Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search


Helius Secures Major Grant For $2.4m R&D Project

Helius Therapeutics has confirmed it’s the recipient of a substantial grant for its New Zealand-based cultivation, plant breeding and medicines research programme.

The $2.4 million research and development project has been approved for co-funding of up to 28% by New Zealand’s innovation agency, Callaghan Innovation. Supporting innovative and high-performing R&D businesses, the agency has committed to contributing up to nearly $600,000 (excluding GST) to Kiwi-owned Helius Therapeutics over the next three years.

Chief Science Officer at Helius, Dr Jim Polston, says Callaghan Innovation’s co-funding will help Helius advance unique cannabis genetics and develop safe, consistent, and high-quality, novel cannabis medications for clinical trials.

As New Zealand’s largest medicinal cannabis biotechnology company, Helius is currently completing its $20m state-of-the-art GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) facility in East Auckland. It is focused on cannabis cultivation, cannabis oil extraction, advanced cannabinoid research, and medicines manufacturing.

“Healthcare professionals want medicinal cannabis to meet traditional pharmaceutical standards and, to gain regulatory approval, our products will go through extensive clinical trials. Our focus at Helius is to unlock the vast potential of cannabis to develop novel medicines, targeting specific health conditions, which are ideal candidates for clinical trials. Ultimately, that’s what this co-funding will help us deliver,” he says.

He says with an initial focus on treating pain, sleep and neurological disorders, Helius’ breeding programme will allow for the development of a library of unique genetic material, focusing on cultivars with strong potential to treat specific conditions.

As well as creating the highest quality medicinal cannabis for product development, Helius’ R&D work also aims to optimise indoor cultivation conditions. This includes Helius’ New Zealand-exclusive partnership with BioLumic to implement proprietary UV treatments, and creating unique, reproducible cultivation methods.

Dr Polston says compared to other plant-based medicines, cannabis presents unique technical challenges, given there are about 400 different chemical entities in the plant and a universal lack of understanding around which constituents produce certain beneficial effects.

He says creating consistency around the plant and its extracts, and isolating certain constituents, is challenging but paramount to creating standardised cannabis medicines.

“Over the last five decades, cannabis has been selectively bred for high THC content. Too little attention has been placed on breeding the minor phytocannabinoids, of which there are several non-intoxicating varieties with exciting medicinal potential. Isolation and purification of minor cannabinoids has proven difficult but remains incredibly desirable.”

Dr Polston says the creation of a substantial and robust local genetic breeding programme by Helius will help put New Zealand in a unique position to lead the global market in R&D, with the country ideally suited for cost-efficient clinical trials.

Chief Executive of Helius Therapeutics, Paul Manning, says Helius’ medicinal cannabis products will be world leading in their efficaciousness, safely substituting or sparing many conventional pharmaceutical products. Helius is also innovating and developing optimal indoor cultivation methods, completely new to the cannabis industry globally.

“This significant co-funding awarded by Callaghan Innovation will not only help us deliver quality, affordable cannabis medicines to thousands of Kiwi patients, but our R&D, which is happening right here in New Zealand, will be transferrable to many export markets. When we think about reigniting the country’s economy after Covid-19, what better opportunity than highly innovative, ‘New Zealand Made’ medicines development,” says Mr Manning.

Dr Jim Polston says Helius is strongly placed to be a global leader in cannabis technologies, working collaboratively with a range of specialist scientific partners, while complementing and extending international research.

“We are honoured to receive this level of support, and look forward to bringing next-generation cannabis therapies to patients across New Zealand and the world,” he says.

© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Commerce Commission: Warns Genesis Over Business Billing Errors

The Commerce Commission has issued a warning to Genesis Energy Limited about billing errors concerning electricity line charges to business customers. Genesis reported the errors to the Commission. The Commission considers that Genesis is likely to ... More>>

QV: Tax Changes Yet To Dampen Red-Hot Housing Market

Just over a month has passed since the Government announced measures aimed at dampening the rampant growth of the property market, and yet the latest QV House Price Index data shows the market hit a new high in April. The average value increased 8.9% nationally ... More>>

Stats NZ: Consents For New Homes At All-Time High

A record 41,028 new homes have been consented in the year ended March 2021, Stats NZ said today. The previous record for the annual number of new homes consented was 40,025 in the year ended February 1974. “Within 10 years the number of new homes ... More>>

The Conversation: Why Now Would Be A Good Time For The Reserve Bank Of New Zealand To Publish Stress Test Results For Individual Banks

Set against the backdrop of an economy healing from 2020’s annus horribilis , this week’s Financial Stability Report (FSR) from the Reserve Bank (RBNZ) was cautiously reassuring: the country’s financial system is sound, though vulnerabilities remain. More>>

Reserve Bank: Concerned About New Zealand's Rising House Prices

New Zealand house prices have risen significantly in the past 12 months. This has raised concerns at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand – Te Putea Matua about the risk this poses to financial stability. Central banks responded swiftly to the global ... More>>

Westpac: Announces Strong Financial Result

Westpac New Zealand (Westpac NZ) [i] says a strong half-year financial result has been driven by better than expected economic conditions. Chief Executive David McLean said while the global COVID-19 pandemic was far from over, the financial effect on ... More>>