An American synthetic microorganism company is teaming up with a Canadian cannabis producer to produce lab-grown cannabis compounds for pharmaceuticals use.
Ginkgo Bioworks, known for turning bacteria into “custom microbes” is partnering in a $122 million-dollar deal with Toronto-based cannabis producer Cronos Group. Ginkgo Bioworks will be using the same process it has used to turn bacteria into flavors and scents to manufacture cannabis with specific pharmaceuticals uses.
“There’ so much new discovery work on the pharmaceutical side that’ possible using our approach,”Ginkgo CEO Jason Kelly told Business Insider. “That’ definitely an area that we’re excited about.”
The two companies hope to manufacture the cannabinoids in an economically sustainable way, offering a tailored option for pharmaceuticals companies looking for a corner of the cannabis market. “Beyond THC and CBD, there’s a whole class of rare cannabinoids, but accessing them at a remotely reasonable cost hasn’t been feasible,” Kelly said.
Using bacteria to grow the cannabis compounds may enable production at a globally-marketable scale more efficiently than extracting the small amounts of desired cannabinoids from the plants. Ginkgo will be using Cronos’ lab to engineer cannabis compounds like beer in a microbrewery, aiming for eight different cannabis compounds including CBD, THC and lesser known compounds.
“The potential uses of cannabinoids are vast, but the key to successfully bringing cannabinoid-based products to market is in creating reliable, consistent and scalable production of a full spectrum of cannabinoids, not just THC and CBD” said Mike Gorenstein, CEO of Cronos Group.
“Engineering strains of yeast that can produce these cannabinoids via fermentation is a perfect fit for our organism design platform,” said Kelly. Ginkgo will be using Cronos’ lab space to research cannabis, and Cronos will market and distribute the resulting cannabis product.