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Research Defining the Cannabinoid Industry


By Dave Neundorfer

In my last Nutrition Industry Executive blog post, I spotlighted Ingredient Innovation In The Cannabinoid Category. In this post, I wanted to share the research that will define the future of this industry. 



Research Efforts Defining The Industry

The cannabinoid industry is evolving from a one-cannabinoid-fits-all market to personalized optimization focusing on a specific need-state for a specific consumer. Research will accelerate this evolution and, eventually, will guide the path for cannabinoids to be regulated as dietary ingredients.

Research takes time and money, but the interconnectedness of the global research community, the scientific advancements in biochemical and mechanistic analysis, and the overwhelming anecdotal evidence coming from CBD, as well as medical and recreational cannabis markets across the globe, will accelerate this broad-scale movement. 

Here are the research efforts that industry stakeholders should keep their eyes on:

Safety Research

Safety is the foundation for this market and the driver for both consumer trust and regulatory advancement. Validcare and the European Industrial Hemp Association both have meaningful safety research underway: 

  • Validcare (US): Validcare’s large-scale human safety study will provide the FDA with much needed CBD safety data. The study is designed to respond to the FDA’s repeated requests, including the Agency’s March 5, 2020 report to Congress, for science-based data to inform regulations for hemp-derived CBD products. This study will assess how long-term full- and broad-spectrum CBD use impacts liver safety, drowsiness, and testosterone levels, with results expected later this year. 
  • European Industrial Hemp Association (UK and Europe): The EIHA Novel Food Consortium will support the safety studies for hemp foods and extracts in the UK and European Union member states. Together with EIHA and other consortium members, we are creating safe and ready access to cannabinoid-based products throughout the UK and EU. 

Efficacy Research

Consumers want products that work. The market is graduating from it’s one-size-fits-all approach to cannabinoids and is demanding function-specific therapeutics that focus on anxiety, pain, sleep, women’s health, and skin conditions, to name a few. Multi-arm, in-home-user-tests (IHUTs) and clinical trials on minor cannabinoids are two ways OBX and other industry stakeholders have become involved in collecting and advancing efficacy research. 

Enhancement Research: 

Many of the leading companies in this industry are now investing into a tool set that translate in-vitro study success into real-world applications by modifying cannabinoids at the molecular level or combining cannabinoids with other active or inactive compounds to enhance potency, bioavailability, and stability, and enabling targeted delivery and controlled release. 

These enhancement research studies will not only amplify the positive impact these ingredients will have on human health, but also provide massive market opportunities in the form of proprietary formulations and pro-drug applications. 

Exploratory Research: 

Can cannabinoids help treat depression, Alzeimers, cancer, or metabolic disorders? University researchers with labs and teams focused on specific diseases are excited to find out. There is a growing group of researchers across the globe that are excited to test cannabinoids against their fields’ most challenging problems but have had challenges gaining reliable access to consistent, pure, cannabinoid inputs. Market leaders are excited to remove this blocker to unlock the exploratory and applied research that has been limited due to input scarcity and compliance concerns.

Looking Forward:

It gives me goosebumps to talk to researchers and chemists the world over. Many communicate a common theme of optimism and duty. As Dr. Dedi Meiri of the Technion Israel Institute of Technology shared at the 2019 Cowen Cannabis Conference, “we could spend the next 50 years researching the field of cannabinoids and we would only see the tip of the iceberg.” 

The science is catching up and, in many ways, exceeding the anecdotal evidence that has buoyed the category and the burgeoning global markets. The wheels are in motion toward a recommended daily dose of cannabinoids and cannabinoid-enabled products for joint pain, stress, sleep, metabolic disorders and women’s health. 

We at OBX are doing our part to advance the research and education required to accelerate the pace of change and welcome you—researchers, labs, technologists, chemists—to join us in this movement. 

You can also learn more about these topics at www.openbookextracts.com.