Engaging the scientific community in cannabis research

The Lambert Initiative works with a variety of talented partners to champion novel cannabis-based therapies in mainstream Australian medicine.

people in hemp

To realise our vision, we will nurture existing partnerships and develop new collaborative arrangements with other academics, industry, health care providers, state and federal government, and consumer advocacy groups. We work with the best scientists and clinicians regardless of their university, nationality or clinical affiliations.

We are deeply committed to a philosophy of external engagement and are uniquely placed to leverage the University of Sydney’s established partnerships. This enables us to increase collaborative opportunities and share information, skilled resources, expensive equipment, buildings and support services efficiently.

We have strong working partnerships with:

Wesley Medical Research 

A clinical trial testing a mix of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) to treat Tourette Syndrome

Dr Philip Mosley from Neurosciences Queensland is studying the effects of a 1:1 mixture of tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol on clinical outcomes in people with Tourette's Syndrome. Our staff are helping Dr Mosley's team source the drug and design the study around available drug sources. We will also subsidise and perform the analytical toxicology analysis of biological samples (blood plasma and urine) obtained from study participants to assess therapeutic levels of endocannabinoids in the system. The trial is funded by Wesley Medical Research.

Sydney Children's Hospital Network

Cannabis products in clinical trials for paediatric epilepsy

Led by Dr John Lawson, the Sydney Children’s Hospital (SCHN) will run clinical trials to deliver pure cannabidiol to epileptic children in a compassionate access model, funded by NSW Health. It will also help plan trials of other novel cannabinoids for paediatric epilepsy. We helped the NSW state government and SCHN identify sources of cannabinoid drugs that were considered appropriate for children within the Australian regulatory framework at the time of tendering for the NSW Health funds. We now sit on the SCHN advisory panel to help shape the unfolding research agenda in this space.

Queensland Health

Cannabinoid research for children with epilepsy in Queensland

Queensland Health supports clinical activity and community survey work into paediatric epilepsy, with scope to broaden into other areas of medicine as opportunities arise. We received a generous contribution from QLD Health to establish operations for “PELICAN NORTH”. This is an extension of our community engagement program to explore parents' experiences using cannabis products in Australia to treat their children’s epilepsy. PELICAN NORTH started recruiting in May 2017, and is currently open to Queensland families who have a child under the age of 18 using medicinal cannabis products for epilepsy. Our staff have also been providing advice on drug sourcing and the development of clinical guidance’s for QLD Health’s larger medical cannabis program.

Orygen National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health

The cannabidiol youth anxiety pilot study

We have partnered with and are funding Orygen to perform a 12 week open‐label pilot study of cannabidiol for anxiety disorders. The clinical trial will be led by Professor Paul Amminger at Orygen, in partnership with Professor Patrick McGorry. Our staff are engaged with the Orygen team to help design the trial. We will emphasise biological tests to improve trial quality by giving objective verifiable markers of drug levels and metabolites to map to clinical outcomes (i.e. improved anxiety). In addition to funding the main study, we will also subsidise and perform the toxicology analysis of biological samples (blood plasma and urine) obtained from study participants to assess therapeutic levels of drug, metabolite, and endocannabinoids in their systems.

New South Wales Health - Exercise

The effects of exercise on tetrahydrocannabinol release from burning fat cells and on endogenous cannabinoid levels

We have partnered with academics and clinicians from the Sydney Local Health District and South East Sydney Local Health District to run a clinical trial in long-term cannabis users. The trial, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, will study the effects of daily aerobic exercise on endogenous cannabinoid levels, as well as the possible release of THC stored in fat cells that are “burnt” during aerobic exercise. It is part of an ongoing body of research started by our staff before this trial was established. Our staff studied the idea of reintoxication in experimental animal and human settings -- this group was one of the first to demonstrate that physical exercise can lead to increases in tetrahydrocannabinol levels in blood plasma in animals and humans who had previously consumed THC.

This work could potentially have far-reaching implications for medico-legal aspects of cannabis use (whether medical or illicit), including time since last use and detection of cannabinoids in bodily fluids in roadside drug testing. It also offers a potential to discover new modes of treatment for drug dependence disorders, if endocannabinoids are found to respond to physical activity. As well as providing conceptual leadership, our staff are closely involved in the design and execution of these clinical trials and will contribute in kind support in the form of planning and performing the analytical toxicology work to identify possible changes in endocannabinoids and cannabinoids in response to the exercise in this patient population.

NSW Health - Cannabinoid Replacement Therapy

South East Sydney Local Health District, Hunter New England Local Health District and Western Sydney Local Health District

Cannabinoid Replacement Therapy

We have partnered with academics and clinicians from several Sydney local health districts to develop a cannabinoid replacement therapy (CRT), funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council. CRT can be considered similar to nicotine replacement therapy; the replacement drug, however, may not only replace problematic smoked cannabis, but also treat underlying disease states that people smoke cannabis to alleviate.

This work began before we were formed but integrates well with our mandate to research novel cannabinoid-based drugs to ease human suffering. The way cannabis treatments are currently formulated is an issue, as oral bioavailability of most cannabinoids is poor. This means that taking a pill or drinking an oil may not be the most efficient way to get the greatest benefit from cannabis medicines. Our research with NSW Health is part of our larger program to explore novel drug delivery systems and formulations. Our staff are closely engaged, helping to source external funding, lead conceptual study design and practical implementation, and provide some in-kind support by performing analytical toxicology on the biological samples obtained from patients in the study.

NSW Health - Palliative Care

Vaporised cannabis flower vs pharmaceutical cannabinoid pill for stimulating appetite

We have partnered with NSW Health for a clinical trial to compare vaporised high-THC cannabis flowers to a pharmaceutical grade THC tablet (Namisol) for stimulating appetite in end-of-life treatment. Led by Dr Meera Agar and funded by NSW Health, this exciting trial is a world first in its choice of comparison medicines. It will be conducted to the highest quality standards of a rigorous double-blind, double-dummy (i.e. a placebo medication to match each of the active arms) controlled trial across multiple clinical sites in New South Wales. We are helping to identify available drug sources, contributing to the development of the clinical protocols, and providing ongoing input into the steering committee’s management of trials as they roll out.

Chris O’Brien Lifehouse

Tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol mixed to treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV)

We have partnered with the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse for a clinical trial to establish the efficacy of a 1:1 THC/CBD capsule antiemetic regimen that prevents nausea and vomiting in patients with drug-resistant chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. The trial is funded by NSW Health. Our researchers have been working with the Lifehouse team, led by Dr Peter Grimison, to make decisions around the source and content of the drug. Our staff also sit on the steering committee for protocol development and monitoring of the trial as recruitment proceeds. This randomised controlled trial will use a double-blind placebo to deliver strong evidence for the safety and efficacy of this cannabinoid drug.

Epilepsy Action Australia

Community engagement and education on cannabis use for epilepsy

We have partnered with Epilepsy Action Australia, the national peak body representing the epilepsy community, to help conduct surveys about epilepsy sufferers using cannabis (PELICAN). We will also provide support for their education programs about cannabis treatments for epilepsy. We will continue to work with the EAA on new education and advocacy issues where needed, and stimulate and accelerate research into cannabinoids and epilepsy.