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AUT and Helius partner on medicinal cannabis products

Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and Helius Therapeutics have partnered on the research and development of advanced medicinal cannabis products.

Auckland-based Helius, which focuses on phytocannabinoid research, has taken on three AUT PhD students to work on the next-generation of cannabis therapeutics.

Following the introduction of the medicinal cannabis scheme in April last year, New Zealand’s fledgling medicinal cannabis industry has been focused on local manufacture of medicines, which to date, are only available from overseas.

New Zealand-made products are expected to come to market towards the end of this year and will give New Zealand patients a welcome alternative to overseas and expensive products currently available.

Recently, Helius became New Zealand’s first medicinal cannabis business to gain a GMP (good manufacturing practice) Licence to Manufacture Medicines from the Ministry of Health.

Looking to the future, it is setting up an R&D pipeline for advanced products based on research being done in collaboration with AUT.

“Our vision is to develop novel and efficacious medicines. However, to successfully compete on the world stage, we need to be a leader in the R&D space, particularly in medical innovation. Our work with AUT will lift our new industry’s R&D capability and inevitably deliver some world firsts,” says Carmen Doran, Chief Executive of Helius Therapeutics.

AUT’s medicinal cannabis expert, Associate Professor Ali Seyfoddin says, AUT’s collaboration with Helius includes developing new extraction techniques for cannabinoids (the chemical compound in the plant which has a therapeutic effect) and terpenes. There is also research on formulating forms of medicinal cannabis which doctors and patients are more familiar with, than the currently available edibles and sprays, as well as improving absorption and efficacy of cannabis medicines while reducing side effects.

“Some of the research will focus on terpenes, a separate compound found in the cannabis plant which has been found to have additional therapeutical effects and which when combined with cannabinoids could have an enhanced pharmacological effect, known as the ‘entourage effect.”

He says these new compounds will be able to provide patients with better targeted medicines that more effectively treat patient conditions such as chronic pain, nausea, and epilepsy.

"It’s exciting and encouraging for AUT students to work with Helius on projects that add to New Zealand’s development of intellectual property.”

Dr Seyfoddin teaches AUT’s standalone, postgraduate course, Introduction to Medicinal Cannabis. Some of the students who completed this course are now among research students working in his lab and some are already working in various sectors of the upcoming medicinal cannabis industry.

Helius Therapeutics obtained Callaghan Student Fellowship Scholarships for two of the PhDs, and the third is funded by an AUT Vice Chancellor’s Doctoral Scholarship with the support of Helius.

Associate Professor Ali Seyfoddin
Associate Professor Ali Seyfoddin, Associate Professor in Drug Delivery and Biological Engineering at AUT, is a pharmacist by training. He leads AUT’s Drug Delivery Research Group, and his research interests extend from 3D printed living drug delivery systems to encapsulated colloidal careers for various pharma and agricultural applications. He also leads country's only postgraduate course on medicinal cannabis at AUT and a wide array of research on cultivation, processing, extraction and formulation of medicinal cannabis products and has been a voice for cannabis law reform in New Zealand.

Auckland University of Technology
Auckland University of Technology (AUT) is proud to be one of the world’s best modern universities offering exceptional learning experiences that prepare students to be successful wherever in the world their career may take them. Across all of programmes, AUT encourages innovation and entrepreneurship, and the ability to explore new technologies, challenge routine thinking and solve problems in new ways. As a contemporary university AUT places an emphasis on working across disciplines in research and teaching and learning. AUT is connected to an extraordinary range of organisations worldwide, sharing expertise and resources, collaborating on groundbreaking research, and connecting students with industry leaders and employers. AUT leads Australasia in global research impact and has more than 60 research centres and institutes delivering leading research – from artificial intelligence to robotics, and ecology to public health.

Helius Therapeutics
Helius Therapeutics is a GMP certified biotechnology company focused on medicinal cannabis research and development. It has designed and built a state-of-the-art facility in Auckland with controlled growing systems, integrated extraction site, advanced cannabinoid research laboratories and manufacturing operations. As regulatory reforms sweep across the world, Helius is prepared to set the standard for safe and effective medicinal cannabis products, made in New Zealand.

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