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Cannabinoid Biosynthesis: Growing Cannabinoids Without the Plant

By Lee Allen | Last updated: June 10, 2021
Key Takeaways

When it comes to cost-effective cannabinoid production, Biomedican is on the right track using yeast to create cannabinoids in a lab at a fraction of the cost compared to commercial field/greenhouse plant production.

Faster. Cheaper. Sustainable.

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Biomedican employees must feel they’re three-for-three in that race following the recent announcement of a unique method of cannabinoid biosynthesis production that produces high-quality rare cannabinoids — in the laboratory — with nary a plant in sight.

“At the end of the day, our molecule is identical to that of the natural world,” says co-founder Dennis O’Neill, an investment banker.

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“We’re a biotech, life sciences company focused on producing rare cannabinoids and terpenes, but made with yeasts rather than from an actual plant.”

It’s like bacon slices without the pig or chicken wings without the chicken: creating a plant compound — cannabinoids — without the usual cannabis plant. No seeding, growing, or harvesting; just tending proprietary yeast. It’s a multi-step process called biosynthesis that emulates living organisms producing essential compounds, converting the simple into the more complex.

“If you’re in the farming business, every plant is a bit different and you have to deal with drought and toxins and contaminants and things of that sort. We’re able to deliver a better product that is typically about 75-90 percent cheaper to produce than anybody else in the market today. Ultimately, we’re going to be able to create all these rare cannabinoids for less than a dollar per gram.”

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Asked if this was ‘better living through chemistry’, O’Neill says: “Our molecule is organic, non-GMO, and doesn’t produce THC at any point in time, putting us outside federal regulation.

“Folks will still smoke field-grown cannabis and there’s a lot of involvement with CBD, but we’re not focused on those. We’re focused on the finite trace amounts of rare cannabinoids in our process rather than having to grow a hundred thousand acres of product just to come up with enough supply of some of these trace amounts to make things beneficial. That way is just not cost-effective. Our way is to come up with significant medical benefits at very, very low cost.”

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Concentrating on what is in front of them instead of what might be in the future, O’Neill says involvement with THC might not totally be out of the question. “I think, at some point in time if we found the right partners already licensed in certain jurisdictions, and we knew there was a clear way forward, we might take a look, but for now we’re staying away from that aspect.”

(Read also: The Newest Cannabinoids: THCP and CBDP)

Biomedican alludes to the fact the traditional way of producing rare cannabinoids through plants — interrupted production cycles with varying limited yield — is now passé, superseded by the biosynthesis method of manipulating organisms to produce select compounds as pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly did in managing bacteria and yeast in order to manufacture insulin.

So, the concept of biosynthesis isn’t new, but the manipulation of the selected host organism, Yarrowia Lypolitica, is. Under proprietary methodology, splicing yeast DNA produces cannabinoids biologically identical to those produced by the plant itself. Yarrowia is part of a fungal family of oleaginous yeasts whose cells are made up of more than 20 percent fat.

“There are competitors in this space, some of them charlatans — and we’re not saying we own this space. We just think we have the best technology in the field by creating the highest-quality product at the lowest-cost of anyone else. If we’re not number one in this biosynthesis space, we’re in the top three in a multi-billion market — estimated to be $10 billion by 2025,” predicts O’Neill. As new markets open up, the cannabinoid industry overall is expected to grow exponentially to a licit global market of $146 billion over the next five years according to one estimate by Grand View Research.

Currently engaged in raising additional millions of dollars for further research and development and to fund large-scale production and arrange contract manufacturing, “We want to become a supplier to companies with large-scale distribution systems that work, like those in the health industry who deal with CBD and CBDA. Those with distribution networks are going to find a new way of making money through us by offering new products they couldn’t offer before. At a later date, we’ll decide if we want to launch our own brand and have our own manufacturing facility to selectively target branding within that space.

One obvious advantage of the chemical production of the materials versus large field operations (the grow-harvest-extract method) is that indoor laboratory production facilities would come at far less cost than what would be needed for thousands of field acres, while managed output would have the potential to exceed conventional growing methods.

“We’re hoping to help millions of people with all types of medical conditions access these rare cannabinoids to help them mitigate their conditions and reduce pain and suffering. Our discovery should open a lot of doors, especially in the arenas of anti-inflammatories and neuroprotectives, and we expect to have more in those areas within six months.”

(Read also: Water-Soluble Cannabinoids: A Happy Byproduct)

The company timeline has pre-orders anticipated in three to six months with large-scale production underway within 12 months.

“We’ve delivered more results in a shorter period of time with less money than anybody else in our space. We’ve quickly raised $3.5 million and we have strategic partnerships with multiple universities around the world.”

Reaction to this new way of doing things is starting to roll in. Biofuels Digest, billed as ‘The World’s Most Widely-Read Biofuels Daily’, noted: “The ability to cheaply and rapidly mass-produce highly-desired cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, as well as the more than 200 less-understood cannabinoids without the need for a conventional growing operation, presents a compelling investment opportunity both from the current demand for the well-known cannabinoids as well as the many of the lesser-known which scientists continue to research for novel, medical, therapeutic, and alternative purposes.”

Green Rush Daily, commenting on the advantages of biosynthesizing cannabinoids, reported: “From an industry perspective, the advantages are numerous starting with simple efficiency. Instead of spending millions on massive cultivation operations, producing and processing hundreds of thousands of plants, companies could bypass the entire grow cycle of the plant and simply produce cannabinoids in isolation — quicker, at a fraction of the cost of traditional farming, and with a smaller environmental footprint.”

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Written by Lee Allen | Writer, Reporter, Gardener

Profile Picture of Lee Allen

Lee Allen is an award-winning reporter of both electronic and print media. He is also a struggling backyard gardener.

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