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22 June 2021

Meet the Team Interview Series: Dr John Lucas, Chief Executive Officer

Meet the Team Interview Series: Dr John Lucas, Chief Executive Officer

The OCT ‘Meet the Team’ series is intended to give you a snapshot of the people behind the business, providing more of an insight into what we do and why we are so passionate about our work.

With nearly a month having passed since OCT’s float on the London Stock Exchange, we wanted to get some time with the company’s CEO, Dr John Lucas, and provide a bit of an insight into the person leading this newly listed pharmaceutical company, on his career and his motivations.

Interviewer: John - you’re a busy man, so many thanks for your time today.

John: My pleasure, James.

Interviewer: You were promoted from Chief Commercial Officer to Chief Executive Officer in January this year. How has it been settling into this new role, especially while the company has been going through such a major equity transaction and development from a limited company to a plc?

John: “It has definitely been a busy few months and our float on the London Stock Exchange is a testament to the quality of the team and our partners.

Interviewer: I’m interested to hear more about what drew you to OCT, both as a business model and a concept, and also what drove you from a personal perspective?

John: “It’s a combination of factors. I saw the opportunity to develop cannabinoids, in what I would consider, the right way – as licensed prescription medicines. I was drawn by the opportunity to build a company whose mission is to help patients in need. The patients we aim to help are those in pain. I am not talking about the sort of pain that you can relieve with over-the-counter medicines. The indications we are targeting are those where people are really suffering. And that is very motivating.

Interviewer: You obviously feel very passionate about the work that you are doing at OCT. What are your expectations for the potential that OCT has to change people’s lives for the better?

John: “Indeed, we are extremely passionate about our work and motivated by the opportunity to make a meaningful difference to the lives of people in pain. The current pandemic is rightly front and centre, but we should not forget the silent pandemic which is pain. Patient associations are pleading for novel therapeutic approaches because the options for people in life-altering pain are so limited. We have an opioid crisis on our hands because for many, opioids are the only available option. Our job is to make the world a better place by giving people who are suffering their lives back. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Interviewer: In the nearly three years with OCT, you undoubtedly will have seen this company grow significantly, whether it be the series of fundraises, or further development of the drug candidate pipeline. The float in May surely will have opened some doors. What would you say is the company’s next major milestone, now this has happened?

John: “The funds raised by the IPO allows us to do the job we came here to do, and that is a great feeling for all of us. The focus for us now is all about progressing our four drug programs. Our aim is to progress our first two drug programmes through Phase 1 clinical trials by the end of this funding round. We also aim to progress our third program to preclinical stage and a fourth programme from discovery stage to a lead candidate. As I’m sure you’ve gathered, we are quite ambitious, and expect to make great strides in the next 12 to 24 months.”

Interviewer: There has undoubtedly been change in perception and attitude towards cannabinoid-based therapies over the last few years from regulators, media and the public. How would you describe this change?

John: “The public is increasingly more willing to try cannabinoid-based medicines for their pain conditions. The problem currently is the lack of licensed cannabinoid-based medicines. Unlicensed medical cannabis is available in the US and UK, but there are problems. Doctors in the US cannot prescribe medical cannabis unless it is approved by the FDA. They can recommend it although they are very reluctant to do so. In the UK, some specialists can prescribe medical cannabis, in limited situations, but again they are reluctant to do so. In both cases the reluctance is for good reason. Medical cannabis producers shift the burden that would normally be the responsibility of them, the manufacturer, to the physician, and ultimately to the patient. With no oversight from a medicines regulatory agency like the FDA and MHRA, physicians must take on the responsibility that the unapproved product is both safe and effective and produced in a quality and dose-consistent manner. Understandably, most physicians say no. We understand the need for any medicine to undergo the full drug development process ending with license and oversight from a medicines regulatory agency. I recognize that I am at odds with the medical cannabis community in this regard.

Most of us take a few or even several different drug products over the course of a given year. We swallow a pill and don’t give a second thought about whether it’s safe and effective, or that the dose and quality are the same every time. This is because we know there is an agency like the FDA or MHRA with thousands of experts who do that for us. But what if there is not?

So, in case you are not convinced, let me leave you with a question: The next time you take a medicine or administer one to your child or loved one, think about all the rigorous testing and oversight that went to the development of that drug and ask yourself; does that matter?”

I think your answer will explain why OCT is here.

Interviewer: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. It has been great to get to hear your thoughts on developments at OCT, and in the sector more widely, and we look forward to further updates soon.

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