Scientists engineered common brewer’s yeast to produce major medical-grade cannabinoids, which means potentially cheaper and faster production of the compounds for research and medical purposes.
In the past few decades, through the means of genetic engineering, scientists have managed to turn yeast into tiny chemical biofactories to mass produce a variety of compounds ranging from insulin to growth hormones. The new research showed that through the addition of over a dozen different genes, the yeast could be engineered to produce variety of cannabinoids including cannabigerolic acid, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, and cannabidiolic acid. These compounds, with the addition of heat, easily become the more commonly known cannabinoids CBG, THC, and CBD.
Jay Keasling, one of the researchers said, “For the consumer, the benefits are high-quality, low-cost CBD and THC: you get exactly what you want from yeast. It is a safer, more environmentally friendly way to produce cannabinoids.” In addition to the cheaper and quicker manufacturing, this new method also opens up avenues for researching rarer and more novel cannabinoids that are difficult to extract from the plant. There are over multiple, novel chemicals in marijuana plants so this new method sets the stage for easy production of pure cannabinoids in large quantities.
In conclusion Jay Keasling commented that the economic benefits of this method are impressive. “The cost is competitive or better than that for the plant-derived cannabinoids. And manufacturers don’t have to worry about contamination – for example, THC in CBD – that would make you high.”