriad ways, with innovations for difficult-to-diagnose and manage conditions such as epilepsy. A mobile brain scanning cap could help communities without access to a neurologist identify the disease, and high-resolution sensors could help surgeons more accurately identify the location of the affected brain tissue.  

Written By: Keely Khoury



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