GW Pharmaceuticals, the UK-based biotech behind the first cannabis-derived drugs to secure FDA approval, is to invest $100 million in developing a new manufacturing facility in Kent. The investment was described by Chris Tovey, head of Europe and International at U.S. pharmaceuticals company Jazz Pharmaceuticals, which last year agreed to the $7.2 billion takeover of GW as “far and away the largest capital investment in the organisation’s history”.
Construction will begin imminently on the new facility, a 60,000 sq ft factory at the current GW base in the Kent Science Park in Sittingbourne. Jazz said around 100 new “highly skilled” jobs will be created when the facility opens in 2024 and the site will employ a total of 500 staff.
The site will be used to manufacture cannabidiol, the active pharmaceutical ingredient from cannabis used in its drugs, from plants grown commercially at secret locations across the UK. The site will also produce formulated drug products used in GW’s drugs, Sativex, which is used to treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis and Epidiolox, the more recently approved epilepsy treatment. The new facility will increase capacity for the manufacture of both drugs as well as support the manufacture of new medicines the company has in its pipeline.
GW pipeline of cannabinoid medicines include Nabiximols, a mouth spray intended to alleviate neuropathic pain, spasticity, overactive bladder, and other symptoms of multiple sclerosis. The company is also developing earlier-stage drugs it hopes will help tread other neuroscience disorders including autism spectrum disorder.
Founded in 1998 when it became the first drugs company to secure a Home Office license to grow cannabis in the UK for medical research, GW first floated on the AIM sub-market of the London Stock Exchange in 2001. The company was subsequently listed on the Nasdaq in 2013 before being acquired by Jazz last year in a cash and shares deal worth $7.2 billion.
Jazz, which is specialised in neuroscience and oncology and is domiciled in Dublin, is itself listed on the Nasdaq and has a current market capitalisation of around $9.8 billion. Around a 1000 of the company’s 3000 employees are based in the UK across sites in Oxford, Cambridge and London.
It is hoped the investment in further developing GW’s Kent site will help increase group revenues to $5 billion by 2025 from $3 billion last year. George Freeman, the UK minister for science, research and innovation labelled the investment as a
“big sign of confidence in the UK life science ecosystem . . . [and] of UK expertise in cannabinoid science and medicines”.
While the government has a strategy to redevelop the UK’s drugs manufacturing sector, Jazz has not received any financial support for the investment. However, Tovey stressed its support is extremely important and that the company is
“very reliant on government leaning into everything that it says it’s going to do about continuing to create a really rich talent pool for the technical staff that we require on site”.