Oxford University will begin a 10-million-pound research project into the medical benefits of marijuana, the prestigious institution said today.
The project is a partnership between the university and private equity firm Kingsley Capital Partners, who are investing the funds in an effort to create a global centre of excellence in cannabinoid research.
Neil Mahapatra, the Indian-origin managing partner at the firm, said the strategic partnership with Oxford University would support the development of "innovative new therapies to help millions of people around the world".
"Medical cannabis and cannabinoid medicine is already helping patients with some of the most distressing conditions across the world. However, research into the specific pathways and mechanisms that create this benefit is limited and long overdue," he was quoted as saying by the Financial Times.
Kingsley Capital Partners claims to be the only Europe-based company to make a concerted effort in the field and has also set up Forma Holdings in the US to work on medical marijuana in the region.
The UK study will source cannabis from Europe to examine the role of cannabis medicines in treating pain, cancer and inflammatory diseases.
It follows calls from MPs in Britain for legalisation of cannabis on medical grounds.
Cannabis is a controlled substance as a drug but it has been increasingly used for therapeutic purposes across the world.
The latest project is aimed at exploring medicines based on cannabis, which could also impact legislation around it.
"This field holds great promise for developing novel therapeutic opportunities for cancer patients," said Ahmed Ahmed, Professor of Gynaecological Oncology at Oxford University.
Zameel Cader, a clinical neuroscientist at the university who will be taking part in the research, said his lab will investigate how the effect on the nervous system of cannabinoid compounds extracted from marijuana compares with that of "endocannabinoids" - similar compounds produced naturally within the human body.
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