Medical cannabis company Impression Healthcare (ASX: IHL) has unveiled a high profile acquisition in the form of professional rugby league footballer James Graham.
In a statement to the market this morning, Impression announced that Mr Graham had agreed to join its board for two years to assist with the commercial development of the company’s treatment for concussion and traumatic brain injury, otherwise known as IHL-216A.
Mr Graham is a renowned rugby league footballer who plays as a prop for the St. George Illawarra Dragons in the NRL, and England and Great Britain at international level.
He is also a regular media commentator and a weekly contributor to various media including the leading roundup of rugby league developments broadcast by NRL 360 on Fox Sports.
Impression is hopeful it can leverage Mr Graham’s public image and experience to both assist in the development of its new drug and to boost public awareness of the company’s overarching goal – to dampen the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the short term, whilst lessening the patient’s risk of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a term used to describe brain degeneration caused by repeated head traumas.
Research shows TBI accounts for approximately 10 million deaths and/or hospitalisations worldwide each year. The trend is affecting not only professional athletes but also amateur participants that overlook the seriousness of seemingly innocuous collisions.
As a member of the advisory board, Mr Graham’s duties will be multifaceted including helping to develop “real world aspects” of the IHL-216A clinical program and building Impression’s relationship and concussion solutions with the Rugby League Players Association.
Possibly most importantly for Impression, he will also be involved in “developing an arrangement with the NRL for the use of IHL-216A throughout the elite competition”, the company said.
“I have been impressed with James’ extensive knowledge of many aspects of traumatic brain injury and he shares our strong view that we must make changes to ameliorate the symptoms of, and damage caused by, concussions in contact sports,” Impression chief executive officer and managing director Joel Latham said.
“By treating concussion with IHL-216A in the days following those injuries, [Impression] will have effectively created a CTE prevention plan that lessens the effects of TBI in the short term, whilst potentially lessening the patient’s risk of developing CTE,” he added.
Impression is currently developing a range of medicinal cannabis products for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea, TBI, acute respiratory distress syndrome and temporomandibular joint disorder. The company is confident it can develop useful treatments for each disease, which it says represent major global markets that currently lack effective treatment options.
As part of its aim to deliver the next generation of medicinal cannabis treatments, the company is developing a novel cannabinoid formula to treat patients with TBI called IHL-216A.
According to a report published by advisory firm Camargo Pharmaceuticals Services, Impression can make an FDA 505(2)(b) new drug application for IHL-216A, thereby raising the prospect of reduced time and cost to commercialisation, subject to a successful phase 2b clinical trial.
In March, Impression unveiled plans for a phase 2b clinical trial of IHL-216A using a group of mixed martial arts fighters that have sustained repeated head injuries and indicate symptoms of TBI or concussion.
According to the company, the trial will focus on studying neurocognitive function in around 50 participants that sustained concussions and comparing patients that receive IHL-216A with patients receiving a placebo.
“Having biomarkers checked and performing cognitive tests is an annual occurrence, along with all the other mandatory protocols. But science never sits on the bench, so I am constantly looking for advancements in the concussion field to help combat the potential degenerative diseases associated with concussion,” Mr Graham said.
“I feel working with Impression gives me a great platform to do so, and I am excited for what the future holds with the IHL-216A program”, he added.