A MEDICINAL cannabis research plant is reported to be on its way to Donegal early next year, along with the creation of over 50 jobs. Pharmaceutical start-up, Greenlight Medicines, said the firm is looking to roll out a new hub in the North West in 2018.
The company already has a headquarters in Dublin but has found a cultivation site in Donegal for growing the material for clinical trials as well as another facility that will be used for extracting compounds from the raw material.
As part of the expansion, the company is expecting to grow its workforce from nine people to 60 within the next 18 months. The company plan to expand further and plan to have 200 people on its payroll within the next three years.
Founded in 2015, Greenlight is a research and development outfit that explores the potential medical use of cannabis and its main elements, which are called cannabinoids. So far, the company has partnered with 13 universities across Ireland, the UK and America to study different therapeutic uses for it including neurology disorders, cancer and inflamatory diseases.
Dr James Linden is the CEO and earned a PhD in biochemistry at Queen’s University Belfast as well as researching Alzheimer’s disease at Trinity College Dublin. He also set up a generic drug company called Eireceutica. The company’s Chief Financial Officer is Patrick Deasy, the former European head of American pharmaceutical company, AAIPharma.
Despite a medicinal cannabis regulation bill being stalled in Government over the last six months, Dr Linden told Fora.ie that the use of plant in Ireland for medicinal purposes is ‘going to happen.’
“The Government’s departments we have worked with thus far have all been very receptive.” he said
He added that Greenlight is compliant with existing regulations and licensing rules and that there are currently no ‘road blocks’ for a commercial operation if the company’s research proves that different elements of the plant have medicinal properties to treat specific conditions.
In addition to revenue made from their €30 bottles of CBD oil, the company received support from a number of Government-backed agencies to help finance its research. Greenlight Medicines have secured some €2.7 million in grant funding, the most recent, €1.4 million, from state funded agency, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), to study the use of cannabinoids on epilepsy. The company have also received funding from the Irish Research Council and Northern Ireland’s Department of Employment and Learning.
The company are currently in talks with the Department of Agriculture to explore the possibility of growing certain strains of outdoor hemp. While hemp is already grown in Ireland to manufacture food products and clothing, Greenlight is interested in the potential for the country to produce strains that hold certain cannabinoids for possible medicinal use.
Dr Linden clearly sees potential in Donegal’s growing abilities as he believes that Ireland could potentially ‘excel at cultivation’ of the plant as the country is ‘good when it comes to horticulture.’
Letterkenny based GP Dr James McDaid said that an ‘awful’ lot of people across Donegal were using benzodiazepines.