Seed to sale: Rua Bioscience harvests first crop of cannabis flowers for medicinal cannabis breeding programme.

Rua Bioscience has harvested its first crop of flowers from the cannabis plant, marking an important milestone in the company’s progress to becoming an exporter of pharmaceutical grade cannabinoid-based medicine.

Rua Bioscience was the first in New Zealand to be granted a license to import the cannabis seeds, forming the basis of a long-term cannabis genetics breeding programme to develop optimal varieties and cultivars.

An initial shipment of seeds from nine different high THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and high CBD (cannabidiol) varieties were received by Rua Bioscience’s growing facilityearlier this year. Since then, over5,000 plants have grown,overseen by the company’s expert growers and plant scientists.

Rua Bioscience’s CEO, Manu Caddie, says, “The harvest of our cannabis flowers has been many months in the making. Our team of scientists and growers have been closely examining each plant to select lines for clinical research and the establishment of New Zealand’s first legal cannabis genetics breeding programme.

“We have invested heavily in building long-terms relationships with leading plant research organisations and medical researchers in New Zealand and internationally.”

Research partners include Callaghan Innovation, University of Otago, University of Waikato, Victoria University of Wellington, Unitec Institute of Technology, ESR and Scion, all whose expertise the company is utilising for extraction and testing plant material.

“This testing has uncovered a number of elite plants, which we will take forward into the genetic breeding programme” said Mr Caddie. “We are also working with a group of these New Zealand research organisations on technology designed to determine cannabinoid levels without destroying the flower. This is world-leading agri-tech for the global cannabis industry.”

Speaking of the harvest, Rua Bioscience’s Head Grower, Brandon Veevers, said, “When harvesting flowers, timings are critical. A lead indicator that a plant is ready to harvest is the state of the trichome, which are small oil structures that look like bulbs on the end of tiny plant hairs. Harvesting too early or too late can mean that you are not going to get the results you want.”

The flower harvest and testing marks the first stage in delivering on the business’ strategy, which was announced last month and centres around a clear roadmap to grow, manufacture and distribute high-value pharmaceutical grade products for medicinal cannabis customers.

Starting with breeding its own unique cultivars of cannabis – similar to how the New Zealand kiwifruit industry has developed its own high-value gold, green and red cultivars – the business is building valuable intellectual property along the medicinal cannabis value chain.

The business also announced its board of directors which includes experienced members with corporate executive, governance, pharmaceutical and private equity backgrounds.

The board is led by Independent Chairman, Trevor Burt, who has served on the boards of agricultural companies PGG Wrightson, Landpower, Silver Fern Farms and Market Gardeners NZ, and as Chair of Lyttleton Port and Ngai Tahu Holdings.

Burt explains, “The board and Rua’s leadership team have worked together to define a clear strategy to climb the value curve of the global medicinal cannabis industry. This will allow us to become a world leader in research and development of plant genetics and medicines derived from the cannabis plant.

“New Zealand has an excellent heritage in horticultural IP, and Rua Bioscience is well underway in creating our own IP at every stage of the seed to sale process. The first step in this chain is to become a leader in cannabis cultivars to create high-grade medicinal products. Establishing an excellent breeding programme puts us in prime position to deliver on our long-term ambition.

“Investments in research and development now, will ensure that we are ready for when the regulations change early next year. The company’s opportunity once the regulations come into force is to grow, manufacture and export GMP certified pharmaceutical products.”

Alongside the board, co-founders Manu Caddie and Panapa Ehau also recently announced a name change from Hikurangi Cannabis Company to Rua Bioscience, allowing the name to flex as the company evolves.