The first day of March 2013 also marked a first for GW Pharmaceuticals. On that day, the British biopharmaceutical company successfully listed on NASDAQ, raising over USD 30 million. Founded in 1998, UK headquartered GW Pharma is a true pioneer as the company behind Epidiolex, the world’s first prescription medicine derived from the cannabis plant.
Always keen to distance themselves from the more controversial realm of ‘medical marijuana’, Geoffrey Guy, the company’s founder and chairman, has consistently branded GW as a regular pharmaceutical company which happens to use compounds from the cannabis plant. “Our cannabinoid science will lead us to some especially interesting places,” he told PharmaBoardroom in a 2018 interview.
Three years later, and more than two decades after the creation of the company, his prediction has come true.
Last month, it was announced that GW Pharma will be acquired by Jazz Pharmaceuticals through a cash-and-stock deal at a jaw-dropping USD 7.2 billion valuation. It has been reported as the largest to date in the cannabinoid field.
The news comes as cannabis-related products continue to gain approvals around the world. Grand View Research said in a recent study the global legal market for the plant could be worth USD 73.6 billion by 2027.
The deal will allow Jazz to move beyond sleep disorders and cancer treatments by beefing up its neuroscience unit. “GW’s novel cannabinoid platform expands and diversifies Jazz’s growing neuroscience pipeline… 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,” a Jazz representative said.
Jazz Pharmaceuticals is headquartered in Ireland. The company specialises in rare diseases and had revenues of USD 2.3 billion in 2020.
Jazz Chairman and CEO Bruce Cozadd said in an interview that Jazz is getting “a near-term blockbuster product in Epidiolex and a really exciting scientific platform around cannabinoid medicines, with early-to-late-stage clinical programs already in place.” Epidiolex generated over USD 500 million last year and analysts expect sales to breach USD one billion soon.
The GW acquisition is being touted as a major boost to cannabinoid research. “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.