Business Profile: Geoffrey Guy believes his company is close to success
creating a legal drug from an illegal one
Geoffrey Guy has a conviction: possession of cannabis, with intent to
supply. Not a criminal conviction, of course, since Dr Guy is an upstanding
businessman and pillar of the community in Dorset. Just an evangelical
belief that cannabis has an array of medical benefits and that his own
painkiller, developed from the plant, will be available on the National
Health within months.
To benefit web descriptions, webmaster of this site effective Jan. 2004 has started placing authors identification deeper inside body of article.
Subject: MN: UK: Very British Approach To The Business Of Cannabis
Date: Mon, 8 Dec 2003 07:46:22 -0800
From: email@example.com (MAPNews)
Source: Independent (UK)
Copyright: 2003 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
Author: Stephen Foley
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?323 (GW Pharmaceuticals)
He is the G in GW Pharmaceuticals, its founder, executive chairman,
cheerleader-in-chief. He saw that the Home Office was sympathetic to
multiple sclerosis sufferers who had long argued cannabis had medical
benefits, but that outright legalisation was a non-starter. So he asked for
a license to grow the plant and, barely five years later, GW is
tantalisingly close to launching its under-the-tongue spray, called Sativex.
"We represent the manifestation of government policy," he says. "If
disappeared tomorrow the Government would not have a policy. Her Majesty's
Government has taken a very clear view, which is that in Britain we will do
this in a pragmatic, proper way. If it is a medicine, let's prove it to be
a medicine and let that proof be tested by the regulators. And that's where
we stand. It's delightful to be British under this circumstance."
The regulators in question are what Dr Guy describes as the "12 good
scientists and true" of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory
Agency (MHRA). They will rule on whether GW's dossier of trial results,
submitted in March, proves the company can manufacture Sativex
consistently, proves the product is safe, and proves that it really does
relieve the muscle stiffness of MS patients and the pain caused by nerve
damage, as Dr Guy claims. It is a critical test of the quality of GW's
science, but Dr Guy sees it as just the next hurdle after a string of
hurdles already jumped.
"The crucial period was five years ago, getting this programme started.
That was the most important time for these patients. Somebody was listening
to them and finally, at last, the cavalry was on its way. Somebody was
taking them seriously, and was prepared to try to make a medicine out of
this plant. That is stunning. It's so significant in so many different
ways, to actually have a medicine made in response to an unmet need for
patients. These other issues, like cannabis being an entirely illegal
substance around the world, those were just problems we had to overcome,
which we did."
Clearly Dr Guy is never one to sell himself or his company's achievements
short. A doctor by training, his salesman streak developed at medical
school, dealing in cars and his beloved motorbikes. He has a number of
companies behind him already, mostly in the medical arena. Wearing sharp
pinstripes when The Independent dropped in on GW's modest office in
Mayfair, London, he is just at home in a lab coat at the company's Porton
Down science park headquarters in Wiltshire, or at its top-secret cannabis
greenhouse in the South of England. Invitations to that site are few and
far between. The place is "like Fort Knox". Staff are vetted for
convictions and routinely dope tested, and all the plants are individually
labelled. "We have camera systems that can read a badge from 300 yards, and
it's not fuzzy shopping centre stuff."
Dr Guy certainly wouldn't be tempted to snip off a little for himself.
the sake of his health, he has cut out almost all the vices: he is a
non-smoker, a teetotaller and now coffee is out, too, since cup after cup
at business meetings was making him buzz. And, no, he hasn't indulged in
cannabis. Not ever.
"Even up to a few years ago I used to quite naively say there wasn't
cannabis around at medical school. With people happier to talk more freely,
I now understand there probably was in the Seventies, but I didn't see it.
I don't come to this with a connoisseur's understanding of cannabis."
Opinion in the City and in the scientific community is sharply divided
the prospects for GW and its products. The numbers of patients in the
clinical studies have been relatively small and some of the trials did not
prove what they set out to prove, although they do show statistically
significant benefits, and Dr Guy insists the studies are robust.
