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Room for growth: Panacea-CSU partnership furthers CBD research

A sign of Panacea Life Sciences
A sign of Panacea Life Sciences in the Chemistry Research Building April 7. (Tri Duong | The Collegian)

One year ago, Colorado State University alumna, founder and CEO of Panacea Life Sciences, Leslie Buttorff, gifted $1.5 million to the University for the creation of a cannabinoid research center. 

“I had the opportunity to present our gifting proposal to Janice Nerger, and we came up with the idea of creating the Panacea Life lab in the Chemistry Research Building,” Buttorff wrote in an email to The Collegian.


“We’ve always aimed to be a disruptor of Big Pharma, so it’s important to us that we continue to innovate new products and new pathways to give people a natural alternative to synthetics and pharmaceuticals,” Buttorff wrote. “Hemp has been misunderstood for far too long, and we’re excited to help people find out what a game changer it can be for their overall health and wellness.”

Cannabinoids are a class of molecules originating in cannabis hemp plants that lend to cannabis’ potential as a pharmaceutical treatment, especially for pain and seizures. Buttorff wrote, “CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is one of the most common of over 120 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.”

According to the Food and Drug Administration, Epidiolex, a treatment for two rare forms of epilepsy, was the first FDA-approved drug to have CBD

The Novasep machine at the Panacea research laboratory
The Novasep machine at the Panacea research laboratory April 7. The model used for cannabidiol research is called the Hipersep. (Tri Duong | The Collegian)

CBD is the active ingredient of one of PLS’s products, Cannabidiol Oral Solution, and is just one example of a cannabinoid with research supported at CSU, according to Panacea’s website. 

“The hemp plant is known to have over 120 different cannabinoids in a single plant, with CBD and THC being the most well-known,” Buttorff wrote. “There is a lot of research left to do on the remaining list.”

“There are many testimonials, supporting studies and literature that show the positive effects CBD has on your health, most commonly in how it helps safely manage chronic pain, lower stress and anxiety, aids in sleep to relieve insomnia and decreases inflammation,” Buttorff wrote. 

This molecule’s applications are being expanded to traumatic brain injury and PTSD treatment, according to the Panacea article. 

According to their website, Panacea specializes in the development of therapeutic products containing non-psychoactive cannabinoid molecules. These molecules do not cause a “high,” in contrast with THC, which is responsible for the “heightened” sense of euphoria and perception felt by marijuana users, according to Healthline

The gift to CSU supports cannabinoid research in a variety of aspects.  


Hunter Cuchiaro, a graduate student in CSU’s chemistry department researching cannabidiol’s relationship with other molecules, wrote in an email to The Collegian, “The center is a state-of-the-art analytical facility, providing CSU students and faculty access to cutting edge research tools for investigating cannabinoid-related questions.” 

The research being conducted at the center is primarily on the chemistry of hemp and cannabinoids — not marijuana as a psychoactive drug.  

“Cannabinoids are being used broadly in the market in a fraudulent manner by misrepresenting concentrations of the cannabinoid present as well as product quality,” said Melissa Reynolds, College of Natural Sciences associate dean of research. “Products have been reported to contain toxins, pesticides and other undesirable ingredients. The cannabinoid research center will use state-of-the-art instrumentation that will position CSU to make key discoveries in cannabinoid research that will lead to new and safer uses.”

Cuchiaro wrote that he hopes one of the outcomes of the partnership will be increasing public awareness of the potential therapeutic benefits of non-psychoactive cannabinoids. 

“Public perception is always in flux, but the work happening at CSU can promote greater understanding and support of this emerging field,” he wrote.

This collaboration between CSU and Panacea aims to address inconsistencies in CBD testing processes, Buttorff wrote. 

Safety of consumers is a top priority, Buttorff wrote. CSU’s research will help to iron out some of the inconsistencies in the hemp chain. 

“For example, one hemp grower delivered us hemp that contained pesticides,” Buttorff wrote. “This hemp is unusable and thus this grower lost a lot of money.  One of the projects that Panacea and CSU will work on is how to cost effectively remove the pesticides so this hemp can be used.” 

Hunter Cuchiaro uses a micropipette to transfer a solution from a beaker
Graduate research assistant Hunter Cuchiaro uses a micropipette to transfer a solution from a beaker in the Panacea research laboratory April 7. (Tri Duong | The Collegian)

Cannabinoids can be applied to a variety of therapeutic contexts, which is the second aspect of Panacea’s research relationship with CSU. Cuchiaro’s research in analytical chemistry specializes in separating and analyzing cannabinoids and other therapeutic molecules as well as improving the materials used to perform those separations.

“We will be looking at separation techniques for different cannabinoids, and we’ll be looking at all different types of strains of the hemp plant to see how to separate out the THC,” Buttorff wrote. 

Panacea will also look at other molecules in order to create new products with a variety of applications, Buttorff wrote.

“The purpose of the lab is to advance the research being completed in the hemp/cannabinoid areas,” Buttorff wrote. “CSU benefits from the world class lab we have created that will focus on cannabinoid testing and separation. 

This testing and separation is what Cuchiaro’s research focuses on, but there is plenty of room for growth on the subject.   

“One of the benefits of the center being housed under the College of Natural Sciences umbrella is that the analytical tools are available to collaborators across the academic spectrum – whether they be chemists, psychologists, biologists or plant scientists,” Cuchiaro wrote.

According to Panacea, the research center will serve as a foundation for the study of cannabinoids to grow into several fields, including plant genetics, agronomy, molecular mechanisms and human and animal clinical trials. They have also initiated clinical trials investigating the use of therapeutic CBD in dogs and horses

CSU’s relationship with Panacea has allowed the University to become a leader in cannabinoid research, as it provides a suite of research opportunities for faculty and students, Reynolds wrote. 

“We believe that hemp provides CSU a unique opportunity as a land-grant university to be a national leader in integrating research, engagement and learning across the entire hemp value chain – from genetics and varietal development to psychological and consumer research,” Reynolds wrote. 

Noelle Mason can be reached at or on Twitter @noellemaso.

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