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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Budding Opportunities for Pharma




Since Neolithic times, the cannabis genus of plants has been cultivated by humans as a result of its unique physical and pharmacological properties. Dating back to around 500 BC, cannabis was initially grown by ancient Asian civilisations, and over time, spread to Europe, Africa, and eventually the Americas. The cannabis, or ‘hemp’, plant was first produced in Britain around the 10th century AD, where it was mainly used in ropes, fishing nets, and canvases because of its robust natural fibres. The demand for the material became so important in Britain that Henry VIII mandated the cultivation of hemp by landowners.

While working for the British East India Company in Bengal, William Brooke O’Shaughnessy began studying the medical benefits of cannabis. It was this research that kick-started Western medicine’s interest in the cannabis plant in the 19th century. O’Shaughnessy’s research suggested that cannabis had the ability to effectively treat rheumatic pain, convulsions, and muscular spasticity; as a result, it became an extensively used remedy for these conditions. Centuries later, cannabis was used in many applications and was widely accepted across Western society. However, public opinion changed during the 19th century, leading to the current restrictions enforced by most countries across the globe today.

There are hundreds of naturally occurring cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. The most famous of these is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which, when ingested by humans, has a psychoactive effect. There is also a relatively high concentration of cannabidiol (CBD) in the plant, which is not psychoactive.

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Callum McGuinn is a Senior Associate and European Patent Attorney at leading IP firm Mewburn Ellis. He has particular experience in the industrial chemistry and pharmaceuticals sectors, with expertise in a range of areas including catalysis, batteries, polymers, antibody-drug conjugates, and small molecule antibiotics. Callum’s work at Mewburn Ellis encompasses drafting, worldwide patent prosecution, oppositions, appeals before the EPO, and providing advice to clients regarding their freedom to operate. Callum has a Master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Oxford, UK. This included a year of research within Physical Chemistry, focusing on spectroscopic and computational studies of small gas-phase transition metal clusters.
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Callum McGuinn
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