Plants without the plant? A look at cannabinoids made with yeasts instead of plants

September 6, 2020 |

We’ve covered beef without the cow, pork without the pig, but what about plants without the plant?

That’s what BioMediCan is tackling – technically they aren’t creating a plant without a plant, but they are creating a plant compound, cannabinoids, without cannabis plants, skipping the growing, the sunlight, the watering, the harvesting, and all those capital and time intensive steps and going straight to yeasts. BioMediCan developed a unique method of cannabinoid biosynthesis production from proprietary yeasts.

In today’s Digest, a look at BioMediCan’s biosynthesis process, how this yeast-to-cannabinoid proprietary technology came about, who’s involved, what this means for the cannabinoid market, and more.

The cannabinoid market

BioMediCan notes that cannabinoids are a booming market, with applications to numerous industries like pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, natural health, cosmetics, and more. “But the traditional method of producing rare cannabinoids through plants is a costly and cumbersome process, with short production cycles, limited yields, high labor and energy input, and high risk of contamination. Despite the current status quo, there is an alternative and revolutionary path by which cannabinoids can be produced without the need to grow any cannabis plants whatsoever – namely, biosynthesis.”

Poised to grow exponentially to a licit global market of $146 billion US by 2025, the cannabinoid market is rapidly developing and evolving as new markets open-up, new industries adopt their usage, and global suppliers face challenges in producing a consistent scalable supply of quality product.”

What is biosynthesis?

It’s a multi-step process by which living organisms convert simple compounds into more complex products. This process is routinely performed by living organisms to produce the essential compounds needed to survive and function, however, it can also be manipulated to have organisms produce desired compounds that are non-essential to their survival – such as cannabinoids.

This isn’t the first time organsims were used to produce a particular compound. BioMediCan gives this example:

“The manipulation of organisms to produce non-essential select compounds has been practiced for decades and has revolutionized other industries, while bringing profound returns to investors. One of the most disruptive examples of this technology was how in the late-1970s, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly revolutionized the commercial production of insulin. At the time, insulin was sourced from the pancreases of commercial livestock where it had to be manually extracted at enormous cost. Scientists at Eli Lilly brought a near-complete end to this process by manipulating micro-organisms such as bacteria and yeast to biosynthesize insulin. These micro-organisms would begin mass-producing insulin through a scalable and cost-efficient process which required a relatively small footprint and simple inputs, such as sugar and water, to create vast quantities of insulin fit for human consumption.”

So what’s this about yeasts being made into cannabinoids?

BioMediCan developed a unique method of cannabinoid biosynthesis production from proprietary yeasts. This process produces high-quality rare cannabinoids without plants, resulting in cheaper, faster, and more sustainable results. In just three years, BioMediCan has filed for four patents and raised $3.3M. The company has strategic partnerships with Denmark Technical University, Clemson, Imperial College of London, and Moscow State University.

A little about how they got there, it started with basing the company at one of California’s premier cannabis research laboratory, Steep Hill Labs. The research team brings with them more than 50 years of genetics experience and over 20 years engineering the selected host organism, Yarrowia Lypolitica. Since January 2018, Biomedican has been advancing its research and protecting its in-development production methods through a combination of strategic patent filings and trade secrets.

Since receiving its initial investment in January 2018, the company has raised $2 million and said in the spring of 2020 that they are now seeking an investment of $10 million to bring in identified key researches, purchase critical research equipment that can accelerate its findings, and advance its research to the commercialization phase for production and distribution in select global markets.

“As a prospective leading producer of cannabinoids, the Company commercialization plan includes the establishment of proprietary production facilities that will produce pure cannabinoids destined for downstream processors and manufacturers. The Company does not intend at this time to develop its own proprietary formulations, but rather be the critical link in the supply chain for channel partners in need of pure, consistent, and rapidly produced scalable supply. Many markets, such as Canada, Colorado, and Washington, have mature cannabis industries, with legal medical and adult-use consumption, that would be initial targets for commercial expansion. Production facilities could be built for a fraction of the cost of the enormous indoor facilities that have been built to grow cannabis plants, while their output and margins would have the potential to far exceed conventional grow methods.”

What this means for cannibinoid industry?

“Recognizing the potential of biosynthesis to mass-produce other sought-after compounds, this technology has been pursued across a broad array of industries, including the cannabis industry. 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 an exceptionally compelling investment opportunity. This opportunity comes from both the current demand for well-known cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (“CBD”), which is forecasted to grow to a market of $22 billion by 2026, as well as the many lesser-known cannabinoids which scientists continue to research for novel medical, therapeutic, and alternative purposes.”

Bottom Line

Yeasts being used to make cannabinoid…just like beef without a cow and pork without a pig, it is something many of us never thought of as possible. Then again, there is so much now in place that we never thought possible. Just think back to our ancestors who thought a functional airplane or a trip to the moon as completely impossible. Heck, most of what has happened in 2020 doesn’t even seem possible, yet here we are, showing us once again nothing is impossible.

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