CALIFORNIA: Librede, a San Diego-based synthetic biology company, has received a Phase I Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to improve Cannabidiol production in genetically engineered yeast.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of several pharmacologically active chemicals (cannabinoids) found in the cannabis plant and has been shown to be useful in treating a wide range of diseases including childhood epilepsy. Librede recently completed another NIH Phase I SBIR to engineer production of CBD from sugar; Librede’s new award will improve the yield of CBD production in preparation for commercial launch. Dr. Anthony Farina, Librede’s Chief Scientific Officer, explains, “Our pioneering work producing cannabinoids in yeast has given us a number of insights into the redirection of yeast metabolism for CBD production. During this NIH award, our team will implement these insights to improve production efficiency of our current CBD-yeast system. High throughput techniques and new gene editing tools allow us to make a large number of modifications and screen them for performance rapidly and inexpensively.”
Although the therapeutic value of many cannabinoids is well recognized, their primary source is the cannabis plant, which produces most of the 70+ cannabinoids in very low amounts, requiring problematic large scale agricultural production. Dr. Jason Poulos, Chief Executive Officer of Librede, explains: “As demand for cannabinoids increases we must find an environmentally and economically sustainable way for their production. Large scale agricultural production is environmentally destructive, requiring huge amounts of land, water, fertilizers, pesticide and energy. Our yeast-based system is superior to agricultural production with respect to all of these areas.”
Although the focus of this award is on CBD, Librede’s platform is capable of making many different cannabinoids. “It is straightforward to modify the engineered yeast to produce a number of different cannabinoids,” said Dr. Farina. “Many of these cannabinoids are produced in plants at such low levels that it is infeasible to produce them agriculturally. We are very excited to expand the range of cannabinoids produced for use in pharmaceutical studies.”