GW did not raise any money from institutional investors for its float
2001 when its broker Collins Stewart instead tapped wealthy individuals.
But the institutions are coming on board now and GW's progress to date has
helped Dr Guy overcome some of the "reputational damage" he suffered over
his last venture, Ethical Holdings. Another drug company, it failed to
raise vital funds through a listing in London in 1996 and had to be bailed
out by the Irish drugmaker Elan and broken up.
Dr Guy is still sore at the memory, but brushes off people's doubts.
don't lose sleep over it. I'm not a person who seeks high praise from
people I don't know. We had a failed listing in London, which seems to have
coloured most things in London, which is very typical of London, which
looks not very much further than London. Having founded GW, from day one we
have operated entirely to our plan."
If there is a serious setback for Sativex at the MHRA, he won't have
himself any favours by selling UKP5m of shares at the time of GW's UKP20m
fundraising in June this year. Then, the company was still predicting the
drug would be available on prescription this month and the shares were 200p
compared with 177.5p at the end of last week.
None of these niggles will persist if Sativex is okayed, successfully
rolled out overseas, as Dr Guy predicts, and if even a fraction of his
optimism over the prospects for cannabis-based medicines proves correct.
"I think we are going to see 20 years of sensational medicines coming
of this area of research, and we are heavily involved at all stages," he
"You and I learnt at school that cannabis kills brain cells. The entire
opposite is the case. We are highly involved in research looking at
neuro-protection, we're looking at the anti-tumour effects of these
materials, the anti-psychotic effects.
"I still hear people who say GW isn't a serious company. I'd line them
in front of a few of our patients, and see what our patients would say. We
are not long for that judgment. Let's see how we get on."
GEOFFREY GUY: VICE-FREE CHAIRMAN
Position: Chairman of GW Pharmaceuticals
Wealth: Salary and benefits from GW in the year to September 2002 were
UKP199,000, and Dr Guy cashed in UKP5m of his shareholding in June 2003.
His remaining stake is valued at UKP41.5m, putting him at number 801 on the
Sunday Times Rich List
Career: Trained as a doctor at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London before
moving into private sector. Set up Ethical Holdings, making morphine and
hormone replacement therapy drugs, in 1985, leaving a year after it failed
to list in London in 1996. Set up GW in 1998 and floated it in 2001
Interests: Real tennis, yachts, cars and archery
APPROVAL IS KEY FOR CANNABIS DRUGMAKER
Cannabis has been a controlled substance in the UK since 1971, despite
anecdotal evidence of its benefits for those suffering from conditions such
as multiple sclerosis. One in 700 people in the UK suffer from MS and the
market potential for a drug treating the disease's symptoms seems obvious.
However, on Monday, Cannacord Capital initiated coverage of GW
Pharmaceuticals, whose Sativex treatment is the cannabinoid-based MS drug
closest to market, with a "sell" recommendation. A spate of selling duly
resulted, which yesterday sent the stock down 2.6 per cent to 189 1/2p, its
lowest level since April.
Regulatory approval is the key risk. In July's interims, GW suggested
Sativex 's UK approval was likely by December 2003. However, Cannacord
analyst Karl Keegan said approval was not the only factor. "Even if the
drug is approved, the share price also reflects estimated peak sales of
only extend use to a specific group of MS sufferers, limiting potential
profits. Julie Simmonds at Evolution Beeson Gregory added that political
pressure may be necessary to force approval through.
Subject: MN: UK: Approval Is Key For Cannabis Drugmaker
Pubdate: Fri, 28 Nov 2003
Source: Financial Times (UK)
Copyright: The Financial Times Limited 2003
Although giving GW a fair value of 152p, Cannacord said UK approval
raise its target price to 160p, while failure to secure approval could send
the stock plunging to just 36p. "Investors would do better to lock in any
profits now, and await the final approval and label before reassessing,"
was Cannacord's conclusion.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens