The Ministry of Health has granted a license to cultivate cannabis to Helius Therapeutics
– the first license to be issued in Auckland and the largest licensed site in the country.
This comes as another important milestone for the Kiwi start-up, having raised $15m in local capital, moved into a substantial facility and acquired an additional 10,000sqm greenhouse, in its first year.
Helius Therapeutics has been granted a license to cultivate cannabis plants at its East Tamaki facility. The company has become the first licensed cannabis producer in Auckland, and the most expansive cultivation site in New Zealand.
The license was issued to Helius by the Ministry of Health on Friday. It allows Helius to establish a cannabis breeding programme and develop new cannabis plant varieties (chemovars) for use in the research and development of therapeutics. The license also allows the company to cultivate cannabis plants across two large-scale grow sites and nursery within its Auckland property.
Having secured $15m in investment, led by Kiwi tech billionaire Guy Haddleton, Helius expects to complete the next stage of its facility in by May 2019.
Executive Director and co-founder of Helius, local Ponsonby resident Paul Manning, described the license grant as a major milestone for the company, having already achieved a lot in 2018. “Securing our cultivation license is the result of nearly a year’s work and a significant financial investment. Our license allows us to shift up a gear, move into the next phase of development and commence cultivating thousands of plants here in Auckland.”
“The Ministry of Health approaches each license application on a case-by-case basis. Our objective was to align our cultivation license to our strategy, and that is to leverage our scale and research partnerships to develop quality, novel, locally-produced medicinal cannabis products that are affordable for New Zealanders.”
Helius sees its license grant as another step in the right direction for New Zealand’s cannabis industry, which is burgeoning with potential. Manning says “Our ambition is to develop Helius into one of the world’s premier medicinal cannabis brands – from New Zealand. Our local industry has enormous potential with deep experience in science, horticulture and technology.”
“We’re an early-mover and we plan to stay ahead of this nascent industry. We want to bring safe and effective products to market as soon as possible. Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders stand to benefit from medicinal cannabis and, for many, we hold the key to improved quality of life. Helius has developed two clinical trials which will be conducted in New Zealand and the company has committed to an extensive R&D plan. Early product development will target sleep disorders, anxiety, arthritis and chronic pain. The company has formed relationships with local and international research institutes and is set to open its own cannabinoid research laboratory in 2019.
Helius acquires additional 10,000sqm greenhouse in Auckland. Today, Helius Therapeutics also announced the acquisition of an additional 10,000sqm hydroponic greenhouse on a 20 acre site in Kumeu, Auckland. The company plans to grow a high-CBD (cannabidiol) cannabis chemovar in this controlled greenhouse environment.
The Kumeu site is in addition to the company’s existing licensed facility in East Tamaki, which will cultivate a combination of CBD and THC-dominant chemovars. “Strategy determines our cannabis grow environments. The Helius compound in East Tamaki provides extremely high security, integration and precise control required for the much of the work we are doing. However, we believe high-CBD chemovar is better suited to our greenhouse environment, as seen in many other parts of the world”, says Manning.
“Operating two sites and two very different grow environments provides us far greater scope and will ultimately allow us to optimise cultivation to suit our product strategy. We’re the only cannabis company in this part of the world to operate dual indoor and greenhouse grow facilities.”
Cannabis biomass from the cultivation site in Kumeu will eventually be processed at the company’s East Tamaki facility for extraction, research and manufacturing.