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Scientists to Produce THC in Yeast

Scientists are working to develop an innovative new method for effectively producing the primary compounds of marijuana without being forced to endure the lengthy cultivation process — a manner by which they hope to genetically engineer cannabinoids using yeast.

The mad science minds of Hyasynth Bio, a newly formed biotech firm in Ireland, are currently experimenting with the production of the cannabinoids THC and CBD by transplanting the genetic code into yeast. Through this process, researchers believe they will be able to rapidly grow medical-grade marijuana in a laboratory setting and potentially eliminate the need for traditional grow houses.

“Right now, growing medical marijuana is expensive and it’s heavily regulated as well. It’s slow to grow, you’ve got to go through several different strains before you get a stable blend,” said Sarah Choukah, the CEO of Hyasynth Bio, in a recent interview with VICE. “We’re thinking to bypass all this, to make it quick to grow, we can develop pot from technology that could give us customizable blends of yeast.”

Over a decade ago, the concept of engineering cannabinoids by transferring DNA to other organisms was discussed in detail in an article by Ed Rosenthal entitled “Can Another Plant Be Made to Contain THC?” In the piece, Rosenthal points out of a very realistic concern when considering the potential of marketing transgenic cannabis: marijuana purists are not likely to have any interest in a product that has been genetically engineered.

And while Rosenthal’s argument is certainly valid, researchers at Hyasynth Bio say their yeast weed concept is not for the average marijuana user. According to the lab’s website, its primary goal is to produce THC and CBD strains in a matter of days as opposed to waiting for plants to mature, while, at the same time, providing fast and effective medicine for patients suffering from conditions including epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, and chronic pain.

Researchers admit their yeast-based marijuana project is something that scientists have been dabbling in for several years, but due to the legalities of marijuana research, those efforts never came to fruition. According to Choukah, this is the primary reason her team has decided to set their sights on the medical side of the industry. Yet, she believes they will eventually explore the possibility of getting involved with the recreational market.

Hyasynth Bio is expected to present their findings next month at a demonstration in Dublin.

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