CORVALLIS, Ore. — Early trials on the efficacy of hemp compounds blocking COVID-19 will begin within the next few months, according to the Oregon State University scientist leading the project.

Richard van Breemen, a researcher with OSU’s Global Hemp Innovation Center, announced in early January that certain hemp compounds showed promise in preventing coronavirus infection through early studies.

Preclinical research generally involves the use of cell culture or animal models to test the safety and efficacy of a new drug candidate, van Breemen said. The FDA requires these studies before human clinical trials can begin.

“We need preclinical trials to prove the efficacy of what we discovered, and I think that will happen very soon, in the next few months,” he said.

Van Breemen, his OSU colleague Ruth Muchiri, and five OHSU researchers published their study in the Journal of Natural Products three weeks ago, purporting to show that hemp compounds identified through a chemical screening technique could prevent infection from the virus that causes COVID-19.

The results came from a pair of cannabinoid acids that bound with the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, preventing the virus from infection human cells. The study immediately caused a stir.

“I’m delighted people are interested in the work we do, and I want to thank all of my students and postdocs and other collaborators over the years,” he said. “It’s been an honor working with a very talented team of people, and I’m just glad to have contributed something in the field of natural products and analytical chemistry.”

The specific hemp compounds that van Breemen’s research identified were cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, and cannabidiolic acid, CBDA.

“These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and in many hemp extracts,” van Breemen continued. “They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans. And our research showed the hemp compounds were equally effective against variants of SARS-CoV-2.”

Specific formulas and delivery methods for these compounds will no doubt emerge in the preclinical and clinical trials, but some hemp businesses have already pivoted to producing supplements based on van Breemen’s study. The scientist has indicated that the compounds would need to be taken orally, and could not be heated or processed in certain ways.

Fern Valley Farms in Medford almost immediately began producing capsules containing the compounds identified in the study. NewsWatch 12 spoke to the owners earlier this month, and they said that Oregon hemp producers are excited to potentially participate in clinical trials.

Article was originally published by KDRV.