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Medicinal chemistry of the cannabis plant for cannabis research. Plant in a petri dish

Medicinal chemistry of cannabinoids

Defining the chemistry of medicinal cannabinoids

Sourcing and examining the therapeutic effects of laboratory-synthesized and plant-derived cannabinoids for the purpose of characterising the cannabinoids and understanding the human body response to their metabolism.

Project overview

There are more than 100 different cannabinoids present in Cannabis Sativa, but many are present in only tiny amounts. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) are perhaps the best known of the plant-derived cannabinoids. Lambert Initiative researchers have strong interest in the many other plant-derived cannabinoids that are not so well characterised. It is essential to our mission that we source these rare cannabinoids for our preclinical and cellular research to examine their therapeutic effects both alone, and in combination with other cannabinoids (the ‘entourage effect’).

To obtain some of these more obscure cannabinoids directly from cannabis plant material, it would be necessary to extract tons of hemp to obtain only a few milligrams of that particular compound. In such cases, it is often easier to make the cannabinoid of interest in the chemistry laboratory.

Making cannabinoids in the laboratory also allows us to obtain very pure reference standards. The cannabinoids present in plants can only be accurately quantified if we have a very pure version of that cannabinoid with which to compare the plant extracts.

Finally, upon human consumption, the cannabinoids are often transformed by the liver into related compounds known as metabolites. In order to understand the response of the human body to cannabinoids, we need to be able to measure these metabolites in blood, urine or saliva. To undertake such measurements, we need to synthesise reference standards for these metabolites. 

Commenced – July 2015
Ongoing synthesis of 25 different cannabinoid compounds

Dr Steven Devenish
Professor Iain McGregor

Dr Jia Lao
Dr Samuel Banister

Medicinal chemistry

The Lambert Initiative

Professor Michael Kassiou and his team have completed the novel syntheses of more than 15 different phytocannabinoids. Other syntheses are underway.

We are looking for PhD students to join our team and work on this important project.