Three Methods to Produce Rare Cannabinoids: Cultivation, Chemical Synthesis, and Biosynthesis

February 8, 2021 |

By Maxim Mikheev, PhD, CEO & Founder of BIOMEDICAN

Special to The Digest

There is a rapidly growing demand for cannabinoids (the compounds found in the cannabis plant) because of their numerous health benefits. While the most popular cannabinoid is CBD, there are over one hundred known cannabinoids, including rare ones like CBG, CBN, THCA, and THCV. Thanks to new innovative production methods, these rare cannabinoids will soon become more affordable and accessible than ever before.

The three main methods to produce rare cannabinoids are natural cultivation (through plants), chemical synthesis, and biosynthesis. This article will explore each of these methods, along with explaining the unique properties of rare cannabinoids that make them so beneficial to our health and wellness.

Natural Cultivation

There are several significant problems producing rare cannabinoids using cultivation. First, cannabinoids show up in very minimal amounts in cannabis plants, which means you have to grow a significant amount of cannabis to produce a minimal amount of rare cannabinoids. This makes extraction and purification inefficient, costly, and environmentally taxing. It takes 10 kilograms of cannabis plants to produce less than 2 grams of rare cannabinoids.

Second, each plant and grow season is different, which means you cannot produce an identical product each year. Cultivation produces inconsistent yields prone to contamination from pests, mold, and pesticides. Consistency is critical for large-scale distribution because large brands need to be able to have the same product on the shelf each year.

Third, the cost of producing rare cannabinoids is expensive, which makes the product expensive, which ultimately prices out a large percentage of potential customers. Significant regulatory oversight is also necessary during the handling of cannabis plants, which contain THC – a Schedule I compound in the United States.

Chemical synthesis

Chemical synthesis—the creation of compounds through artificial means by a chemical reaction—has become the leading method for the production of these rare, high-value cannabinoids.

However, chemical synthesis leads to the production of non-naturally occurring forms of these cannabinoids. Compounds derived from chemical synthesis often possess components that differ from the desired naturally occurring compound. These components can be toxic and result in undesirable side effects.


The third method of rare cannabinoid production is biosynthesis, which overcomes the large gap in the supply chain, reduces the environmental footprint, decreases the time of production, circumvents regulatory oversight, and produces high-quality cannabinoids with the exact chemical structures as naturally occurring cannabinoids.

Biosynthesis is the production of a desired compound through the natural means of an organism’s biological processes. It produces identical compounds to those found in nature, lending itself as the optimal pathway for the manufacture of cannabinoids and carotenoids identical to their naturally occurring counterparts.

The proprietary yeast Yarrowia Lipolytica (YL) is the ideal microorganism for cannabinoid biosynthesis. Proprietary YL can be optimized for the efficient production of CBGA and other rare cannabinoids. This optimization is a result of genetically engineered enzymes NphB and THCA synthase. In contrast, non-proprietary YL, which contains unmutated NphB, produces lower levels of CBGA with large amounts of undesirable byproducts.

Maxim Mikheev, PhD, is CEO and Founder of BIOMEDICAN, a biotech startup designing patented low-cost methods of growing high-value compounds at scale with proprietary yeasts.



Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Thought Leadership, Top Stories

Thank you for visting the Digest.