The history of drug discovery is based on observation. Although cannabis has been recognized for its medicinal benefits for thousands of years, its actual effects remain anecdotal and still need to be substantiated through further in vitro research followed by animal studies and rigorous clinical trials. There is very little doubt about the effects that THC and its synthetic congeners have in the context of molecular signaling within the cell and various disease states which have been modeled in cells or tissues and in animal models. For the endocannabinoid system to be fully appreciated, research needs to be focused and accelerated.
Although there are a number of diseases which can potentially be treated through the activation of the endocannabinoid system, Immugen believes that HIV remains the lowest hanging fruit and its treatment and prevention with its drugs will provide the greatest, immediate benefit to mankind.
Perhaps, the most impactful observation which Dr. Travis made while practicing in Negril Jamaica was the degree to which cannabis was being used on the island and that its use might be masking the true prevalence of HIV. Even today the number of reported cases is astonishingly low (less than 1.2% of the total population) given the sexual mores of the culture which parallel African societies where the HIV prevalence is as high as 20%. He concluded that cannabis use was either slowing the progression of the disease to the point that people were not getting sick, i.e. from opportunistic infections, or that it was preventing the transmission of the disease, or both. He later turned this observation into the quest for a synthetic drug without the psychoactive effects of cannabis which could be used for the treatment and prevention of HIV on a global basis.
In 2013 Dr. Travis wrote the background material for an NIH R21 grant which was which was won by Seyoum Ayehune, Ph.D., Chief Scientist at the MatTek Corporation and Deborah Anderson, Ph.D., Director of Reproductive Biology at The Boston University Medical Center to explore the use of several non-psychoactive cannabinoids for the prevention of HIV transmission across vaginal tissue. The final report of this two year collaboration was submitted to the NIH in the Spring of 2016. Dr. Travis is now in the process of writing a draft of an article for publication in a peer reviewed journal. The article will encompass a comprehensive analysis of the nearly 200 genes whose expression was affected by the lead drug.