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Breeding cannabis strains with more desired cannabinoids could advance medicinal treatments

Focusing on novel traits of cannabis plants, a partnership among CannaPacific, Xing Technologies and Newcastle University, seeks to develop “one of the most advanced medical cannabis genomic breeding programs in the world,” notes a statement from CannaPacific.

It is hoped that engineering novel cannabis varieties with less variability and more productivity will lead to new low-cost medicinal formulations and improved delivery of products.

“There is over 100 cannabinoids in the plant, and many are still yet to be exploited,” says CannaPacific chief executive Joshua Dennis, according to the Newcastle Herald. “THC and CBD are there in the highest quantities, but there is a whole gamut of other cannabinoids in the plant in really low quantities,” Dennis says.

Minor cannabinoids, some of which have been shown to have medicinal benefits or promise, are present in strains. The trick will be identifying the new varieties with more of them.

By developing genetic markers, it will be possible to identify specific significant parts of the plant genome and “select which plants to incorporate into our breeding program in order to combine desirable traits such as specific cannabinoid profiles and yield,” Professor Christopher Grof, director of the university’s Centre for Plant Science, says in the CannaPacific release.

Researchers will also be able to “track these markers through subsequent generations,” Grof continues.

Ultimately, CannaPacific hopes that producing cultivars with the desired cannabinoid content will “support the development of new medicinal cannabis treatments and novel cannabinoid product formulations.” / Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Ultimately, CannaPacific hopes that producing cultivars with the desired cannabinoid content will “support the development of new medicinal cannabis treatments and novel cannabinoid product formulations,” says Tim Bowser, chief scientific officer for the company, which is licenced by the Australian government to cultivate and research medicinal cannabis.

CannaPacific and the university are further “aiming for a long-term collaborative research partnership, including PhD students who will experience the future of plant science whilst embedded within both CannaPacific and Xing Technologies,” the statement adds.

Federally, recreational cannabis remains illegal, although the country’s capital city, Canberra, has opted to move forward with legalization.

On the medicinal marijuana front, products may only be accessed through the country Special Access Scheme, by an authorized prescriber or for use in a clinical trial. Access to medicinal cannabis may be subject to specific requirements in each state and territory.

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