Helius Therapeutics has announced a joint research program with New Zealand biotech Greenlab to expand its genetics library and develop more specialised and targeted treatments for patients.

The collaboration is co-funded by Helius and a government grant which has already gone towards identifying the most advantageous cultivars from imported seeds for the formulation of cannabis medicines. Identifying strains with strong potential for disease specificity has also been a key focus.

Helius Therapeutics chief executive Carmen Doran

Helius will now expand its genetics and breeding program to allow for the development of a library of unique genetic material, work it believes will sharpen New Zealand’s competitive edge on the world stage.

Chief executive Carmen Doran said: “Discovering more about the make up of the cannabinoid profile, and encapsulating those discoveries, will ultimately help us deliver to patients with unique needs, chronic, and multi-layered conditions.

“Helius has completed some initial genetics and breeding programs internally and we’re now into new product development. Formulating future medicines requires a library of unique genetics to select from, and that’s what we’re now building.”

Founded in 2019, Greenlab was recently awarded a Ministry for Primary Industries Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures grant for its Lincoln University-based NZ$1.9 million medicinal cannabis genetics research program.

Doran added: “We have been impressed with Greenlab’s commitment to science and exemplary practice and process as well as its determination to help develop novel and efficacious products for patients here and across the world.

“Our decision to work with Greenlab will see us expand our breeding library with genetics unique and specific to New Zealand and to Helius.”

“New Zealand regulations gave our researchers access to vital local cannabis genetic material, unlike Australia.”

Greenlab director Dr Parmjit Randhawa

Greenlab director (research & commercialisation) Dr Parmjit Randhawa said the collaboration will help fast track the emerging medicinal cannabis industry in New Zealand.  

“New Zealand regulations gave our researchers access to vital local cannabis genetic material, unlike Australia,” he said. 

“This regulatory hallmark has already put New Zealand at the forefront of medical cannabis research to develop and grow novel germplasm for characterised compounds, repeatedly four to six times in one calendar year. 

“This will be a win-win for the licensed growers, end users, and manufacturers to get the flower consistency batch after batch,” he added.

Helius said its decision to collaborate with an outside research partner will minimise cross-contamination with its commercial plants as the Auckland-based company ramps up for export this year. It has also invested in tissue culture capability to store a wider range of genetics on site at its headquarters.

“Expanding our genetics library is key to developing specific and unique pharmaceutical products which we’ve got pipelined. It’s also about satisfying critical European market requirements which is a priority destination for us,” said Doran.

Prior to launching Cannabiz, Martin was co-founder and CEO of Asia-Pac’s leading B2B media and marketing information brand Mumbrella, overseeing its sale to Diversified Communications in 2017. A journalist...