• The University of California-San Diego (UCSD) received $4.7 million donation to research CBD’s effects on Autism
  • The Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation made the donation
  • The private ‘gift’ is the largest amount ever privately donated to fund medical cannabis research
  • Autism affects 1 in 68 children in the US and over 700,000 people in the UK

The University of California-San Diego (UCSD) has received $4.7m in private funding to begin researching the potential treatment of autism with Cannabidiol (CBD).

The Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation (RTNF), in partnership with the Wholistic Research and Education Foundation (WREF), generously donated the million-dollar gift, with the funds being directly transferred to UCSD’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR).

campus for LA University: UC San Diego

UC San Diego campus

Created in 2000, the CMCR was designed to conduct detailed scientific research into the potential medical applications of cannabis.

The donation will be spent on funding research into how Cannabidiol (CBD) can be used in autism treatments for children.

In an online statement, the university outlined its plan to focus on how CBD could be used to treat symptoms related to severe Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), including seizures and high levels of anxiety.

Beginning in 2019, the study into autism will include 30 children, aged between 8 -12 years-old, with a diagnosis of ‘moderate to severe autism,” but “must be free of other neurological conditions, such as epilepsy, and in general good health.”

“[This new research can help] transform the lives of the many people for whom medicinal cannabis may make a meaningful difference in their quality of life.”
– David Brenner, vice chancellor of UCSD Health Sciences

The study has three main goals:

  1. Determine if CBD is safe and tolerable and whether it helps with the symptoms of ASD
  2. Determine whether and how CBD alters neurotransmitters and/or improves brain connectivity
  3. Determine whether biomarkers of neuro-inflammation, also associated with ASD, are altered by CBD

Researchers CBD

Discussing the donation, Igor Grant, professor of psychiatry and director of CMCR detailed how the university could put scientific backing behind the-so-far-anecdotal evidence from parents hailing CBD as a “wonder-drug” for their autistic children:

“There are unconfirmed reports that cannabidiol could be helpful, but there are no careful studies to document either its benefit or its safety.

“This gift will enable our researchers to develop and implement a translational program of research that pairs a clinical trial with detailed neurobehavioral observation, as well as basic science studies to determine if cannabidiol holds therapeutic promise, and if so, via what mechanisms.”

David Brenner, vice chancellor of UCSD Health Sciences also praised the Foundation for their donation:

“UC San Diego is pleased to partner with the Noorda and Wholistic foundations to advance understanding of when and how medicinal cannabis works.

“[This new research can help] transform the lives of the many people for whom medicinal cannabis may make a meaningful difference in their quality of life.”

The President and Co-Founder of WREF, Pelin Thorogood, also discussed the importance of scientific research to find out the workings of CBD on the symptoms (and possible cause) of autism:

“Given numerous anecdotal reports from parents suggesting CBD may be improving their child’s functioning, we are thrilled to partner with UC San Diego to understand under what circumstances CBD may be effective for autism, and why it seems to help certain individuals and not others.

“This is especially exciting since the multi-disciplinary approach employed by UC San Diego, combining clinical, basic and translational data across the same group of children, has the best chance of helping us understand the role of the endocannabinoid system in the treatment of autism.”

Research into medical cannabis in American has severe restrictions placed on it, particularly in relation to funding, due to the fact that cannabis remains a Schedule I substance.

The UCSD was able to traverse this restriction by going directly to RTNF, a private foundation, for the grant money.

According to the university, it is the biggest single donation toward researching medical ever made in the United States.