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Cannabinoid Synthesis Process Licensed to Spin-Off Company

DNA illustration

(Nogas1974, Wikimedia Commons)

11 Aug. 2022. A genetic technology for synthesizing cannabinoid compounds without cannabis cells was licensed to a company spun-off from the lab that developed the process. Xinteza API Ltd. in Tel Aviv, Israel acquired the rights to the synthetic biology process developed by plant scientists at Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel.

Xinteza is a three year-old enterprise co-founded by Asaph Aharoni, professor and head of the plant and environmental sciences department at Weizmann Institute. Aharoni and lab colleagues study metabolic processes in plants, particularly specialized metabolites, products of plant metabolism not needed for plant survival, and result from natural genetic modifications. Examples are fruit flavor, aroma, and coloring compounds. The lab uses techniques from genetics, physiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, and bioinformatics to better understand how plants produce specialized metabolites, including genetic mechanisms regulating metabolic pathways in plants.

In the past few years, derivatives of Cannabis sativa plants known as cannabinoids have emerged as a promising source of treatments for pain, epilepsy, and mental health disorders. National Library of Medicine in the U.S. identified some 80 cannabinoid compounds derived from Cannabis sativa, including cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-intoxicating derivative, that makes up about 40 percent of cannabis extracts and has been studied extensively. The Food and Drug Administration began approving CBD in treatments beginning in 2018, with a therapy for rare forms of epilepsy.

Xinteza notes that CBD or other Cannabis-derived chemicals are made from the flowering female parts of the plant, which limits the amount of tissue available for chemical production. In addition, says the company, current biosynthesis methods like fermentation with microorganisms still result in the presence of cannabis genes in the product, requiring further genetic engineering and enzyme processing.

Design new pathways for cannabinoid synthesis

Xinteza says its process, developed by Aharoni’s lab, produces cannabinoid compounds with a library of genes and enzymes, but without Cannabis sativa or other cells or tissue from plants in the Cannabaceae or hemp family. As a result, says the company, the process is more efficient and can generate more active chemical ingredients per feedstock inputs than with Cannabis plants. Xinteza says its genetic toolkit makes it possible to design new pathways for cannabinoid synthesis that can result in a higher quality product and more consistency, at a reasonable cost.

Weizmann Institute’s technology transfer office licensed rights to the Aharoni lab technology to Xinteza. Terms of the license agreement, including financial aspects, were not disclosed.

Alon Gal, CEO and co-founder of Xinteza, says in a company statement released through Cision that the discovery, “places Xinteza at the forefront of cannabinoid sourcing and synthesis,” and notes, “The flexibility and efficacy of this extraordinary patent-pending alternative genetic system offers solutions to some of the burning delivery issues currently plaguing our industry.”

Aharoni adds the company’s process provides a framework for more innovations with synthetic cannabinoids, noting “this alternative non-Cannabaceae production system is significantly more amenable than cannabis to genetic engineering and cellular transformation, allowing greater flexibility in a range of biosynthesis enhancement and optimization processes.”

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