New Zealand medical cannabis company Helius Therapeutics is partnering with Auckland University of Technology (AUT) on research and development of medicines.
The Auckland-based company has brought three AUT PhD students into its fold, who will be working on creating the next generation of medical cannabis products.
“Our vision is to develop novel and efficacious medicines. However, to successfully compete on the world stage, we need to be a leader in the R&D space, particularly in medical innovation,” said Helius Therapeutics CEO Carmen Doran. “Our work with AUT will lift our new industry’s R&D capability and inevitably deliver some world firsts.”
Just on the topic of firsts, it’s expected eagerly anticipated New Zealand-made products will be available locally towards the end of this year – currently, medicines need to be imported. Which company/ies will be the first to get products on shelves remains to be seen.
The AUT PhD students’ work with Helius Therapeutics will include developing new extraction techniques for cannabinoids and terpenes, creating forms of medicinal cannabis doctors and patients are more familiar with, and improving absorption and efficacy of cannabis medicines while reducing side effects.
While cannabinoids tend to steal the limelight, terpenes are increasingly getting attention. Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in many plants that give them their fragrance (or stink) – and cannabis is particularly high in terpenes. But there is more to these chemicals than just smell.
AUT’s Associate Professor Ali Seyfoddin says some have been found to have therapeutic actions and when combined with cannabinoids could have enhanced pharmacological effects. This is known as the “entourage effect”.
In other recent news from Helius, last month the company gained the green light to manufacture locally-made medicines for patients after receiving GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) certification from NZ’s Ministry of Health.
The company has an 8,800sqm facility in Auckland incorporating indoor cultivation, analytics, research, manufacturing, logistics, management and bonded distribution.
AUT has a significant background in cannabis research and was the first university in New Zealand to offer a comprehensive postgraduate course on medicinal cannabis.