Across the globe, the GW acquisition and the touted creation of a new biopharma leader is good news for countless patients who could benefit from the medical properties of cannabis.
Since naturally occurring substances cannot be patented, though, much of the competition centers on extraction and processing techniques.
Executives from several other cannabis biotechs emphasized the importance of the acquisition and the similarities of their own business approaches to those of GW.
“GW Pharmaceuticals has been at the forefront of researching how cannabinoids can fight cancer. This influx of resources will hopefully support and accelerate their research so patients can have access to effective treatments more quickly,” said Justin Kander of The Cannabis for Cancer Declaration initiative.
“GW’s novel cannabinoid platform expands and diversifies Jazz’s growing neuroscience pipeline,” a company representative told me. “The collective Jazz and GW teams bring highly complementary expertise to a pro forma pipeline of 19 clinical development programs across neuroscience and oncology, including in sleep, epilepsy, movement disorders, psychiatry, hematology, and solid tumors.”
“Pharma doesn’t care about growing plants, what they care about specifically is standardized molecules and products that can be taken to market,” said Pedersen.
GW made history in 2018 when the FDA approved Epidiolex (known as Epidyolex in the EU) as a treatment for two severe forms of epilepsy. The treatment is an oral solution of cannabidiol (CBD), the major non-psychoactive ingredient of cannabis.
With ever broader applications of medical cannabis products being researched and an increasing number of countries loosening their drug laws in recent years, that trend is expected to spread to medical cannabinoids. Last year, for example, the UK reduced controls on GW’s lead drug to make it easier for patients to obtain.
“GW was a trailblazer in plant-based cannabinoid pharmacology,” Willow’s CEO, Trevor Peters, told me. “We are well suited to manufacture both major and minor plant-based cannabinoids for the pharmaceutical market, given the extremely high purity we can produce at today, and the fact that regulatory bodies are favorably disposed to biosynthesis as a method of manufacturing.”
The takeover could unlock a fortune for tycoon Geoffrey Guy, GW’s founder and chairman – nicknamed Doctor Pot – whose stake is now thought to be worth around $90 million (£65million).
Jazz, headquartered in Dublin with offices in Oxford and California, said the deal would help bolster its neuroscience unit which generated more than three-quarters of its $600 million sales in the third quarter.
Steve Bates, CEO of the BioIndustry Association said: “GW Pharma is a great example of a fantastic UK life sciences business that British entrepreneurs have built in our ecosystem.
It is used in patients with Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, rare childhood-onset forms of epilepsy among the most resistant to treatment.