The UK has the potential to become a world leader in drugs derived from the cannabis plant, according to a leading biotech firm.
GW Pharmaceuticals chief executive, Justin Gover, told the Telegraph that the company is rapidly expanding its processing operations and hopes to get regulatory clearance for a new cannabis-derived drug in 2018.
GW, based in Porton Down, developed the only UK-legal cannabis-derived drug back in 2010. Known as Sativex, it is used to treat patients suffering from multiple sclerosis.
Further investment in the company’s operations in the South-East will see GW’s capacity to manufacture their drugs expanded by three times over the next three years. Roughly £30m will be spent in the process.
Last week the company also reported that trials of new cannabis-derived molecules for treating glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive form of brain tumour, had been a success. Median survival increased to 550 days, as opposed to 360 days in the patients using the placebo drug.
The firm quit the Alternative Investments Market (AIM) last year, and now solely trades on the Nasdaq composite index. Its share price has more than doubled over the last year.
Trials of the company’s new drug, known as Epidiolex, has shown positive results for children suffering from potentially deadly forms of epilepsy such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
Regulatory approval for Epidiolex is being sought in the United States and Europe, with regulators from the States expected to start reviewing the drug in mid-2017.
On Friday, Ireland’s Health Products Regulatory Authority announced that the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes would be allowed for specific medical purposes. The recreational use of cannabis remains illegal in the UK.