Helius Therapeutics is the first medicinal cannabis company to have an active ingredient made from locally grown cannabis plants and extracted in New Zealand verified by the Medicinal Cannabis Agency as meeting the quality standard.
“This is another first for Helius and a significant milestone for our industry. Wholly New Zealand grown and made medicinal cannabis products will soon be a reality. It’s exciting for local patients keen to legally access truly Kiwi products which are both high quality and cost-effective,” says Carmen Doran, chief executive of Helius Therapeutics.
The newly verified active ingredient has been developed at Helius’ manufacturing site in East Auckland. Cannabinoids – the active compounds in the cannabis plant – have been extracted from dried flower grown by New Zealand’s largest and only organic certified medicinal cannabis cultivator, Puro.
At the start of this year, Helius signed a multi-million-dollar five-year supply deal with South Island-based Puro. In April, Helius’ licence was then renewed and expanded by the regulator, enabling it to make active ingredients onsite from raw cannabis material.
The New Zealand-made CBD extract will be used in a wide range of different pharmaceutical dosage forms for Kiwi patients first and foremost, with finished products then exported around the world.
Helius was New Zealand’s first medicinal cannabis business to achieve a GMP Licence for Manufacturing Medicines in July 2021, covering the first products to market three months later.
Every New Zealand GP can prescribe medicinal cannabis for any health condition, with Kiwi-manufactured products using imported active ingredients available since October last year.
“More and more Kiwis are getting a doctor’s prescription for medicinal cannabis products that are New Zealand-made. However, the country’s Medicinal Cannabis Scheme also strives for the development and verification of both locally grown and locally made products,” says Ms Doran.
Earlier this month, Helius attended New Zealand’s largest GP conference (GP CME) in Christchurch, with many doctors now looking forward to being able to prescribe 100% New Zealand medicinal cannabis to their patients.
“It’s exciting that New Zealand is getting closer to delivering 100% local cannabis medicines to Kiwi patients. Bringing the supply chain home will also help deliver the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme’s ultimate goals of affordability and accessibility,” she says.
The private Kiwi company’s active ingredient verification, together with its supply deal with Puro, gives Helius the ability and necessary scale to launch premium Kiwi grown and made products overseas. Its exporting strategy puts Germany as a priority market.
Ms Doran notes that the international extraction market is heating up, with the race now on to produce the best products for European consumers. She says manufactured finished products are where it’s at, appealing and reaching more people globally than dried flower.
“New Zealand’s GMP certification is recognised throughout Europe and in many other countries which opens up considerable possibilities for Kiwi companies like ours. New Zealand’s desirable brand internationally, not to mention our clean and green image, will help ensure medicinal cannabis is a major export earner in the coming decades,” says Carmen Doran.