One of New Zealand’s largest medicinal cannabis companies, Helius Therapeutics, has secured an all-new commercial Medicinal Cannabis Licence to cultivate and process active cannabis ingredients.
The licence has been granted by the Ministry of Health’s new Medicinal Cannabis Agency under the new scheme which took effect in April 2020.
“This is the strongest indication yet that patients can expect high quality, affordable, certified New Zealand Grown cannabis medicines as soon as early next year. Helius is in a commanding position, with a truly world-class team and now the commercial licence to bring our products together with prescribers and their patients,” says Paul Manning, Chief Executive of Helius Therapeutics.
The new Medicinal Cannabis Licence applies to the company’s 8,800sqm state-of-the-art medicinal cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facility in East Tamaki, Auckland. "Helius’ cannabis production facility is one of the largest and most contemporary in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s also one of the first new medicines manufacturing facilities to be built in New Zealand over the last decade," they explain.
The licence allows Helius to cultivate an unlimited number of cannabis plants, including high THC and CBD cultivars, along with a number of proprietary varietals yielding valuable minor cannabinoids, at its Auckland site.
“As the first major cannabis player to gain such a licence at scale, this is a significant milestone for the country’s sunrise medicinal cannabis industry. We will now shift gears from two years of research and development towards commercial production, bringing locally grown and manufactured cannabis medicines to both domestic and export markets,” he says.
Helius has remained a leading force in the country’s emerging cannabis industry, having previously held one of the first cannabis cultivation licences for research purposes, granted in 2018. Helius was also the first cannabis company in the world to become certified New Zealand Grown through Buy New Zealand Made.
“As a biotech company, our cannabinoid research will only strengthen. Helius exists to unlock the extraordinary potential of cannabis to improve quality of life and so we’re utterly dedicated to product innovation. Every step demands precision control, accountability, consistency and passion for quality. Establishing a medicines production facility is a complex business – it has taken substantial investment and years of hard work to reach this milestone,” says Mr Manning.
Over the last two years the company has secured $35m in funding from local investors and achieved a market capitalisation of $105m. This has allowed the team to invest heavily in research, top scientific and pharmaceutical talent and develop a string of exclusive technology agreements in the field of drug manufacturing and delivery. Earlier this year the company also received a grant from Callaghan Innovation to support $2.4m in new R&D.
“We've committed significant resources to local clinical studies. Our aim at Helius is to develop some of the world’s most advanced, efficacious cannabis medicines – and to do so from New Zealand. This country has the potential to become the next big player in the global medicinal cannabis market. Given the impacts of Covid-19, our industry is poised to play an important role in the nation’s economic recovery,” says Dr Jim Polston, Chief Science Officer at Helius.
“Gaining a commercial cannabis licence is no small endeavour. This represents tens of millions of dollars in investment and countless hours of work from our team across cultivation, research, quality, operations, and security. I’m so proud of our crew – this is their win, and a win for our future patients,” says Mr Manning.
Paul Manning also acknowledges the new Medicinal Cannabis Agency, with almost no delays around their licence processing, despite the significant impact Covid-19 has had on the Health Ministry. He says the company will now go on to complete its Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification.
The global market for medicinal cannabis is forecast to reach $55b by 2025. Helius already has distribution arrangements in New Zealand and is experiencing strong demand for its New Zealand made products from distributors in Australia, Asia and Europe.
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