ICC Makes Strategic Investment in Disruptive Biosynthesis Research
April 16th, 2019
Exclusive, News, Top News
Biosynthesis is the process of manipulating simple substances to produce the complex molecules found within living organisms. Biosynthetic engineering, as applied to cannabis, means single cell organisms are programmed to synthesize the enzymes for the metabolic pathway that generates cannabinoids from sugars – promising new technology with the potential to shake up the nascent cannabis industry.
Guided by an understanding of the potential the technology offers, International Cannabis Corp. (CSE: WRLD.U)(FWB: 8K51)(OTC: WLDCF) announced on April 8th a USD $1.2 million strategic investment in Biotii Technologies Corp. a leading private biotechnology company actively pursuing genetically engineered microorganisms that express cannabinoid profiles identical to those found in nature – at a fraction of the cost of current production methods with more consistent quality and a greatly reduced carbon footprint.
Recent advancements in the areas of gene editing, in-silico protein modeling, and semi-automated high throughput robotics has enabled Biotii to expedite its molecular biology research, allowing the company to spearhead into large-scale production with a wide portfolio of intellectual property. This evolving portfolio is expected to consist of synthetic cannabinoids, designer enzymes, proprietary enzyme pathways, and GMO microorganisms.
Traditional cultivation of cannabis plants for the purpose of extracting cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), THC and CBD is a time, labour, and resource intensive endeavor which often results in lower yields. By 2020, the Biotii team plans to establish processes to mass-produce CBD/THC in quantities of hundreds of metric tons per annum boasting stable and consistent yields, pharmaceutical grade purities, and the lowest production costs in the cannabis space.
Commenting on the investment, Eugene Beukman, Chief Executive Officer and a Director of International Cannabis, said, “We are thoroughly impressed with the Biotii team, which consists of proven innovators from world-class institutions, whom we believe are en route to potentially disrupt a very large part of the cannabis value chain. ICC will continue to support Biotii’s distinguished team in their pursuit to bring economies of scale using biosynthesis to the cannabis industry. This investment enhances ICC’s ability to capture significant IP and market share in the fast-developing biosynthesis market for cannabinoids.”
In areas with more established cannabis markets, extract-based products have proven to be just as popular, and often more so, than the smoking of flower. Most consumers are new to cannabis and increasingly health conscious, so they’re much more likely to purchase derivatives and consumables. The development of biosynthetic cannabinoids could potentially eliminate the need for companies producing these products to invest in cultivation and processing, substantially lowering input costs and increasing revenues, while also cutting the industry’s overall ecological footprint.
Industry Investment Enabling Research
Cronos is working with synthetic biology firm Ginkgo Bioworks in an effort to develop a scalable system for producing synthetic cannabinoids, and if certain benchmarks are achieved, the deal could be worth USD $100 million in cash and stock incentives. This would give Cronos the exclusive right to commercialize key patented intellectual property related to the target cannabinoids in perpetuity. These include THC and CBD, but also lesser-known compounds also produced by the cannabis plant, which are of particular importance to pharmaceutical companies.
Tilray is working with IntelGenX Corp. to develop oral film products infused with synthetic cannabis for both recreational and medicinal use, citing a need for the greater consistency synthetics offer, especially for medical cannabis patients, as well as being free of the contaminants sometimes present in naturally-sourced cannabinoids.
The US Food & Drug Administration has been slow to approve synthetic cannabinoids, but since 2016, has started to liberalize its approach, a key step in advancing research.
ICC’s strategic investment with Biotii grants International Cannabis a right of first refusal with respect to all future Biotii financing.
Biotii Guided by a Winning Team
Dr. John Harrold, Biotii’s Chief Executive Officer, said, “Biotii looks forward to progressing our technology alongside ICC and their robust cannabis platform. ICC has earned a reputation of being a thought leader in the space and we are excited by the possibilities of tapping into ICC’s unique expertise and resources as we look to disrupt the cannabis industry.”
Dr. Harrold is an MIT instructor with expertise in end-to-end bio-lab management, and a proven entrepreneur, having previously championed four start-ups, including two funded by the National Science Foundation. Biotii has forged mission critical relationships with leading medical research institutions in both the United States and China.
Sisi Ni, Biotii’s Chief Product Officer, is an MIT trained materials scientist and engineer who was previously named as one of Forbes’ 30 under 30. Casey Solomon, PhD, the company’s Chief Science Officer/Lead Scientist, is a resident expert in yeast engineering, E. coli engineering, and molecular pathway engineering. Biotii’s Chief Medical Officer is Ryan Hubbard, MD, a former instructor at Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Medicine with over 25 publications, posters, and oral presentations.
Nona Tian, PhD is the company’s Science Advisor/Affiliated Researcher, a Xiamen University PhD graduate in Cell and Molecular Biology with a B.S. in biotechnology as well as a successful startup co-founder with extensive bioengineering experience. Peter Liu, Biotii’s Technology Advisor/Affiliated Researcher also graduated from Xiamen University with a B.S. in biotechnology, and is a seasoned protein engineer and startup co-founder that received various grants from the Chinese Government for bioengineering initiatives.
If the biosynthesis of cannabinoids proves to be a scalable technology, many of the companies involved in the production and sale of extract-based products could switch from traditional cultivation and processing to achieve their supplies in this alternative form, which would leave those with the foresight to invest in the technology now in a position to capitalize. Investors would do well to keep an eye on biosynthesis research and the companies like ICC who are making important moves now.
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