Candace Kinser has been appointed chair of the board at Helius Therapeutics. The accomplished chief executive and non-executive board director brings significant experience in high-growth start-ups, technology transformation, healthcare, biotech, and agribusiness commercialisation.
Kinser said she was attracted to Helius’ founding motivation to develop novel prescription medicines for patients who have limited options for treatment.
“Helius has a bold vision to become a world leader in the research, development and production of next-generation cannabinoid medicines. This Kiwi company, however, is not about cannabis. It’s all about advancing health outcomes, as well as leading an enormous economic opportunity for New Zealand,” said Kinser.
In July, Helius became New Zealand’s first medicinal cannabis business to be awarded a GMP Licence to Manufacture Medicines. The Medicinal Cannabis Agency has since announced that two new local medicinal cannabis products have met the minimum quality standard.
“Candace’s arrival comes at an exciting time for Helius. As well as significant governance, commercialisation and capital raising experience, Candace is deeply passionate about improving quality of life for patients who are suffering and looking for more effective alternatives,” said Carmen Doran, Chief Executive of Helius Therapeutics.
Kinser’s current board roles include chair of Cancer Society Auckland/Northland, an appointed director for Livestock Improvement Corporation, and a director at NZ Health Partnerships.
As former chief executive of Biomatters, she achieved significant growth for the New Zealand genetics software company which saw it become a global leader and internationally acquired. As the chief executive of NZTech, she orchestrated a significant pivot and broadening of the national organisation’s membership, creating the hugely successful NZTechWeek and NZTechWomen.
“Candace brings first-hand global market growth strategy expertise. She has extensive biotech networks in Australia, the United States and Europe. These contacts, along with her customer and stakeholder engagement knowledge, will be key as Helius reaches out to New Zealand patients and unleashes its export strategy from 2022,” said Doran.
Ms Kinser describes the 100% New Zealand-owned private company as an innovator and true trailblazer which has done well to navigate the country’s newest sector, even before regulations were in place.
“The quality of people at Helius, their education and global expertise in medicines, research and commercialisation are without parallel. Both on the board and in the executive leadership team, there’s an extraordinary wealth of pharmaceutical knowledge and international experience,” she said.
Having raised $48m in capital since 2018, Helius has invested significantly in its 8,800sqm state of the art indoor cannabis cultivation and manufacturing complex in East Auckland. As the country’s licenced largest producer, Helius is focused on the future, establishing an R&D pipeline to collaborate and create efficaciously, novel and safe next-generation medicinal cannabis therapeutics.
“Helius’ huge GMP manufacturing facility has now roared into action. I’m looking forward to bringing my commercialisation, governance and strategy skills to the table as we look to create new products and generate strong channels into international markets,” she said.
Born in Austin, Texas, Kinser has degrees in Anthropology and Political Science from the University of Hawaii, a Master’s in Management from Massey University, and graduate studies in BioPharma Enterprise from Rutgers University, New Jersey.
Ms Doran says Helius has brought together people with many varying backgrounds from cannabinoid cultivation, manufacturing and research to pharmaceutical systems, commerce, and healthcare education. She said the diversity of thought and experience is how Helius will deliver the most innovative solutions for patients here and abroad.
“Kiwi patients have waited long enough to access quality and affordable local medicinal cannabis products. We’ve pulled the best team together to do the job, but our journey has only just begun. Helius has now moved into the phase of delivery, with many more exciting milestones ahead. Candace’s appointment to the helm is perfect timing and a perfect fit,” said Doran.
Kinser replaces Helius cornerstone investor, Guy Haddleton, who remains on the board.
Helius Therapeutics is the foundation sponsor of MedCan Summit 2022, which will take place on 10 and 11 February next year at the Cordis hotel in Auckland.