Genentech has signed a $1bn open-ended drug discovery collaboration with Lodo Therapeutics to discover unique, natural products from the microbial DNA found in soil. With such a high level of investment Genentech’s confidence in Lodo’s metagenome-prospecting platform must be high. But how can novel small molecules identified in soil be harnessed to treat disease? We find out.

Also, we examine the potential of a new drug from GW Pharmaceuticals, which is poised to become the first cannabinoid-based drug to treat seizures in two severe forms of epilepsy and we profile the next generation of antimalarials after the launch of a new programme from Novartis.

Finally, we speak to the International Air Transport Association and Swissport Cargo Services to find out what it takes for freight hubs that prepare pharma products for air transportation to get certified and ask if the FDA’s ‘name and shame’ strategy is a justified way to tackle the issue of companies blocking generic competition.

Eloise McLennan, editor