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In February, Johnson & Johnson’s depression drug esketamine received overwhelming support from an FDA advisory committee, throwing a spotlight on the potential of ketamine in pharma. The drug has been billed as the most exciting antidepressant in decades, but what does esketamine offer, and why is the FDA so sure its benefits outweigh the risks?

Also, we take a look back at the European Medical Association‘s time in the UK as the agency heads to its new home in the Netherlands, examine the state of medical cannabis in the UK, and find out how pharma and biotech industries could benefit from an open-science approach to drug development.

Plus, we explore the potential of an experimental drug developed by researchers in Toronto, which has sparked hopes that a memory loss treatment may be on the horizon, and speak to the team behind RUNLABS, a start-up dedicated to providing laboratory space and accelerator services to new biotech firms.


In this issue

Thumbs up for esketamine sheds light on potential for ketamine
In March, the FDA approved Janssen Pharmaceuticals’ depression drug esketamine, a form of ketamine for use as a treatment for depression. Billed as the most exciting antidepressant in decades, the drug has an entirely new mechanism of action. So what does esketamine offer, and why is the FDA so sure the benefits outweigh the risks? Abi Millar reports.
Read the article here.

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Charting the life and times of the EMA as it leaves London
After 24 years based in London, on March 2019 – as a result of Brexit – the EMA lowered the 28 EU flags outside its Canary Wharf offices and moved its staff to its new base in Amsterdam. Allie Nawrat looks back at the origins of the agency and charts the major events in its more than two decades of history.
Read the article here.

Medical cannabis in the UK: how has the roll out gone so far? 
Medical cannabis was legalised in the UK late last year, but patient access remains a problem, with only a handful of cannabis-based medical products prescribed so far. Abi Millar asks why that is and explores the potential for the UK’s medical cannabis market.
Read the article here.

Drug development: the researchers driving an open-science approach
Researchers at the University of Toronto have launched two pharma start-ups dedicated to pursuing new treatments through an open-science model of drug development. The firms’ strategy encourages accelerated drug discovery and development by forgoing profits and patent protection in favour of public data-sharing and broader collaboration. Chris Lo finds out more.
Read the article here.

The drugs fighting memory loss
Researchers in Toronto have developed an experimental drug that appears to renew the underlying brain impairments causing memory loss, fuelling hopes that a treatment for cognitive decline linked to depression and aging may be on the horizon. Abi Millar takes a look.
Read the article here.

RUNLABS: empowering life science through flexible working environments
To enable researchers to concentrate purely on their work, RUNLABS takes over the other time-consuming tasks required to work in the life sciences. Allie Nawrat talks to CEO Steven Marcus about how a more flexible working environment makes science easier and facilitates collaboration.
Read the article here.


Next issue preview

In the next issue of Pharma Technology Focus, we take a look back at Scott Gottlieb’s tenure as FDA commissioner following his abrupt resignation announcement in March and explore the rise of Dutch tech start-up Pharmaoffer, which has created a digital platform for drugmakers to connect with qualified material suppliers.

Also, we examine whether there is still hope that the GDNF protein could form the basis for an effective Parkinson’s therapy after a major, multi-year trial of the GDNF protein produced disappointing results compared to placebo, and delve into the subject of cannabis related pharmaceuticals to unpick the myth from the real-deal drugs.

Plus, we find out if a protein produced in pregnancy could hold promise as a potential treatment for a range of age-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s and track the growth of antimicrobial resistance through sewage.