Interview: Arthur Wakeley, MD of Celadon, the first UK company cleared to make medical cannabis

By Liza Laws

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Related tags Cannabis Cannabidiol CBD Cbd CBD and Hemp Regulation

As reported on January 17, Celadon Pharmaceuticals Plc was the first company to clear the regulations in the UK to make medical cannabis.

Its Midlands facility was registered by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MRHA) for the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) of its cannabis​ active pharmaceutical ingredient.  

Arthur Wakeley, managing director of Celadon​, explains why it was so important to the company. 

Was Celadon striving to be the first GMP regulated company – what extra lengths has the company gone to achieve this?

Since medicinal cannabis was legalised in 2018, Celadon has been at the forefront of the sector. Our mission is to help patients and to get the best quality medicines to them – that’s what drives us. We have built an incredible team and raised £20 million ($24 million) in the past two years – this has helped us invest significantly in our indoor hydroponic cultivation, quality controls and manufacturing. I think this makes Celadon pretty unique in the sector.

Where did your initial interest in this THC/high-grade medical cannabis come from?

As a pharmaceutical company, it’s all about the data, clinical trials and efficacy. Seeing how life-changing cannabis-based medicines​ can be for a variety of conditions (e.g. epilepsy, MS, chronic pain) is a huge motivation to develop these medicines and drive forward further R&D. In the UK currently there are 8 million adults with moderate to severely chronic pain – it’s one of the biggest silent epidemics imaginable, and yet these patients are not getting the help or medications that they need. Furthermore, the opioid crisis in the US highlights how flawed existing medications are for chronic pain patients – cannabinoids can be an incredible step forward for millions of patients.

Where are the harvests grown – it mentions seven successful harvest, was there much trial and error?

Unlike many other companies in the world with outdoor or greenhouse cannabis growing, Celadon has taken a fundamentally different approach – we have invested heavily in fully controlled indoor hydroponic cultivation. Every factor (e.g. moisture, gas levels, light intensity) is monitored with precision, and controlled in cycles by a data engine. This enables Celadon to grow the highest quality and consistency product, suitable for a pharmaceutical medicine and GMP-grade Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API). The systems and cultivation process are constantly honed and improved over time, including higher yields than a year ago – but the consistency of the product remains the same.

THC has been known to be controversial, but what are the major health benefits of this medical product?

As with any medicine, safety and efficacy are paramount – and it is no different for THC. Since the 1980s we have progressed R&D significantly into the properties of THC, as well as the human body’s endocannabinoid system. THC has demonstrated efficacy in the management of chronic pain, with numerous studies supporting this, as well as real world evidence from the growth of such medicines in Australia, Germany, Canada and beyond. THC can have various other therapeutic benefits, such as sleep and MS. R&D continues to unlock the huge potential of this cannabinoid.

The company has said it wishes to be a partner of choice for universities and government bodies, how is the developing?  

Since Celadon announced its new GMP certification, there has been a huge inbound of interest from companies, universities and government. These conversations continue to progress at speed. For us as a business, we want to support the growing ecosystem of cannabinoid R&D in the UK – it is vitally important to boost the long-term development of licenced drugs and clinical trials in the UK. 

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