National | Marijuana - Cannabis

Tough going but Rua BioScience says it’s on track

Despite a share collapse since listing Ruatoria-based NZX-listed medical cannabis firm Rua Bioscience says it is building solid foundations for growth - and trialling a revolutionary approach to testing medical cannabis.

Based in Ruatorea​ on the East Coast, Rua Bioscience was founded in 2016, originally a subsidiary of Hikurangi Enterprises, which aims to create economic opportunities for the local community.

Rua Bioscience listed on the NZX last October at 70c a share but the price has since dropped to 41c.

The shares of its listed rival CannaSouth have also dropped, with market commentators saying the strict New Zealand regulations, lack of local labs to test products and Covid-19's slowing down of global mail have hindered the new industry's progress.

Rua's annual results, out today, confirms the company found getting the mandatory Good Manufacturing Practice certification "considerably slower than originally anticipated."

So far only private company Helius Therapeutics has achieved certification in this country.

Research approach

However, Rua is differentiating itself from the other two firms by running a two-year research programme to investigate applying hyperspectral technology to the cultivation and assessment of medicinal cannabis.

Testing requires the destruction of product, is costly, and the turnaround of results means delays in decision-making, the company’s announcement today says.

Rua's researchers anticipate real-time monitoring using hyperspectral imaging "will transform how the global medicinal cannabis industry qualifies, assesses, and manages its crops,” it says.

"If the technology works the way we expect it will, hyperspectral imaging will revolutionise our internal cultivation practices and position us well to lead in the development and marketing of world-class agritech for the global cannabis industry," Rua Bioscience chief executive Rob Mitchell says.

The company says it anticipates having product available for New Zealand patients as a prescription-only medicine in 2022, once it has obtained GMP certification, completed the New Medicines Application process and Ministry of Health's Quality Standard assessment which is required for all new products.

Building staff

Discussions continue with potential grower partners to expand cultivation capacity and increase biomass supplies.

“The company has a number of memorandum of understandings and small supply agreements as it looks to test and develop different cannabinoid products,” it says.

In March, Rua successfully exported its first sample of dried flower material to Germany for scientific analysis.

In recent times Rua hired  Dr Dawn Smith from Crown Research Institute Scion as product development manager and Dr Andi Grant as chief operating officer. Smith is responsible for developing innovative medicines for evolving markets

Grant has worked for companies including Janssen Cilag, Living Cell Technologies and Roche Products NZ; her new task is to drive Rua's domestic and global expansion.

Of the company's 30 staff as of June 30, 15 have whānau connections or whakapapa to Te Tairāwhiti. These staff work at all levels of the organisation.

Rua recorded a loss before tax for the financial year of $6.17m down from $3.60min the 2020 year.

The result was in line with the board's expectations for the year-end.