Biosynthesis

What do Insulin and THC/CBD have in common? Turns out both can be man-made in medical-grade facilities. The tradition of rolling a joint is iconic but could very soon be replaced by a vat and some genetic tweaking now that biosynthesis has reached the cannabis plant. 

Tradition has it that cannabis starts as a seed, is grown as a plant, and then harvested. Cue the eerie music. It’s time to enter the world of Sci Fi, as scientists prod at the “old fashioned” and turn the tried and tested into a new truth that negates greenhouses and farming fields. 

Whether it’s outdoors or greenhouse grown, a cannabis plant contains anywhere from 2-5% THC and CBD and under 0.1% for the lesser known cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. From a producer and grower’s mindset that is 95+ percent of waste for the desired product. From the environmental side, that is as an immense waste of water and electricity. From a pharmaceutical point of view, the question stands at how can we get more medicine to more patients.

There are two bioengineering methods for addressing either all or some of these questions: genetically modified plants or yeasts and bacteria. Both tackle the THC issue.

THC is only produced in the limited number of trichomes surrounding flowers, but scientists are working on tweaking the cannabis genome so that THC is produced throughout. It would be a matter then of simply pressing the entire plant to squeeze out oils. THC up, waste down.

But what if THC, CBD, other cannabinoids, and terpenes could be produced in copious amounts with a fast turn around? Time for yeast and/or bacteria like E. Coli. Yes, the bacteria that gives us food poisoning, E. Coli, can be taught to give us THC, etc. 

Whether it’s E. Coli or yeast, researchers have inserted new genes and altered genes to get both to produce not only THC, but CBD, CBG, terpenes, and so on. What would this look like? No pesticides, contaminants, or heavy metals. Pharmaceutical grade air, water, and sugars. Speed and large-scale implementation abilities. Less energy requirements. 

Not everyone is going to want to go the oil and ingestible route, but it certainly will alter the playing field.

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