AUT announces research on the next generation of medical cannabis

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Carmen Doran, Managing Director of Helius Therapeutics, hopes that research will give New Zealand the opportunity to distinguish itself through its innovation.

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Carmen Doran, Managing Director of Helius Therapeutics, hopes that research will give New Zealand the opportunity to distinguish itself through its innovation.

A partnership between Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and Helius Therapeutics has been announced, with the two parties looking for a “new generation” of medical cannabis products.

The three-year project will explore methods to extract cannabis from plants, reduce side effects of medicinal cannabis, and improve public awareness of the product.

Since the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme came into effect in 2020, Helius has worked to develop a safe product “that uses all its talents”.

Helius Therapeutics was the first company in New Zealand to receive a full license to manufacture medical cannabis.

Fiona Goodall / Getty Images

Helius Therapeutics was the first company in New Zealand to receive a full license to manufacture medical cannabis.

She hopes that by working with PhD students at New Zealand’s second largest university, “a new generation” of drugs will come to market.

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“This is an opportunity for New Zealand to stand out for the product and its innovation,” said Carmen Doran, CEO of Helius Therapeutics.

“We already have a rich history of agriculture in this country, the point is to expand that focus to the medical world now.”

Cannabis contains a number of active ingredients such as cannabinoids and terpenes, and one phase of the project is working on how to extract such ingredients and harness their benefits from a medicinal point of view.

“Terpenes, for example, give cannabis its familiar smell and taste of plant material,” said Doran.

“Much like the way the scent of lavender relaxes you, the scents can have therapeutic properties. So we’re trying to see how we can use that with cannabis. “

TOM LEE / STUFF

Eqalis is a medical cannabis start-up based in the Bay of Plenty. Their goal is to bring medical cannabis to the market in an affordable way.

Ali Seyfoddin, AUT associate professor, hopes that the breakthroughs in research will make New Zealand a world leader in the manufacture of the drug.

“It is good news for the New Zealand public and patients that companies are investing in research and development.

“There has been a lot of patience with the raw form of the medicine, the replicas on the market right now have advantages and disadvantages,” said Seyfoddin.

“Current forms of approved cannabis medicines are primitive in design, often in the form of oils or tinctures with low and infrequent uptake by the body.

“Research to develop new pharmaceutical dosage forms will be key to improving the patient experience and the effectiveness of treatment.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story described AUT as Polytech. It’s a university. Updated September 15, 2021 at 9.55 a.m. Associate Professor Ali Seyfoddin’s quote was also expanded at this point to provide more clarity.