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German Scientists Gene-Edited Tequila Bacteria to Make Cannabinoids

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A German pharmaceutical company has filed a patent application for its process that uses genetically modified tequila bacteria to produce cannabinoids from sugar. Frankfurt-based Farmako sent the application to the European Patent Office and claims its production process could cut the costs of producing cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), drastically.

Researchers have previously developed ways to produce cannabinoids using yeast, but Farmako says its process using bacteria could make the extraction process of cannabinoids easier on an industrial scale. “With one production run, we can produce cannabinoids for 900 hours without interruption,” Farmako’s co-founder and Chief Science Officer Patrick Schmitt said. “For example, 4.5 kilograms of THC are produced per gram of bacterial mass during this time.”

The newly named bacterium, Zymomonas cannabinoidis, is a genetically edited version of Zymomonas mobilis, which is used to make tequila. To stop it from making alcohol, scientists removes the genes responsible for making alcohol and replaces them with genes for individual cannabinoids. Zymomonas cannabinoidis can be used to produce a massive range of more than 180 known cannabinoids. Only a single gene needs to be replaced to switch between cannabinoids.

Pharmaceutical companies have taken interest in cannabinoids and the various health benefits they may have to offer. Aside from the more commonly known THC and CBD, there are many cannabinoids that have scientists have done little to no research on. Researchers in California have recently discovered a way to increase the production of THCV, a cannabinoid that can fight inflammation, protect the brain, prevent epileptic episodes and more. THCV is a rare cannabinoid that is only found in trace amounts in most cannabis strains.

With Farmako’s new process the production of cannabinoids can be done cheaper and faster, which allows scientists the opportunity to research other beneficial effects some of the rarer cannabinoids can have.