MIAMI – As cannabis legalization sweeps the U.S., the Federal Drug Administration has recognized the potential of cannabis components, including cannabinoids, in developing therapies and consumer products to treat health conditions. A recent private-public collaboration between SunFlora, Inc., and the Athletic Training Department at the Florida International University (FIU) Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences is exploring that potential through the newly formed SunMed Cannabinoid Research Initiative Fund.
Based out of Palmetto, Florida, SunFlora sells proprietary formulated cannabidiol (CBD) products through its SunMed brand for general wellness purposes. CBD, the non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants, is used in many forms, including oils, extracts, capsules, patches, and topical preparations, to ease symptoms of several health issues. The company made a gift of $338,000 to support FIU Doctor of Athletic Training (DAT) students and faculty mentors in conducting research on some of its CBD products and other alternative interventions of patient care.
“The CBD industry relies on anecdotal accounts to extoll the benefits of these plant-based products rather than clinical evidence proving so,” said SunFlora Chief Science Officer Anthony Ferrari, Ph.D. “Partnering with FIU Athletic Training to provide third-party, independent exploration of our products represents the first deliberate deep dive into the efficacy of cannabinoid product applications for health management, which should elevate cannabinoid science and credibility for the entire industry.”
The FIU research team is led by Jeff Konin, Ph.D., ATC, PT, clinical professor and director of the FIU Doctor of Athletic Training program. Konin, whose clinical experiences have included serving at the United States Olympic Training Centers and on the medical staff for the 1996 Olympic Games, is a highly regarded speaker and proponent of cannabis research and education for health care providers. Konin also serves as the chair of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s Cannabis-Related Resources Task Force.
Konin directs the newly established Global Initiative for Cannabinoid Research and Education at FIU. The initiative is committed to high-quality education, contemporary and evidence-based research, creative activity and collaborative engagement with local and global communities. The vision is to produce meaningful cannabinoid-focused research and educational resources that lead transformative innovations locally and globally.
The focus of the SunMed research will be on the effectiveness of SunMed cannabinoid products to manage conditions in the areas of pain, inflammation, anxiety and sleep. The research team will follow a test group of demographically diverse athlete patients to also examine the short- and long-term impacts of continued use.
According to Konin, sports medicine has traditionally been an early adopter of evidence-based research and practice for new treatments in acute care, rehabilitation and recovery, and injury prevention that eventually translates to general public use.
“Our team will follow the science behind the nature of cannabinoids to integrate them into treatment protocols that can help individuals of any patient population safely, effectively and with scientifically proven confidence,” he said.
Under Konin’s supervision, seven FIU DAT students will take part in cannabinoid training, meet Institutional Review Board requirements, and all other programmatic and capstone related expectations of sponsored research and the degree program for the next two years. FIU’s Doctor of Athletic Training program is one of only eight in the country and the only one leading the way in cannabinoid research.
“Our team is excited to embark on this groundbreaking work that should help destigmatize the role of cannabis in health education and practice circles,” Konin said. “Together, SunFlora and FIU Athletic Training will be the cornerstone of certified CBD research that will set the standards for evidenced-based applications to move plant medicine forward for better patient health and well-being.”
About the FIU Nicole Wertheim College Nursing & Health Sciences
Established in 1982, the School of Nursing at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, Florida was elevated to the College of Nursing and Health Sciences when it joined with the School of Health Sciences in October 2006. It was renamed as the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences in September 2013. The College offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees, as well as specialty certificates in programs across the departments of Nursing education, Athletic Training, Communication Sciences & Disorders, Health Services Administration, Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy. Program that are ranked among top public universities in the latest Best Graduate Schools listings from U.S. News and World Reports including the Doctor of Nursing Practice (No. 27), Master of Science in Nursing (No. 33), Nurse Anesthetist (No. 38) and Occupational Therapy (No. 43). For more information, visit cnhs.fiu.edu.
High research (R1) activity and high social mobility come together at FIU to uplift and accelerate learner success in a global city by focusing in the areas of environment, health, innovation, and justice. Today, FIU has two campuses and multiple centers.
FIU serves a diverse student body of more than 58,000 and 270,000 Panther alumni. U.S. News and World Report places dozens of FIU programs among the best in the nation, including international business at No. 2. Washington Monthly Magazine ranks FIU among the top 20 public universities contributing to the public good.