Cannabis drug developer GW Pharma cancels London stock market listing

UK biotech firm is close to achieving approval for a new drug to treat childhood epilepsy

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The Independent Online

A UK drug company specialising in cannabis-based medicines has ditched its stock market listing in London in favour of trading exclusively on New York’s Nasdaq, but claims it will keep its headquarters in Cambridge.

GW Pharmaceuticals, one of the UK’s most promising biotech firms, is close to achieving approval for a new drug to treat Dravet Syndrome, a severe form of childhood epilepsy. 

The new drug which is derived from cannabis and known as Epidiolex has helped GW almost double in value this year to £2.55 billion. Though Dravet syndrome is extremely rare, Goldman Sachs last week highlighted that the new drug will have “widespread off-label uses” and upgraded its recommendation to “buy”.

Epidiolex’s active ingredient, CBD, occurs naturally in the cannabis plant and is not psychoactive. It is known to reduce inflammation, suppress seizures, combat psychosis, anxiety and depression, though scientific studies on humans are rare, in part because of draconian laws preventing research into cannabis. 

CBD had been freely available until its sale was banned by UK health authorities this month, a move that campaigners have warned will prevent people accessing life-changing treatment for their children.

Cambridge-based GW says it will retain its 420 UK employees and look to expand its team here. 

“The time is right to reduce the complexity and expense of a dual listing [in both London and New York]” chief executive Juston Gover said.

“We remain firmly committed to bringing important products to the global market, products that are both researched and manufactured in the UK,” Mr Gover added.

The de-listing comes at as the Brexit vote causes uncertainty for UK drug companies, with the London-based European Medicines Agency, which approves treatments in the EU, likely to move elsewhere on the Continent.