Synthetic Biology: The Next Step in the Cannabinoid Revolution

The recent relaxation of cannabis legislation in Canada, many parts of the US, and several European countries has attracted a lot of investment. While most endeavors focus on extracting cannabinoid compounds from cannabis plants, there’s a growing interest in producing them using engineered microbes.

Nehtaji Gallage was first acquainted with cannabinoids when she was a researcher at the University of Copenhagen. She was hunting for the genes that help cannabis plants produce their unique compounds, and synthetic biology could play a key role in producing cannabinoids. This led her to create the Danish startup Octarine Bio in 2018.

When we started Octarine, we first understood the strong stigma around these molecules. Some would consider any science research in this field is not ‘real science,’” Gallage told me. “Neurological and psychological conditions are poorly served by current drugs. Cannabinoids are poised to offer breakthrough therapies for these debilitating conditions.” 

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Across the Atlantic, the Montreal-based company Hyasynth Biologicals also aims to make cannabinoids using synthetic biology.