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Cannabis biotech start-up Helius attracts major investors

Cannabis biotech start-up Helius attracts major local investors, moves into new Auckland facility

Local medicinal cannabis company, Helius Therapeutics, opened its wholesale capital raise earlier this year to an enthusiastic response from investors. Now the company has the backing of kiwi rich-lister, Guy Haddleton, and this month has moved into its new 8,800sqm facility in East Tamaki.

Major investors back medicinal cannabis with stake in Helius

Cannabis-focused biotechnology company, Helius Therapeutics, announced today it has completed its $15m capital raise and is now backed by a small group of New Zealand investors, led by tech entrepreneur, Guy Haddleton.

Haddleton says "Helius Therapeutics has all the features we seek in a high-potential investment. The company has a clear and large vision, extraordinary talent and deep go-to-market experience. More importantly, Helius will improve significantly the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders”.

One of just a few New Zealanders with experience in scaling a start-up into a billion dollar business, Haddleton has achieved this more than once. Firstly with his own start-ups Adaytum and Anaplan, as well as Xero, which he helped to guide through its Initial Public Offering (IPO) as an independent director.

Haddleton believes that Helius has the potential to become a substantial business from New Zealand. He will join the high-tech medicinal cannabis company as its Chairman, alongside the company’s co-founders, local entrepreneurs, Paul Manning, Gavin Pook and JP Schmidt.

“As founders, we are thrilled to have Guy on the Helius team. This is about so much more than financial resources. We now have a leader on our board who knows how to build a billion dollar company; someone who believes in us, and in the benefit we will bring to New Zealand”, says Helius Executive Director, Paul Manning.

Formerly a senior officer of the New Zealand SAS, Haddleton’s foray into entrepreneurship came in 1990 with an enterprise software start-up, Adaytum, which he sold to competitor IBM Cognos in 2003 for US$160 million. He was an early investor in Xero and co-founder of software giant, Anaplan. After many years in the United States, the accomplished tech entrepreneur has returned to live in New Zealand, and is now working with Helius to help the company achieve global success.

New facility in Auckland

This week Helius is moving into its new, integrated facility; a contemporary industrial building located at in East Tamaki, Auckland. It will be valued at $50m on completion (2019).

Helius will operate the country’s first fully-integrated, GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) cannabis production site. The facility’s design is unique in New Zealand, being a large-scale, indoor, integrated cannabis therapeutics producer, the likes of which are rarely seen outside of North America.

“We are developing a state-of-the-art facility here in Auckland, with indoor controlled growing systems, integrated extraction site, an advanced cannabinoid research laboratory, manufacturing operations and management offices, under one roof” say Mr Manning.

The hydroponic cultivation area will span an initial 6,000sqm with the ability to expand up to 20,000sqm within the site, making it one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. At capacity the site can manage around 140,000 plants, producing 50 tons of medicinal cannabis product. The facility is capable of producing around $700m in cannabinoid therapeutics per annum.

Helius has already developed 1,200sqm of laboratories on site. A commercial-grade cannabinoid extraction and manufacturing facility is adjacent, where staff will draw oil from the cannabis plants.

The Helius facility even has a 200-seat auditorium, which will be used primarily for training of medical practitioners, tertiary students, staff and those looking to work in the industry. It also has its own café and recreation facilities for staff onsite. Helius estimated it will employ 120 staff at this East Tamaki facility upon completion.

“Helius chose a secure indoor site over growing outdoors for the purpose of control. We’re a biotechnology company, cultivating cannabis initially for research purposes, and ultimately to produce world-class therapeutics from New Zealand. This site allows for precision cultivation, medical-grade integrated production and high security”, says Manning.

Plant material is expected to arrive in the new year, imported from North America.

Manning says, “Helius exists to improve quality of life through medicinal cannabis therapeutics. By developing this large-scale facility, we can serve domestic patients and have the capacity for export to the global marketplace. This scale will allow Helius to make high quality products that are affordable for New Zealand patients”.

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