With a $3 million grant from Australian philanthropists Barry and Joy Lambert, Thomas Jefferson University has established a new medical center for cannabis education and research. The new facility, officially named The Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp, will become the first such medical research center in the United States, according to information released by the university.
The donation comes at a pivotal time for the national cannabis industry in the US with President-elect Trump’s cabinet nominations and what that means for states cannabis laws. A total of 28 states and the District of Columbia have approved medical cannabis. That number includes four of the five most populous states: California, Florida, Illinois and New York.
“We are extremely grateful to the Lamberts for the bold and visionary gift, which will have an immediate impact on our research and education efforts,” Charles Pollack Jr., Director of the University’s Institute of Emerging Health Professions, said in a prepared statement.
Founded in 1824, Thomas Jefferson University is a private school with just under 2,000 students (844 of whom are postgraduate students) located in the Washington Square area of Philadelphia. The school focuses on the health sciences, including biomedical science, nursing, pharmacy and population health.
The money donated will support research into the therapeutic potential of medicinal cannabis and a range of cannabinoids derived from cannabis. The Lambert Center also will research potential health benefits of hemp, a non-psychoactive variety of the cannabis plant that has been used for paper, textiles, cords and ropes for centuries – as an additional source for medicinal cannabinoids.
The Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp, in the Institute of Emerging Health Professions at Thomas Jefferson University will focus on three major areas of study that could impact the entire marijuana industry. The Lambert Center goals are to first provide expert-developed, unbiased information to clinicians and patients about the medical uses of cannabis, hemp extract, and other cannabinoid-focused therapies. Second they plan to conduct research and serve as a network to deploy resources in this field, multinational research to evaluate and elevate the evidence basis for cannabinoid therapy in multiple medical conditions. The third goal is to provide best-in-breed support for the development of entrepreneurial and socially responsible business and clinical approaches within the emerging medical cannabis industry.
The University has also recruited an internationally renowned Steering Committee to lead the Center’s academic programs, and an illustrious board of entrepreneurs and thought leaders to our business and social impact focused projects and research. The Steering Committee brings together industry experts like; Donald Abrams MD, Manuel Guzmán PhD, and Susan Sisley MD. The committee intends to initially publish a comprehensive white paper documenting the current disease state-specific status of cannabis research. Within each recognized “indication”, a prioritized research agenda will be established to guide researchers and funders.
Jefferson is the first major health sciences university in the United States to provide a comprehensive academic resource for the medicinal application and business of cannabis and hemp, in keeping with its nearly 200-year history of innovation in science and medical education.
The gift, formalized at a private gathering on Dec. 6, is the second such gift the Lamberts have made. In 2015, the couple made a $33.7 million gift for cannabis research at the University of Sydney in Australia. Barry Lambert founded Count Financial, the largest network of accounting-based firms in Australia.
The Lamberts became interested in the field of medical cannabis after their granddaughter, Katelyn, was diagnosed with Dravet’s syndrome, a rare genetic abnormality that affects the brain’s electric signaling system and causes severe and repetitive seizures. Medical cannabis has been shown to be one of the few therapies that mitigates the seizures caused by the condition. Cannabis derived from hemp has provided Katelyn with substantial relief, the couple said.
“We have directly experienced the miraculous life-saving benefits of medicinal cannabis derived from hemp,” Barry Lambert said, according to the university press release. ”We are confident that working under modern U.S. regulations, TJU and its innovative, scientific approach will prove to the medical profession the benefits and safety of medicinal cannabis for a broad range of illnesses, not just childhood epilepsy.”
Stephen Klasko, president and CEO of Thomas Jefferson University, said in the press release that the school is approaching the emerging medical marijuana industry “like a start-up would, and this gift represents its first round of angel funding.”
With the new funding, TJU will be able to elevate the industry and expand the knowledge on the known conditions helped by medical cannabis, as well as study the long-term effects cannabis use can have on a patient. The university also hopes to provide information that can fill policy gaps for medical cannabis and help expand the entrepreneurial and socially responsibility of developing medical cannabis businesses.