Changes in public opinion regarding cannabis have greatly fueled the fire blazing under the red-hot state-legalized marijuana market. A recent Gallup poll shows that 60 percent of Americans now support the legalization of marijuana, while another report shows that marijuana sales jumped an incredible 30 percent in North America in 2016 to reach $6.7 billion. While many investors are looking to find profitable plays in this burgeoning market, continuing federal restrictions make medical marijuana one of the safest investment routes. Standout companies that present prime opportunities in this space include India Globalization Capital, Inc. (NYSE: IGC) (IGC Profile), Cara Therapeutics, Inc.(NASDAQ: CARA), Zynerba Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: ZYNE), Cannabis Science Inc. (OTC: CBIS) and Vitality Biopharma, Inc. (OTC: VBIO).
India Globalization Capital, Inc. (NYSE MKT: IGC) is currently readying four cannabinoid products for medical trials, including a potential blockbuster treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Although there are about a dozen publicly-traded cannabis pharmaceutical stocks currently on the market, IGC is the only one to have patent filings for a potential cannabis-based Alzheimer’s breakthrough. Compared to its peers, IGC’s market cap of just over $10.8 million begs the question of whether the value of this innovator is under pegged. A look at the broader market and the company’s developments provide further insight.
Alzheimer’s, the most common cause of dementia among older adults is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that progressively destroys memory and cognitive skills. Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United Statesand will cost the nation an estimated $259 billion in 2017, according to information from the Alzheimer’s Association. The breakthrough potential of IGC’s IGC-AD1 (Hyalolex), which targets the reduction of beta-amyloid buildup in Alzheimer’s patients and lessen some of Alzheimer’s worst symptoms, could be astronomical.
The accumulation of amyloid plaque on neurons in the brain is believed to be the major cause of Alzheimer’s disease. IGC recently acquired exclusive rights (http://nnw.fm/3QaWV) to its novel tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-based treatment for Alzheimer’s from the University of South Florida, where research using an animal model showed the reversal of amyloid plaque buildup. The lead investigator at the university used cannabis extract on transgenic mice and discovered that the cannabis extract actually reversed beta-amyloid accumulation. What this indicates is a potential means of restoring memory function in Alzheimer’s patients, a game-changing development indeed. IGC expects to begin human trials this year.
Under the definitive license agreement with the University of South Florida, IGC is the exclusive licensee of the patent filing ‘THC as a Potential Therapeutic Agent for Alzheimer’s Disease,’ which claims the discovery of a new pathway in which low doses of THC bind to beta-amyloid plaques and prevent them from aggregating on neurons, the very process that is linked to causing cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients. This new pathway offers exciting potential in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, and, if the patent is granted and proven, IGC will own the rights to it. Acquisition of the patent additionally helps IGC protect its proprietary formulation of IGC-AD1. The lead investigator at the University of South Florida now helping IGC was featured on CNN by Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the ‘Weed 3, The Marijuana Revolution,’ available for viewing at http://www.igcinc.us.
In addition to IGC-AD1, the company’s other cannabis-based products currently moving toward trials include Natrinol for the treatment of cachexia in AIDS and cancer patients; Serosapse, which addresses various Parkinson’s disease endpoints; and Caesafin, which employs combination therapy to alleviate seizures in dogs and cats. Other companies we have seen with this kind of cannabis based runaway potential, have market capitalizations between $25 million to $500 million as compared to IGC’s $10 million market cap.
When it comes to market value, the heavyweight of this group is clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company Cara Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: CARA), which has a market cap of $506.1 million. Focused on the development and commercialization of new chemical entities that are designed to alleviate pain and pruritus through the selective targeting of peripheral kappa opioid receptors, the company is developing a novel, proprietary class of product candidates that target the peripheral nervous system and have shown initial efficacy in patients with moderate to severe pain without creating many of the unwanted side effects that are typically associated with current pain therapeutics. The company’s CR701 candidate is a cannabinoid receptor agonist designed to reduce pain.
Perhaps most similar to IGC in terms of product candidates and an early-stage pipeline is Zynerba Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: ZYNE), a clinical-stage pharmaceutical company engaged in developing innovative transdermal synthetic cannabinoid treatment for patients who have high unmet medical needs. As of July 18, Zynerba’s market cap stood at $251.7 million – a far cry above IGC’s market valuation. Zynerba’s development pipeline includes two lead product candidates that are being evaluated in five therapeutic indications. ZYN002 is the first and only synthetic CBD and has been formulated as a patent-protected permeation enhanced gel for transdermal delivery through the skin and into the body’s circulatory system. It is currently in phase 2 clinical developments in patients with refractory epilepsy, osteoarthritis of the knee and Fragile X syndrome. The company’s ZYN001 is a pro-drug of THC that facilitates transdermal delivery through the skin and into the circulatory system by means of a patch. A phase 1 clinical program for ZYN001 commenced in the first half of 2017.
Another small-cap player – with a market cap of $120.2 million – is Cannabis Science, Inc. (OTC: CBIS), a company focused on developing cannabinoid-based medicines to provide innovative treatment options for unmet medical needs, with an immediate focus on treating cancer. The company is working with leading experts to develop, produce and commercialize novel therapeutic approaches to treat a variety of critical ailments, from cancer and infections to age-related illnesses and neurobehavioral disorders. The company’s current development programs include CS-TATI-1, which will be targeted at both newly diagnosed and treatment-experienced patients with drug-resistant HIV strains and those that are intolerant to current therapies; CS-S/BCC-1 for skin cancer; and CS-NEURO-1 for various neurobehavioral disorders, including ADHD and anxiety.
Vitality Biopharma, Inc. (OTCQB: VBIO), another medical marijuana company, is focused on applying the power of cannabinoids to treat serious neurological and inflammatory disorders and currently has a market cap of $40.2 million. VBIO is developing proprietary cannabinoid prodrug pharmaceuticals that are FDA- and DEA-compliant. The company believes oral cannabinoid pharmaceuticals can help the full therapeutic potential of cannabinoid medicines to be realized. Oral prodrugs allow for a regulatory strategy that has a lower risk and is similar to specialty pharmaceutical development. VBIO is leveraging existing clinical studies that demonstrate the efficacy of cannabinoids in treating inflammatory bowel disease, Nijmegen breakage syndrome (NBS), multiple sclerosis, neuropathic pain and other disease indications. The company has developed a new class of cannabinoid prodrugs called cannabosides that can be targeted and limited to the body’s gastrointestinal tract to prevent drug psychoactivity and unanticipated side effects.
The spectrum of market value for these cannabis-based pharmaceutical players’ swings across the board, and India Globalization Capital has several aspects that may warrant a higher valuation. While each of the above-named companies present an opportunity to invest in the rapidly advancing medical cannabis space, investors looking for an entry point through an undervalued company may want to take a closer look at India Globalization Capital, Inc. (NYSE:IGC).