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Carmen Doran, CEO of Helius Therapeutics

"The interest and curiosity from healthcare practitioners is growing"

Even though the cannabis industry is booming all around the world, there has been some resistance from the physicians’ side. Yet, this too has been experiencing an upward trend. “The interest and curiosity from healthcare practitioners is growing,” says Carmen Doran, CEO of Helius Therapeutics - New Zealand’s largest licensed medical cannabis company. “We get a lot of questions from both patients and prescribers, who want to know about medicinal cannabis. But the impressive thing is that patients are bringing it up with their doctors, who conversely start diving deeper into it.” That is why Helius Therapeutics has been focusing so much on collaboration and sharing knowledge.

Carmen Doran, CEO of Helius Therapeutics

Knowledge sharing
“We sponsor the annual MedCan industry summit and participate in doctor and pharmacy conferences. Doing these kinds of things is extremely important as we are providing platforms where practitioners can get the information they’re after,” explains Carmen. Of course, spreading knowledge is just a part of Helius Therapeutics mission. “At Helius, we grow our medicinal cannabis in a state-of-the-art, integrated facility with significant indoor controlled cultivation space, where we can control very tightly all those parameters to ensure we get that consistency that is crucial for patients.” Helius’ commitment to consistency and high-quality cannabis medicines of has been further acknowledged by New Zealand’s Ministry of Health. In July it issued the private company with the industry’s first GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) License to Manufacture Medicines. “We are delighted to be the very first New Zealand medicinal cannabis company to get the green light to manufacture Kiwi-made medicines. The approval also means we meet European standards. The NZ-GMP is mutually recognized, with EU-GMP recognition opening up considerable export possibilities,” Carmen points out. “This is a milestone for the entire NZ cannabis industry, as we can bring the highest quality NZ products to different markets as early as 2022.”

Getting an MMJ cultivation license in NZ
Getting to this point has been extremely challenging, with several complex steps that Helius had to take. “In NZ, we have to follow three steps: you need to build your facility, obtain a medicinal cannabis license, and eventually apply for the GMP license,” she explains. “What is exciting about the NZ industry is taking a highly valuable crop and putting that together with technology. In New Zealand, we are proud of our innovation, and we have great support from the government that supports R&D here.” And Helius indeed focuses a lot on R&D. “We have a license for over 40 cultivars, which are part of our R&D program. The collaboration mindset is the key of NZ cannabis industry, and that holds true for Helius as well.”

Focusing on consistency and export is key for any New Zealand medical cannabis company. “We have a rich agricultural history here,” says Carmen. “That has made the New Zealand-grown brand particularly valuable, as customers have shown willingness to spend more for a quality product. The same thing applies to medicinal cannabis; New Zealand is not a huge country, so to ensure success we must focus on quality, not quantity. This means that patients around the world can rely on New Zealand-grown medicinal cannabis being to the highest standards.”

New Zealand-grown cannabis 
Exporting New Zealand-grown cannabis is a huge opportunity for Helius. “We are not only the country’s largest, but we’ve pulled together an outstanding internationally-experienced senior team,” she says. “We will continue ramping up our facility and investing in our R&D. Thanks to the latter, we will see novel medicines coming to the market, expanding the patient base. At the same time, it is really interesting to see how the whole animal health sector will shape itself. We have seen that there’s a market for that in New Zealand, and through our sister company, Hale Animal Health, we are planning to export products for companion animals well. All the mammals have an endocannabinoid system, pets are not excluded; our mission at Helius is to unlock the potential of cannabis in the most inclusive way possible.”

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