Engineering a therapeutic solid lipid nanoparticle formulation of cannabidiol for treatment of COVID-19-Induced lung inflammation

Allen, Christine | $50,000

Ontario University of Toronto 2020 NSERC Alliance COVID-19 Grant


COVID‑19 has been shown to result in an increased expression of certain cytokines (i.e. chemicals produced by the body in response to an infection that can result in inflammation) in patients, known as a « cytokine storm », which leads to organ and tissue damage. The cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown to have anti-inflammatory activity in various animal models of disease. Of particular interest, CBD has been shown to reduce the expression of cytokines in models of lung inflammation. We hypothesize that the anti-inflammatory effect of CBD may offer some therapeutic benefit in patients with COVID‑19 by reducing the levels of cytokines. There are specific challenges when administering CBD to patients. CBD is highly hydrophobic (i.e. difficult to dissolve in aqueous media) and is susceptible to degradation under a range of environmental conditions (including in the presence of light and oxygen). CBD is rapidly and extensively metabolized following oral administration. Additionally, inhalation (a common method for administering CBD) is undesirable in COVID‑19 patients due to an increased likelihood of impaired lung function. In order to ensure that a therapeutic concentration of CBD reaches the bloodstream, we will formulate CBD into small particles comprised of lipids, called solid lipid nanoparticles (SLNs). These particles can be administered intranasally, a non-invasive method. In addition to improving the delivery of CBD, SLNs will protect CBD from degradation. Given that the SLN formulation will be designed using ingredients that are generally regarded as safe (GRAS) for human use, it will be straightforward to translate into the clinic. For this project, we will collaborate with a Canadian medical cannabis company, Avicanna Inc. Avicanna has expertise in scale-up and manufacturing of medical and pharmaceutical cannabinoid products and has worked with regulatory authorities to move products into clinical development. Bringing together the complementary expertise of the Allen Lab (i.e. drug delivery) and key members of Avicanna (i.e. scale-up, manufacturing and clinical development) will enable this project to move forward in an effective and timely manner.

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