UP hosts scientist advocating CBD research

At the book talk and signing event of Mighty Flower: How Cannabis Saved My Son that the University Hotel and UP Press jointly organized, author Annabelle Manalo-Morgan emphasized that she advocates for research on medicinal cannabis.

Manalo-Morgan is a cell and developmental biologist. She is on the board of directors and the lead scientific officer of Flora Growth. She also started the medical company Masaya Medical Inc. in 2019. Manalo-Morgan is of Filipino descent, whose parents Arturo and Luzviminda hail from Batangas and Laguna, respectively.

Manalo-Morgan holding a copy of her book. Photo by Jefferson Villacruz, UPDIO

Her book is about how she was able to create a cure from CBD (cannabidiol) for her son Macario who, as an infant, had almost 40% of his brain removed because he used to have 200 to 500 seizures every day.

Because he has lost a big part of his brain, Macario was expected to be paralyzed on his right hand side. According to Manalo-Morgan, “Macario was not going to have a visual processing center, spatial and depth perception, object and face recognition, memory, comprehension, verbal, and speech.” As she puts it, “This was a child who was going to have quite a rough life.”

“When Macario was six months old, he was no different than a newborn baby,” she said. “He never cried; he functionally was very dormant,” she added. Manalo-Morgan shared that her son was on seven neurological medications.

Manalo-Morgan with Macario. Photo by Jefferson Villacruz, UPDIO

Manalo-Morgan continued, “We think about a lot of these drugs as helping the child to not have seizures. Well my thought was we’re keeping the child from being able to develop. We’re keeping the child from being able to create these connections that a developing brain wants to make. We’re keeping the child from having neuroplasticity… which means the ability of the brain to rewire, the ability of the brain to adapt to change. And in my son’s case, maybe the ability for it to compensate for the area that’s lost.”

After some research, mostly through articles published in peer-reviewed journals, she found studies on the ability of the CBD to improve health conditions.

When she was able to get hold of the isolated compound she needed, Manalo-Morgan proceeded on creating him a drug.

Manalo-Morgan said, at seven months, Macario went “cold turkey on all his medications… I just pushed this new formulation into his tube. In two days, my son was moving his arms around. He was moving his eyes. A few months later, Macario was crawling. He was walking by 14 months old, and today, [he’s] a perfectly normal eight-year-old boy.”

She clarified that she never advocated for only the natural use of the cannabis, [but] “I’d always advocate for the perfect time and place and the perfect marriage between natural compounds and our traditional medicine. We need more science in the natural compound space. We need to educate people to use this stuff safely.”

Quoting a passage in her book, Manalo-Morgan said, “What if we could think of the marijuana plant like we think of the fungus that gave us penicillin—just a regular old plant with some marvelous healing benefits?”

Meanwhile, UP Diliman (UPD) College of Science (CS) Dean Giovanni A. Tapang said he, together with Jessica D. Rey, PhD, an assistant professor at the UPD Institute of Biology (IB), met Manalo-Morgan through former UP president Danilo L. Concepcion.

Tapang. Photo by Jefferson Villacruz, UPDIO  

Tapang said Manalo-Morgan visited the University earlier this year “to talk about not only the book but also a very exciting project that we are developing in UP, and that is to build a cannabis research program in the Philippines to seriously study what we can get as compounds from the plant.”

He added that there have been meetings with plant geneticists from the IB “to discuss further what we can do. Hopefully, the University will continue to support this program, [and] eventually, to [become] a full-fledged program that we can hold here. We will gladly host it at the CS.”

The book talk and signing event was held on June 7 at the Glass House of the University Hotel and was attended by University and government officials, scientists, and medical doctors, among others.

Attendees of the event. Photo by Jefferson Villacruz, UPDIO