Project: Development of new combined analytical methods to detect and quantify SPICE compounds and designer drugs

Project goal _x000D_The aim of the QUANTUM SPICE project is to develop more accurate, faster and cheaper methods for the detection and quantification of so-called Spice compounds and new designer drugs, both in marketable products and resultant from consumption. To overcome current state-of-the-art limitations, the technical point of departure to achieve the CO goal of the project is the development of new isotope 13C-labelled reference materials of SPICE designer drugs (synthetic cannabinoids) for forensic laboratory analysis, which will further work as enablers for the development of an immunoassay-based point-of-care testing (POCT) device for the rapid detection of these drugs’ metabolites in urine. These goals are reflected in the work plan defined for the project and in the knowledge and competences gathered in the consortium._x000D__x000D_Background_x000D_ A new generation of synthetic cannabinoids has recently emerged on the market. These are sold on the Internet and “head shops” as herbal mixtures under the brand names of Spice, Spice Gold, Spice Diamond, etc., and advertised as incense products, meditation potpourris, bath additives, or air fresheners. The Spice products have a similar effect as other naturally occurring compounds like opiates, cocaine and cannabinoids and other synthetic pharmaceuticals such as amphetamines. They appeared on websites around 2004, and soon became popular in several European countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain and worldwide, currently representing the emergence of “designer cannabinoids” - chemical analogues of illegal abused substances, usually devised to circumvent laws. The production and distribution of these new substances is an international business apparently out of control, which has an enormous negative societal impact. Moreover, with a few exceptions, the products can be legally traded and used. Authorities in several countries have passed bans on some of these compounds and are seeking to introduce new legal acts in order to prevent such trading and use1 but they lack the tools for efficient monitoring of the large number of new compounds constantly emerging. There is, therefore, a major societal interest in effective detection methods – and a large and unexploited market potential exceeding 50 million EUR in the successful development and commercialisation of such methods. _x000D__x000D__x000D_Technical and market applications_x000D_In forensic toxicology analysis, cases are often taken to court and consequently there is a high demand for reliable and irrefutable proofs. Application of state-of-the-art analytical methodology is required in such cases, and using reliable internal standards (IS) based on isotope labelling is likely the only way to present trustworthy quantitative analytical results with the current technology. However, detection of designer drugs reCOs a challenge due to the fast growing number of new compounds. As bans on speci¿c compounds go into e¿ect, manufacturers rapidly substitute closely related analogues for the newly banned substances, creating a constantly moving analytical target1. This makes it difficult to adapt analysis methods to encompass all these compounds as their specific metabolisms are still unknown. Moreover, the fact that there are no pure reference materials for most of these compounds makes this a challenging task2._x000D__x000D_Drugs screening can also be performed out of central labs using POCT, with the advantage of immediate results and convenience of having diagnostic tests performed near patients3. Whereas laboratory results can take hours to process, POCT results are quickly obtained for an initial diagnosis and, ultimately, to begin a prompt effective treatment – avoiding potential adverse complications and costly consequences. Confirmation of results is subsequently performed with higher sensitivity methods, e.g. GC and MS2. Still, currently there are no POCT testing devices on the market able to screen SPICE designer drugs’ metabolites in urine samples. Reports of the EMCDDA show that every year an increasing amount of these substances enter the market – thus, there is a great need for rapid tests which allow immediate onsite testing._x000D__x000D_Consortium_x000D_The consortium consists of two research–based SMEs, which together hold the knowledge and extensive experience needed to achieve the project objectives. Chiron will address the indispensable need for synthesis of new certified reference materials (CRMs), to generate the necessary compounds for the development of specific antibodies for POCT. Nal von Minden has the know-how and resources to work on the development of the new POCT devices. Furthermore, both companies will be jointly validating results obtained by cross analysis of gold-standards to arrive at a cost–efficient, accurate and marketable solution._x000D__x000D__x000D_Refs:_x000D_1. Grabenauer, M. et al., Anal. Chem. 2012, 84, 5574-5581_x000D_2. Synthetic cannabinoids in herbal products, UNODC Report, 2011_x000D_3. U.S. Point-of-care Testing Markets, Frost & Sullivan, 2006

Acronym QUANTUM SPICE (Reference Number: 7984)
Duration 01/06/2013 - 31/05/2016
Project Topic The aim of QUANTUM SPICE is to develop more accurate, faster and cheaper methods for quantification of SPICE and designer drug compounds. It combines complementary analytical methods for the development of new 13C labeled standards and PoC testing devices for the detection of such compounds.
Network Eurostars
Call Eurostars Cut-Off 9

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
2 nal von Minden GmbH Partner Germany
2 Chiron AS Coordinator Norway