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Next generation drug discovery & ECS therapies

Synthetic biology is revolutionising the development of highly specific drugs, including those that target the endocannabinoid system.

Synthetic biology has witnessed significant market growth in recent years, with the sector expected to reach USD 23.7 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 28.3%. This growth is being driven by advancements in gene editing technologies, increased funding for R&D activities, and rising demand for bio-based products. This field is also driven by the fact that companies can secure valuable IP on the novel compounds they create and this is a significant factor when it comes to large value exits. As a result, Óskare Capital believes synthetic biology has a large role to play in the endocannabinoid sector and the next wave of multi-billion dollar exits.

Synthetic biology is an interdisciplinary field that combines biology and engineering to design and construct new biological systems with specific functions. In drug discovery, synthetic biology offers a powerful tool for the development of new therapeutics by enabling the creation of synthetic genes, proteins, pathways, and cells that can produce deliver and act as drugs.

One of the main applications of synthetic biology in drug discovery is the production of new molecular entities (NMEs) which act as pharmacologically active biomolecules. By engineering the production of specific proteins or small molecules, researchers can create new drugs that target a range of diseases, including cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, and infectious diseases. Synthetic techniques have also aided the development of cell-based therapies. Researchers can now engineer cells to perform specific functions, such as producing therapeutic proteins which target specific cells, or delivering drugs to specific tissues. These engineered cells can be used for a range of applications, including gene therapy and immunotherapy.

Additionally, synthetic biology is also used in drug discovery to develop new screening methods. By engineering cells to respond to specific compounds, researchers can create high-throughput screening assays that can identify new drug candidates with greater speed and accuracy.

In the field of endocannabinoid research, novel compounds have been synthesised that mimic the effects of phytocannabinoids (plant derived) via their modulation of endocannabinoid receptors. To date, these therapies have been deployed in the treatment of chronic pain, nausea associated with chemotherapy, and spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis (Nabilone and Dronabinol). However, as previously discussed, synthetic techniques allow for the creation of new molecular entities (NMEs). These allow for specific, targeted pharmacological intervention and represent a new frontier in medicine. This more fine-tuned approach allows the development of drugs with increased efficacy and fewer off-target effects. Within the endocannabinoid system, this has enabled the development of biomolecules which exhibit selective stimulation or inhibition upon CB receptors resulting in more tolerable drugs that maintain efficacy. Indeed, many prior therapeutic candidates in this area have been deemed unsuitable due to their side effects due to their “all or nothing” antagonistic activity, synthetic NMEs seek to change this.

With a scientific team including biologists and engineers, Óskare Capital champions the research of synthetic endocannabinoid medications – we believe this avenue of drug investigation offers some of the best therapeutic opportunities in the sector. Synthetic techniques represent a new frontier in ECS therapies and we are poised to capitalise on the exciting opportunities these biological innovations provide.

Author: Henry Williams, Intern Analyst, Óskare Capital