Harvard Puts up 9 Million Dollars Towards Cannabis Research

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Just because we have cannabis products on the shelves, doesn’t mean we know much about them. Unfortunately, this is the reality within the cannabis industry right now: overwhelming support and, yet, so little research.

People are wary about cannabis research because of the myriad of gray areas as well as blatant legal issues surrounding the plant variety itself. So many hurdles have been put up between us and cannabis science, but we’re finally knocking them down.

First Glance

  • An alumnus of Harvard and MIT gave a nine million dollar donation to Harvard Medical School and MIT’s School of Science to fund cannabis research.
  • Donor Charles R. Broderick works within global equity capital markets and has equity positions in two of the most successful cannabis companies in North America. 
  • $4.5 million is going towards Havard’s School of Medicine to research general cannabis biology to further our understanding of cannabis and the body as a whole. 
  • The other $4.5 million is going towards MIT’s School of Science to fund research towards cannabis and brain health. 
  • The studies are predicted to last three years, though this is only the beginning of this type of extensive cannabis research.

Last year, a Harvard and MIT alumnus gave nine million dollars towards cannabis research to his alma maters. With the idea of filling the gaps of scientific knowledge we’re missing within the cannabis community, Charles R. Broderick wants our questions answered.

The Donor

Broderick, known to his colleagues as Bob, is the founder of Uji Capital LLC, a family-ran office working in global equity capital markets; he also has equity positions in two of the most successful cannabis companies in North America. An alumnus of both Harvard and MIT, Bob wants to give Harvard Medical School and MIT’s School of Science the funds to provide cold-hard facts to both the cannabis community and the general public. 

Bob believes that, with this type of research towards the neurobiology of the cannabis plant, he can help “destigmatize” the discussions surrounding cannabis, cannabinoids, and their relationship with the body. More than anything, Bob wants explanations. 

Gathering a Community 

Though, Bob couldn’t tackle this project on his own. Together, a community was gathered surrounding the promise of cannabis research, and, thus, the Charles R. Broderick Phytocannabinoid Research Initiative at HMS–with the collaboration of over 30 experts–was born. 

Led by neurobiologists Bruce Bean and Wade Regehr, these experts first want to better understand the endocannabinoid system as a whole. We have basic understandings as to how this system functions, but, currently, the system’s complexity has prevented us from moving forward the way we want to. However, with the large donation that these universities have received, pouring time and effort into fully comprehending these relationships is finally going to become a reality. 

The initiative isn’t just bringing in neurobiologists either; HMS brought in experts in neurology, immunology, cardiology, and vascular medicine to get a more comprehensive understanding of how every corner of our bodies work with cannabis’ cannabinoids. By focusing on a more holistic standpoint, we can understand the relationship between cannabis and the body as a whole, instead of just individualistic components. 

The Research: Cannabinoids and Brain Health

While HMS is receiving $4.5 million towards cannabis biology research, MIT is using their $4.5 million to explore how cannabis works with brain function and brain health, specifically focusing on schizophrenia. 

At MIT, this research is being conducted by four scientists, each one conducting their own independent studies on cannabis and brain health and function. The main goal is to learn whether or not cannabis can, in fact, improve these areas of our health and wellbeing. These studies are said to take about three years to conduct. 

One of the researchers, Myriam Heiman, a neuroscientist, is studying the effects of chronic CBD and THC consumption on the molecular trajectory of cell types related to that of schizophrenia to help understand adverse claims made about the relationship. That, plus she wants to see if cannabis has any therapeutic potential towards Huntington’s Disease–something we’ve seen various claims of, but not enough widespread research. 

There is also an interest in learning about cannabis’ relationship with autism spectrum disorders, as well as the effects of certain cannabinoids on brain function like memory, focus, and even addiction. Essentially, all of the broad claims that have been made about cannabis and brain function are hoping to be looked at extensively over these next three years.

Only the Beginning

Currently, this nine million dollar donation creates a huge stepping stone in the path that is cannabis research. With as little as we know now, absolutely any concrete evidence, answers, and research is key in making the strides we need to. 

We can only hope that these subsequent few years will bring credibility and destigmatization to the cannabis plant the way the cannabis community has wanted for years. We just have to wait and see what science has to say.