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sector_ico_Agrifood_trans Agrifood

Functional genomics of terpene variation in medical cannabis

  • Project Leaders: Joerg Bohlmann, Jonathan Page
  • Institutions: University of British Columbia (UBC)
  • Budget: $236922
  • Competition: Sector Innovation Program - Round 1
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome British Columbia
  • Fiscal Year: 2017
  • Status: Closed

Production of medical cannabis is the fastest growing agri-biotech industry in British Columbia (BC). In addition, the Government of Canada Task Force "Report on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation" is anticipated to lead to federal legislation, under which non-medical cannabis production and distribution will transform into a regulated, multibillion-dollar industry. Much of the cannabis industry is concentrated in BC with over 20% of Canada’s licensed producers. A major issue for the industry is access to well-defined cannabis varieties with supporting scientific information on their quality traits. Such varieties will be critical for standardized cannabis production. Currently, much of the industry uses less well-defined "strains", which often have great variation in their chemical composition of small molecules that comprise the cannabis resin. In total, over 500 different small molecules contribute to cannabis resin. The majority of these small molecules are the terpenes and cannabinoids, which together define the unique pharmacological and sensory properties of different cannabis products. This project capitalizes on a timely opportunity of recent advances in cannabis genomics converging with the development of a regulated cannabis agri-biotech industry and the leading expertise of the Project Leaders. The results of this project will enable development of cannabis varieties with defined terpene profiles using breeding or genome-editing and will deliver methods, new standards and reference metabolite profiles for cannabis terpenes, which are of critical importance for testing labs and licensed producers in a regulated cannabis industry. Cannabis production with improved traits will help cement BC's developing cannabis agri-biotech industry as a global leader. The immediate users of the project's deliverables are licensed producers and testing labs. The benefits of standardized cannabis products will reach patients as the ultimate end-users. Knowledge and technology transfer and up-take will be accomplished through involvement of Anandia Laboratories Inc. as an industry partner.