Helius Therapeutics and Auckland University of Technology (AUT) have joined forces, with the NZ firm taking on three AUT PhD students to work on its next generation of cannabis therapeutics. 

AUT’s medicinal cannabis expert and associate professor Ali Seyfoddin

Since the introduction of New Zealand’s medicinal cannabis scheme in April 2020, medicines have only been available from overseas. It is hoped locally made products will come to market towards the end of this year. 

AUT’s collaboration with Helius will include research focused on improving the absorption and efficacy of cannabis medicines while reducing side effects and on formulating dosage mechanisms more familiar to doctors and patients than edibles and sprays. 

The research will also focus on new extraction techniques for cannabinoids and terpenes. 

AUT’s medicinal cannabis expert and associate professor Ali Seyfoddin said: “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 claimed the new compounds will be able to provide patients with better targeted medicines that more effectively treat conditions such as chronic pain, nausea, and epilepsy.

Helius Therapeutics chief executive Carmen Doran

Helius Therapeutics chief executive Carmen Doran said the company is focused on setting up a R&D pipeline for advanced products based on the research being done with AUT.

“Our vision is to develop novel and efficacious medicines,” she said. “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.”

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