Managing Director of Helius Animal Health, Leila de Koster, says the country’s new Medicinal Cannabis Scheme, allowing for local cannabis production, also provides the opportunity to develop therapeutic cannabidiol (CBD) products for pets.
With Helius Animal Health focused on companion animals, common health conditions to treat pets with non-psychotropic CBD include anxiety, stress, nausea, skin conditions, arthritis and seizures. CBD is a major compound found in cannabis plants grown by Helius.
“CBD is highly effective for treating the likes of pain and inflammation in humans, and it’s no different for animals. They have an endogenous cannabinoid system just like us, meaning cannabis therapeutics work in a similar way for pets,” says Ms de Koster.
Paul Manning, Chief Executive of Helius Therapeutics, says while medicinal cannabis products for pets is a novel concept in New Zealand, the sector is experiencing rapid growth globally, with significant untapped opportunities locally.
Home to at least 1.1 million dogs and 1.5 million cats, New Zealand’s pet owners alone already spend $1.8 billion on pet products and services each year, and demand is increasingly shifting toward natural health products.
To have high-quality, locally-produced therapeutic cannabis products readily available in New Zealand will be a game-changer
“To have high-quality, locally-produced therapeutic cannabis products readily available in New Zealand will be a game-changer for many Kiwi pet owners, desperate to alleviate their companion’s pain and suffering naturally,” says Mr Manning.
Helius Group has invested $2.5 million to establish Helius Animal Health and has partnered with Auckland businesspeople, Leila and Karl de Koster.
The new entity comes as Helius announced in February it had raised a further $20m from private investors. The 100% Kiwi-owned company has attracted the most investment in New Zealand by far, achieving a market capitalisation of $105m.
“This is an incredibly exciting development for us, and pet owners. Having established ourselves as an industry leader in medicinal cannabis, expanding into animal health builds on the capabilities we’ve developed. Our team, which includes scientific experts from the animal health sector, have already completed substantial product development and regulatory groundwork in this space. We’re thrilled to be the first licensed cannabis producer in New Zealand to launch in the animal health category,” says Mr Manning.
Cementing this partnership now ultimately ensures cannabis-derived wellness products for New Zealand pets will become available in the near future.
“Pets are family members too. Animals suffering from arthritis or anxiety, for example, may well benefit from natural, New Zealand Grown and manufactured cannabis and hemp products,” says Mr Manning.
Ms de Koster says while Helius Animal Health continues to conduct extensive research into CBD-based medicines for veterinarians to prescribe, the company’s immediate focus is ensuring off-the-shelf nutraceutical products will soon be in vet clinics and pet retailers across New Zealand, with an eye also to export.
“We’ll be starting with a range of premium supplement products made from natural ingredients, then we’ll be moving to deliver cannabis focused products, including clinically-proven animal medicines. Thanks to this partnership, the large-scale manufacturing facility at Helius will allow us to produce full spectrum, New Zealand Grown cannabis oil and medical-grade products at real scale,” says Ms de Koster.
“While our range of premium pet supplements will enter the market shortly, creating New Zealand’s first range of CBD-based approved medicines is central to our overall strategy. We will continue to work with regulators to gain ACVM (Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines) registration for New Zealand’s first prescription medicinal cannabis products for animals,” says Karl de Koster, Managing Partner of Helius Animal Health.
With pain the leading reason for vet visits, the first product submitted for clinical trials and approval is expected to be a CBD extract for osteoarthritis pain management in dogs. This will extend to a range of other conditions over time. Future products by Helius Animal Health could include cannabinoid chews to help with pet anxiety, and shampoos and conditioners to help with skin conditions.
Export opportunities, they anticipate, will be significant, particularly to Asian countries where New Zealand’s reputation in quality health products is strong. Helius is also the first cannabis company in the world to be licensed New Zealand Grown through Buy New Zealand Made.
“Our R&D is underway, our product concepts are established, and all the regulatory work is progressing well. With Helius Animal Health now funded and in full swing, we’re only months away from getting a range of premium pet supplements to market, with cannabis focused products to follow,” says Leila de Koster.
“As medicinal cannabis is set to become more widely accessible for human patients, we’re delighted that New Zealand’s many suffering companion animals are set to benefit from this plant’s extraordinary potential,” says Mr Manning.
Helius Animal Health’s consumer brand will be launched in the coming months.