Cannabis, opioids, pizza and prize lectures: a busy year for the Glasgow Pharm Soc!

The Glasgow Pharmacological Society (GPS) has had a busy year hosting some fascinating and inspiring lectures! The GPS is led by students and staff from Glasgow’s three universities: Glasgow Caledonian University, the University of Glasgow and the University of Strathclyde. The aims of the GPS are to promote pharmacology and also to provide a local support network for pharmacologists. All of our lectures are followed by a social event with pizza and drinks. It’s great to hear the buzz of the social events and see so many young (and some not so young!) pharmacologists getting to know one another.

March 23- Prof Gary Stephens: Getting Medicines from Cannabis

On the evening of the 14 March 2023, Professor Gary Stephens presented his lecture entitled ‘Getting Medicines from Cannabis: The Journey from CBD to Epidyolex’ to an enthusiastic audience of over 100. Gary set the scene by telling us about the parent-driven introduction of cannabidiol (CBD) for severe childhood epilepsies.

He told the story of a young girl from the USA, Charlotte Figi, and her parents’ journey to control her Dravet syndrome using CBD plant extracts. This was incredibly successful, and Charlotte’s seizures reduced from 300 per week to 2-3 per month. In the UK, the cases of Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingle, children suffering from severe epilepsy which could be controlled by CBD, made headline news and forced the Home Secretary to issue an emergency licence allowing clinicians to prescribe CBD. Gary showed some data providing preclinical evidence of CBD efficacy in models of epilepsy. He then moved on to outline the clinical trials which led to the approval of Epidyolex in the USA in April 2018 and in Europe in 2019, to treat the rare childhood epilepsies Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. By 2020, more than 35,000 patients in the USA had been treated with Epidyolex. However, currently only three patients in the UK benefit from treatment with Epidyolex on the NHS, with others reliant on private prescriptions.

Gary highlighted exciting new data showing a role for GPR55 in the mechanism of action of CBD, before closing the lecture by describing other potential therapeutic uses of CBD and the need for further randomised controlled trials to assess the efficacy of CBD for these conditions.

November 23- Bill Bowman & Dunlop Prize Lectures

The GPS was incredibly fortunate to be asked to host both the 2023 Bill Bowman and Dunlop Prize lectures, given by Dr Cristina Pérez-Ternero and Dr Emma Magavern, respectively. These were both delivered to a packed and captivated lecture theatre on the evening of 16 November 2023.
First up was Dr Emma Magavern with a lecture entitled ‘Pharmacogenomics in Cardiovascular Medicine: Insights from a British-South Asian cohort’. Emma’s lecture focussed on how we can use genetic knowledge to take a more targeted approach to prescribing medicine to improve benefits and decrease side effects. Emma discussed the use of the anti-platelet medication clopidogrel in treating myocardial infarction in people of South Asian ancestry in London. Clopidogrel is metabolised from prodrug to active metabolite by the enzyme CYP2C19. British-South Asians have a high frequency of loss of function CYP2C19 alleles. Emma presented data showing that those British South Asians who had been treated with clopidogrel for a myocardial infarction, and who were poor metabolisers of clopidogrel, were more likely to have a recurrent myocardial infarction. Emma closed her lecture by discussing the importance of representation of minority groups in clinical trials and the challenges associated with doing this.
Next, Dr Cristina Pérez-Ternero gave her lecture entitled "C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP) beyond the cardiovascular system - role in energy metabolism and liver disease”. Cristina described her discoveries about the extravascular actions of CNP in energy metabolism and liver disease. Cristina showed how CNP plays a key role in regulating energy homeostasis via its two cognate receptors, NPR-B and NPR-C, triggering anti-thermogenic actions via inhibition of local sympathetic drive as a result of an NPR-C/Gi down-regulation and the promotion of adipogenesis via NPR-B activation. She then explored the contribution of CNP to the prevention of non-alcoholic liver steatohepatitis, liver fibrosis and portal hypertension. Using different mouse models, Cristina’s work demonstrates a link between CNP expression and the classical hallmarks of liver damage and portal hypertension, and that administration of the peptide prophylactically or once the disease phenotype has developed, is able to reduce the extent of the damage.

March 24- Prof Graeme Henderson: Opioid Pharmacology: From Molecule to Coffin

We had yet another full house on the evening of 6 March 2024 for Prof Graeme Henderson’s lecture ‘Opioid Pharmacology: From Molecule to Coffin’. Graeme started the lecture by describing the holy grail of analgesics – development of a drug as effective as current opioid analgesics but without the unwanted side effects, particularly respiratory depression. He described both G-protein and β-arrestin signalling through the μ-opioid receptor, and the hypothesis that activation of the G-protein pathway led to analgesic effects while activation of the arrestin pathway led to the unwanted side effects. Interestingly, there is a problem with this theory; activation of the arrestin signalling pathway results in changes in gene expression which requires several hours to manifest itself. However opioid-induced side effects can happen within an hour of taking the drug. The theory that activation of the arrestin pathway led to the unwanted side effects of opioids was later proven wrong and Graeme used this example to emphasise the importance of replicating published results.
Greame moved on to discuss the increased use of synthetic opioids such as fentanyls and nitazenes. He described how these drugs had a high potency, fast rate of onset and lower susceptibility to reversal by naloxone – all of which make them more deadly than morphine or heroin. He showed concentration response curves for morphine, fentanyls and nitazenes all of which showed a parallel shift to the right in the presence of naloxone. However, further Schild analysis revealed that naloxone is not a reversible, competitive antagonist of fentanyls and nitazenes. Graeme proposed the theory that fentanyls and nitazenes can access the μ-opioid receptor via lipophilic fenestration giving them an advantage over naloxone. Graeme finished his lecture by discussing the contribution of lethal interactions between benzodiazepines and opioids in drug overdose deaths in Scotland.

What’s next for the Glasgow Pharm Soc

This has been a busy and successful year; it’s been great fun organising events and meeting lots of new people - we hope for more of the same next year! Some of our organising committee will graduate in the summer so we’ll be recruiting for new members. We are open to ideas for speakers for our annual seminars – suggestions come from students and are voted on by the organising committee. If you have someone you’d like to suggest please e-mail me ( Follow us on X (Twitter) and instagram @GlasgowPharmSoc for info on our next events.
Thanks to the students on the organising committee of the GPS: Zeinab Saade, Scott Reid, Kirsty Tinto, Maia Megase, Karolina Kunnapuu, Dominika Mejger, Catie Thomson and Alexander Stewart for helping to organise and promote our events. The GPS would also like to thank the BPS, the GCU Centre for Health Research, and the University of Strathclyde for funding the above seminars. Last, but certainly not least, we’d liked to thank all our speakers for coming to Glasgow and delivering excellent and thought-provoking talks, and our fantastic audience, who always turn out in large numbers and give our speakers such an enthusiastic welcome.


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Published: 24 Apr 2024
By Yvonne Dempsie

About the author

Yvonne Dempsie

Yvonne Dempsie is a Senior Lecturer and Programme Lead for Pharmacology at Glasgow Caledonian University. Yvonne is a British Pharmacological Society Ambassador and in this role founded the Glasgow Pharmacological Society in 2015. Yvonne is also a member of the British Pharmacological Society Engagement Committee.
This article was co-authored by members of the Glasgow Pharmacological Society organising committee: Dr Nicholas Klemm, Dr Kenneth Watterson and Dr Charles Kennedy
Twitter handles @GlasgowPharmSoc @YvonneDempsie @GCU_Bio @SIPBS_Strath @UofGLifeSci

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