The prestigious University of Oxford recently announced a new partnership with a biomedical research company to study the effects of medical marijuana on several health conditions. The university’s Cannabis Research Plan will investigate the use of cannabinoids to treat pain, cancer, inflammatory diseases and neurological disorders.

In a public statement announcing the plan, Dr. Ahmed Ahmed, professor of gynecological oncology at Oxford, said: “Cannabinoid research has started to produce exciting biological discoveries, and this research program is a timely opportunity to increase our understanding of the role of cannabinoids in health and disease. This field holds great promise for developing novel therapeutic opportunities for cancer patients.”

The Cannabis Research Plan will pair the university with Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies (OCT), a bio-med startup funded by venture capital firm Kingsley Capital Partners. Neil Mahapatra, a managing partner at Kingsley, explained the strategy behind the company’s initial investment of £10 million ($12.5 million).

“Medical cannabis and cannabinoid medicine is already helping patients with some of the most distressing conditions across the world,” he said. “However, research into the specific pathways and mechanisms that create this benefit is limited and long overdue. Through OCT, we hope our strategic partnership with Oxford will support the development of innovative new therapies to help millions of people around the world. The partnership gives the UK a global leadership role in this fast-growing field.”

Although the use of medicinal marijuana is not yet legal in the UK, Sativex, a drug containing the cannabinoids THC and CBD, is approved for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. The Green Party and the Liberal Democrats officially support the legalization of medical marijuana, as do individual members of the Labour and Conservative parties.

The new research program is receiving some high-profile support from Sir Patrick Stewart, who recently revealed his use of topical remedies for the treatment of arthritis.

“Two years ago, in Los Angeles I was examined by a doctor and given a note which gave me legal permission to purchase, from a registered outlet, cannabis-based products, which I was advised might help the ortho-arthritis in both my hands,” the actor said in a statement to UK newspaper the Daily Telegraph. The products have brought pain relief and increased mobility to his hands.

“As a result of this experience, I enthusiastically support the Oxford University Cannabis Research Plan,” Stewart added.

Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies current plans include courting investors for the next round of funding, and recruiting volunteers, both patients and healthy subjects, to participate in clinical trials.

The group will also be hosting the International Cannabinoid Biomedicine Conference during the fourth quarter of 2017.

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