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Scientists can now make cannabis psychoactive without the plant

Lab-made marijuana comes.

In a move that is expected to transform marijuana and the pharmaceutical industry, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley announced on Wednesday that they had made cannabis compounds for the first time in a laboratory, rather than harvesting them from a plant.

If the technique can scale, it can pave the way for making marijuana therapeutic components faster and more efficient, for a fraction of the cost of traditional methods.

Using an increasingly popular approach known as synthetic biology, scientists have genetically engineered yeasts to cast out a key component of marijuana which is a precursor to two of the best known compounds in the plant: THC and CBD.

By using these processes, they made the connections themselves ̵

1; no farm or field needed. [19659002] While THC is the part of marijuana that causes high, CBD has a new reputation as therapeutic and is the active ingredient in the first federally approved marijuana-based medicine.

Thanks to the health and well-being applications that the CBD is bound to The market for the connection could reach $ 16 billion by 2025, up from perhaps $ 1 billion or so now.

Marijuana plants contain a number of other, little-known compounds that scientists also suspect carry therapeutic properties. But it has been too difficult to produce them in large enough quantities to study.

It can now be set to change.

In a paper published in the journal Nature the Berkeley researchers outlined how both types of marijuana compounds – those known as THC and the lesser known as THCV – could be done in a lab.

It will probably have major implications for startups and pharmaceutical companies looking to create new marijuana-based drugs for everything from epilepsy to pain and arthritis.

Several companies are working on similar efforts. Wall Street has also noticed that it is a maze marijuana that is one on a growing list of factors that help accelerate cannabis entry into the pharmaceutical and consumer health industries.

"There may be a whole host of new products that might come from this," Jay Keasling, a UC Berkeley bioengineer who led the study, told Business Insider.

Before they could make marijuana connections without a field or a greenhouse, Keasling and his team had to look for the ingredients required to make it work in a laboratory – something of a sacred grail for the cannabis industry.

Painted marijuana can have several advantages over traditionally grown marijuana, such as a lower price and a lesser environmental footprint.

Several companies are interested in becoming the first to prove that the method, also known as biosynthesis, works, including Ginkgo Bioworks, a synthetic biology startup in Boston; Intrexon, a biotechnology in Maryland; and Hyasynth Bio, a Canadian startup.

Wall Street is concerned that it also happens.

"Compared to chemical methods, biosynthetic methods are more cost effective, scalable and environmentally friendly," analysts at the investment company Cowen said in a note circulated this week.

Keasling and his team spent years figuring out how to do it.

They revealed a slightity in the patent literature of a way to adjust the yeast genes by means of marijuana DNA which would result in the exclusion of a key precursor of CBD and THC.

The process of modifying the DNA of a basic organism such as yeast or E. coli to coax it to produce another product is known as synthetic biology. In recent years, investors have raised money for companies in the area.

Occasionally, synthetic biology involves the use of the cell's power to do things like drugs, biodegradable building materials, and less toxic sweeteners for food.

So Keasling and his team took all the basic ingredients identified by previous researchers – components of yeast DNA and components of cannabis DNA – and attempted to make marijuana compounds in a laboratory. Several attempts failed.

"We tried all the tricks we had," Keasling said. "We just couldn't get it to work."

So they took another staff on it. After several years of exploring hundreds of marijuana genes, they were able to stay at home on the target: an enzyme called CsPT4. It allowed them to make the ingredients they needed to make compounds like CBD and THC.

"This is a critical step in the way no one has had to this point," said Keasling.

The next step for Keasling is upscaling. To do so, he must prove in larger experiments that his technique works and at a lower price than traditional production.

It may be of great interest to pharmaceutical companies such as GW Pharma, who recently became the first company to have a US-approved marijuana-based drug. (Called Epidiolex, the drug is designed to treat rare forms of epilepsy using high concentrations of CBD.)

It may also be interesting more start-ups that in recent years have promised to turn marijuana compounds as CBD into federally approved drugs for diseases. such as Crohn's and multiple sclerosis.

Keasling has already licensed the technology he described in the study for a start-up he founded in 2015, called Demetrix. He said it would be open to working with a number of established companies in the pharmaceutical industry or the food industry.

Jeff Ubersax, Demetrix's CEO, told Business Insider that the startup had increased $ 11 million in venture capital led by Horizon Ventures, a VC firm in Hong Kong.

Horizon has also supported Impossible Foods, the company behind a plant-based burger, and Siri, the developer of Apple's virtual assistant.

No stranger to starting, Keasling has founded several companies and is advising four. In 2003 he helped Amyris, now a skin care company, and in 2010 he founded Lygos, a startup that wants to use microbes for renewable energy. He is no longer involved with Amyris, but is still an advisor to Lygos.

With Demetrix, Keasling and Ubersax are focused on two goals, they told Business Insider.

They will throw out lab-shaped versions of cannabis & # 39; known compounds.

They will also make a handful of understudied marijuana compounds, ingredients Keasling said likely to have therapeutic properties; THCV, for example, may have appetite-stopping potential.

Second startup has similar goals. Ginkgo Bioworks recently signed a US $ 122 million deal with the Canadian marijuana manufacturer Cronos to create the known cannabis compounds and the lesser known ingredients, using the same synthetic biological principles.

Keasling said he believes he can make marijuana connections for a fraction of the cost of traditional cannabis production because his method would not require greenhouse building materials, large amounts of land or water or manual work.

"From a scientific perspective, with all the rare cannabinoids we are

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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