As of April 2019, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved one cannabis-derived and three cannabis-related drug products. Epidiolex, which is used for the treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome, contains a purified form of cannabidiol (CBD). Marinol (dronabinol), Syndros (liquid dronabinol) and Cesamet (nabilone) are synthetic cannabinoids used to treat nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy; dronabinol is also used to address loss of appetite and weight loss in patients with AIDS. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, the same as heroin, ecstasy and LSD, so patients have limited access to medical cannabis even in states where it is legal.
Although traditional plant cultivation and extraction operations are typically used to produce high purity tetrahydrocannabinoland (THC) and CBD, most cannabinoids in cannabis plants are available in such low concentrations that they cannot be economically produced via plant extraction alone. Demetrix, a biotechnology company specialising in synthetic biology, is aiming to solve that problem.
“We see a promising future where even the rarest cannabinoid is commercially accessible for promoting human and animal health,” Demetrix CEO Jeff Ubersax stated, as reported by Biospace.
By using baker’s yeast, Demetrix has created a method to consistently produce large volumes of any cannabinoid at high quality, high purity, and lower costs. Using this groundbreaking technology, the company can easily biosynthesise rare cannabinoids and ultimately commercialise them and bring them to market.
Demetrix was founded by Jay Keasling, one of the most prominent names in synthetic biology. His first company Amyris was created after receiving a $42 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to produce an anti-malarial drug through fermentation.
The company uses premier fermentation technology to accelerate cannabinoid production through an exclusive license on Keasling’s research and technology at the University of California at Berkeley. Keasling’s technology gives the company a competitive advantage when isolating and developing new cannabinoids and screening them for utility in the medical sector.
Demetrix raised $50 million in funding to continue isolating and brewing cannabinoids from Hong Kong-based Horizons Ventures, a previous investor, and Tuatara Capital, a firm that invests in projects in the cannabis industry. The funds will help the company scale its operations and commercialise the first of over 100 cannabinoids.
“Demetrix’s mission is to help the world benefit from nature’s rarest ingredients, and we’re excited to partner with world-class investors like Tuatara Capital and Horizons Ventures to help global pharmaceutical, supplement, and consumer product companies deliver innovative products using cannabinoids,” Ubersax said in a press release. “We’ve assembled a team of industry veterans, built a scalable technology platform, and are working with global regulatory organizations to quickly commercialise.”