New Zealand-based biotechnology company Greenlab has joined forces with licenced producer Helius Therapeutics to develop specialised and targeted medicinal cannabis treatments for patients unable to benefit from conventional pharmaceuticals.
The collaboration will aim to further unlock the potential of medicinal cannabis for unique needs such as chronic and multi-layered conditions.
It will be co-funded by Helius and a $2.4 million grant it received in 2019 under the New Zealand Government’s research and development initiative.
Partial funding from that grant has already gone towards identifying the most advantageous cultivars from imported seeds for the formulation of cannabis medicines, and identifying strains with potential for disease specificity.
Genetic materials library
Helius chief executive officer Carmen Doran said the collaboration would help the company expand its genetics and breeding program and develop a unique genetic materials library to sharpen the nation’s competitive edge in the cannabis industry.
“We have completed some initial programs internally and are now into new product development,” she said.
“Formulating future medicines requires a library of unique genetics to select from, and that is what we are now building… it is an exciting program.”
With over 140 cannabinoids and terpenes already discovered (many with therapeutic outcomes), Ms Doran said further unlocking the cannabis plant’s potential through the Greenlab collaboration would be “exciting research for the companies and the country”.
Research and development licence
Founded in 2019, Greenlab became the first cannabis company on New Zealand’s South Island to be awarded a research and development licence.
It has grown to become a specialist in medicinal cannabis genetics evaluation, and is believed to be three years ahead of any local competitors.
In October, the company received a grant under the New Zealand Government’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures initiative for its $1.9 million medicinal cannabis genetics research program.
Over the next 12 months, Greenlab will work with Helius to assess and evaluate options for future products, based on a strict set of Helius criteria.
Ms Doran said the work would allow Helius to expand its breeding library with genetics unique and specific to New Zealand.
“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,” she said.
The collaboration is expected to help fast-track and establish New Zealand’s emerging medicinal cannabis industry.