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New Technology Allows Scientists to Genetically Modify Cannabis Strains

The biotechnology could greatly shorten the time it takes to alter cannabinoid and terpene profiles.

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A New York-based biotech company working with cannabis recently earned a patent for new technology that allows them to genetically modify cannabis plants.

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The 22nd Century Group has developed the ability to create new plants with genetic profiles that could make them better as potential therapeutic treatments.

“We are delighted to receive this patent, which is the result of work carried out by our own scientists,” Juan Sanchez Tamburrino, vice president of research and development at 22nd Century Group, said in a news release. “This important, new technology will allow us to genetically modify hemp/cannabis plants to modulate their cannabinoid and terpene profiles in order to tailor these plants’ therapeutic qualities and enhance the consumer’s hemp/cannabis experience."

For cannabis entrepreneurs, it’s worth taking note of the patent. Biotechnology leaders, who already have disrupted so many other industries, are starting to focus on cannabis. Most have been expecting something like this for years now.

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Shorter development time

Creating a cannabis plant with new cannabinoid or terpene profiles could take as long as two decades using traditional growing techniques, according to Tamburrino. With the new technology, the company hopes to shorten the development time for new strains to about five years.

It’s easy to see how that will benefit 22nd Century and potential clients. The genetic engineering will provide a “significant competitive advantage as hemp/cannabis continues to penetrate the life science, consumer product, and pharmaceutical markets,” Tamburrino said.

The patent application from 22nd Century describes eight “promotors,” basically on/off switches for molecules, that cover all the major steps in the cannabinoid biosynthesis pathway. This enables the company’s scientists to develop new plants that produce cannabinoids more efficiently than traditional methods.

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Disruptive uses for the new technology 

According to the news release, the company also expects the technology to:

  • Potentially increase the yield of plants

  • Stabilize the level of cannabinoids that are produced
  • Create custom cannabinoid profiles optimized for specific therapeutic uses
  • Potentially modulate terpene levels – increasing them to deliver new recreational cannabis strains and reducing them to remove odor/taste for use in foods and beverages.

In a recent interview, company Chief Executive Officer James Mish said that 22nd Century is positioning itself to become “a plant-based, life science biotechnology company that utilizes both its internal expertise and external strategic resources to create disruptive and proprietary technology with important commercial applications.”

The recent announcement of the patent falls neatly into that definition and also serves as a harbinger of more breakthroughs in cannabis biotech down the road. 

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