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Synergistic Use of Medicinal Plants in Biopharmaceutical Drug Development

Posted: 28th February 2024 15:15
Costly clinical trials often fail despite overwhelming efficacy in individual participants. Why is it that some patients respond to the candidate drug while the majority do not? As a seasoned biopharmaceutical R&D scientist, Before Virchow, LLC, Founder & CEO, Dr. Jennifer Cann knows that a multitude of variables, including genetic, environmental, behavioral, dietary, and lifestyle factors play a role; and nestled within the broad category of ‘diet and lifestyle’ are herbal supplements. The global herbal medicine market was valued at $201.06 billion in 2022 and is projected to grow from $216.40 billion in 2023 to $371.45 billion by 2030. That’s a compounded annual growth rate of 8.02% and it is proof that the consumption of teas, extracts, powder mixes, capsules, and specialty foods is widespread. Medicinal plants have been used for millennia, and there is a long and rich history of their safe and efficacious use that extends to the modern day.

Further, the phytochemistry and pharmacodynamic activity of many medicinal herbs have been well described, and it is apparent that they have evolved Systems Pharmacology mechanisms that are unsurpassed by any modern pharmaceutical drug. Thus, when this broad and impactful variable is unaccounted for in clinical trial settings, the risk for increased variation in the data, and failure to meet primary endpoints, increases. Conversely, controlling for this variable has the potential to harness the pharmacodynamic activity of a ‘partner plant’ to produce synergistic effects with the candidate drug, mitigate safety & tolerability concerns, and achieve more favorable patient and clinical trial outcomes, especially for complex, chronic, and refractory conditions like neurodegenerative conditions, autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, metastatic neoplasia, and antibiotic resistance.

Many medicinal plants have been tested and shown to have efficacy in conditions such Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Many more have never been tested in controlled clinic trial settings, but have a long history of efficacy in a wide variety of conditions. Dr. Cann’s goal is to demonstrate that these ancient medicines can be combined with modern biopharmaceuticals to achieve synergistic effects. “What if “Mad Dog Skullcap” (Scutellaria lateriflora), so called for its renowned ability to control neuromuscular tremors broadly, including in patients dying from rabies, could be used to support new therapies for Parkinson’s disease?” she posits. “Might gingko, saffron, or rosemary be of some benefit if co-administered with novel gene and cell therapies for Alzheimer’s disease? Could Solomon’s Seal boost the efficacy of new treatments for rheumatoid arthritis?

Consider that for every well-described human disease there is at least one known therapeutic plant in the historical record, and then you see that what is old is new again, and we have before us, at this point in time, a wellspring of opportunities to bring more life-changing medicines to patients, and alter the trajectory of modern-day pipeline development for the better.”

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