Local brothers form cutting edge medical marijuana testing company

A recent conference at Harvard Medical School was the first of its kind.

Doctors and scholars were brought together to figure out if marijuana can be used to treat many different illnesses. At the center of this gathering are three brothers from Woburn who believe marijuana can help people with epilepsy.

“And they are saying we have children who are dying, we have children who are seizing every minute and they can be helped, potentially helped, by using cannabis,” says Brain McKernan.

Brian is the CEO of Courtagen; a genetic testing company he formed with his two brothers.

“There’s a phrase out there, they say it’s impossible for 3 brothers to work together. And I say it’s almost impossible!”  Brian chuckles. “But not quite. We have figured it out.”

Their mission right now is to analyze patient DNA samples to determine a treatment course, and unlock the DNA marijuana.

“These two industries are colliding. And they are both rapid, rapid growth industries . They are probably two of the most high growth industries in our country right now,” says Brian.

His brother Kevin knows DNA. Kevin spent years working with the original crew that mapped the human genome at MIT ten years ago. Now they’re using that breakthrough to focus on genes tied to neurological disorders like epilepsy.

Scientists have mapped the human genome but no one’s mapped marijuana yet. Right now Kevin is exploring marijuana DNA to learn which strains of the plant work best for the treatment.

“We’re just doing fingerprints to get the sense that you have the signature of what these things are” he says, “But we don’t know what all the genes do yet.”

Medical marijuana isn’t appropriate for everyone, but the brothers say it’s made a difference in these young lives.

“There’s clearly no doubt that there are medical benefits to cannabis to certain patients under certain conditions and we need to learn the how, why, when, where, and who.” Brian explains. “And that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Most people think of medical marijuana as something you smoke. But the children getting this experimental treatment for epilepsy take the marijuana as a liquid extract that doesn’t contain the molecules that cause the ‘high’.

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