The New Zealand drug company trialling ketamine to treat depression

Business is Boring is a weekly podcast series presented by The Spinoff in association with Callaghan Innovation. Host Simon Pound speaks with innovators and commentators focused on the future of New Zealand. This week he talks to Douglas Pharmaceuticals’ Dr Peter Surman and Simone Hollier.

Did you know that there is a local pharmaceutical company in the second stage of trials to use ketamine to treat depression – and that they’re looking for people to participate in the trial? In this week’s Business is Boring, we meet two of the 800 workers at a very under-the-radar local drug maker. You might be surprised to know New Zealand has a big pharma company, and you could also be forgiven for not knowing at all that it was almost sold off, but in this half hour chat we learn about the history, current work and future plans of Douglas Pharmaceuticals.

Douglas is a family-owned drug giant that since 1967 has grown from a company making generic drugs once they fell out of patent – which is more of a difficult process than it sounds – to researching new uses for previously proven safe drugs. The company turns over upwards of $250m a year, the bulk of that as exports, and was almost sold a few years ago before deciding there was a future here.

Part of that future is bringing new talent on board, and a strong R&D programme led by Dr Peter Surman, the chief scientific officer and a 23-year veteran of the company. Joining Surman is Simone Hollier, the company’s new product portfolio analyst, who joined Douglas through an R&D experience grant available through Callaghan Innovation – a grant that many companies are able to access. We chat about the growth of the company, making pharmaceuticals in New Zealand, and the depression-fighting promise of the potent tranquiliser ketamine.

Either download this episode (right click and save)have a listen below or via Spotify, subscribe through iTunes (RSS feed) or read on for a transcribed excerpt.


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