Medicinal cannabis company Rua Bioscience (previously Hikurangi Cannabis) has appointed Rob Mitchell as its new chief executive officer.

Mitchell replaces co-founder Manu Caddie, who will move on to lead the regulatory and research divisions of the company.

Rua Bioscience chair Trevor Burt said the company started its search for a new CEO in 2019 to ensure it was best positioned to commercialise the business once regulations were in place.

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This move will also allow Caddie to focus on the areas best suited to his skillset.

"Manu's leadership and expertise in the regulatory and research areas is recognised domestically and globally. These areas will be critical to Rua's growth. The board and Manu made the call last year that he needed the bandwidth to focus solely on these priorities."

The appointment of Mitchell gives the company, which started as a community project, much greater corporate clout.

Mitchell has spent the past 30 years in leadership roles for pharmaceutical multinationals, spending most of his career with Roche, eventually heading global product strategy for a division of the $88 billion Swiss company.

Despite his corporate leaning, Mitchell has made a commitment to the social mission that has always underpinned the business.

"I'm confident that the commercial success of this company will enable the founding vision to be realised," he said.

Caddie said the time was right to hand the business on to a new leader and that he was looking forward to taking on the new role as "Kaihautu".

Manu Caddie is leading the regulatory and research divisions of the firm. Photo / Supplied
Manu Caddie is leading the regulatory and research divisions of the firm. Photo / Supplied

"Kaihautu is a term used traditionally for the navigator in voyaging waka, not the chief but the person responsible for identifying opportunities and steering the waka towards where we want to go."

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The purpose of the position is to drive the company's innovation strategy and research agenda for long term success. Mr Caddie will also be leading sector engagement and regulatory affairs to build confidence in the company and ensure strategic objectives of the company are aligned with relevant regulation.

"We started this company in Ruatoria to give patients around the world access to affordable medicinal cannabis products and to create employment opportunities for our region," Caddie said.

"Now is the right time for a CEO with Rob's global pharmaceutical experience to lead the organisation and take us to the next stage of commercialisation under the Government's newly established Medicinal Cannabis Scheme."

Mitchell will start his role on February 3.