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article imageGerman company patents gene-edited bacteria to make cannabinoids

By Karen Graham     Apr 18, 2019 in Technology
Frankfurt - Farmako, a research-based pharmaceutical company headquartered in Frankfurt, Hessen, Germany has applied for a worldwide patent for cannabinoid synthesis - it is the production of cannabinoids from a novel microorganism using glucose.
Founded in 2018, Farmako has already made great strides in the cannabis market, supplying medical cannabis and CBD oil to European countries where medical cannabis has been legalized.
In March this year, Farmako made a deal with the Polish company, Pharmacann to import 50 tons of marijuana flowers and weed oil over a period of four years. German pharmaceutical companies are still importing medical cannabis products from the likes of Canada and the Netherlands.
Meet the Farmako team
Meet the Farmako team
Synthetic cannabinoids research
Farmako's research into producing synthetic cannabinoids took a different track than what is being done by researchers, notably in the United States. Two American companies now hold patents on producing cannabinoids using brewers yeast.
Farmako co-founder Patrick Schmitt, who also happens to be a molecular biologist, notes that the production technique used is expensive and converting the process to industrial production will be difficult.
With over 180 known cannabinoids, the medical cannabis field is wide-open for research into what other cannabis compounds will be discovered through research. And research into the potential uses of the different cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant could revolutionize medicine.
The tequila bacterium from a video produced by Farmako
The tequila bacterium from a video produced by Farmako
Farmako GmbH
To this end, Farmako has come up with a way to produce a wide range of biosynthetic cannabinoids using genetically modified tequila bacterium, or Zymomonas mobilis. This bacterium is used in the production of Tequila. Farmako modified the bacterium by adding genes from the malaria parasite and the cannabis plant, according to a press release.
Farmako edited the bacterium by removing the genes responsible for alcohol production. They were left with an artificial bacterium called Zymomonas cannabinoidis® that can produce cannabinoids from glucose.
"In principle, nothing else happens during biosynthesis than during alcohol fermentation, with the difference that cannabinoids instead of alcohol are the outcome of the process. All we need as a starting point is glucose," said Schmitt. The neat think about Farmako's process is that to produce a specific cannabinoid, only one gene from the cannabis plant needs to be exchanged.
The industrial production of cannabinoids is made easier using Farmako s biosynthetic bacterium. (Sc...
The industrial production of cannabinoids is made easier using Farmako's biosynthetic bacterium. (Scene from Farmako video).
Farmako GmbH
"The new synthetic organism represents an enormous competitive advantage for Farmako. The production of cannabinoids and finished medicines based on cannabinoids will be synthetic in the future. With the patent application, we have now managed to remove a big question mark from the world as to exactly what this production looks like," says Niklas Kouparanis, Managing Director and founder of Farmako.
According to Farmako, with their process, they can produce cannabinoids for 900 hours without interruption in one production run. For Example, "4.5 kilograms of THC are produced per gram of bacterial mass during this time," explains Schmitt.
The creation of the biosynthetic bacterium, coupled with the industrial production process will give Farmako a distinct competitive advantage. Right now, medical cannabis products are expensive. And using brewers yeast to produce synthetic cannabinoids will also be expensive. With Farmako's production process, the costs of medical cannabis will be reduced, while the supply will be increased.
More about synthetic organism, Zymomonas mobilis, industrial scale production, Cannabinoids, Farmako
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