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Trait Biosciences Has Big Plans For The Cannabis Category

August 20, 2019

Former Diageo North America chief marketing and innovation officer Peter McDonough was named CEO of Trait Biosciences this past spring. In his new post the former drinks executive is focused on carving out an integral role for Trait within the cannabis and hemp industries, where it’s developing new technologies like water-soluble cannabinoids aimed at the infused product market.

Headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, Trait has a team of more than 40 scientists at work in its 35,000-square foot research facility and greenhouse in Los Alamos, New Mexico. This summer, the company unveiled new water-soluble cannabinoids that it says are superior in terms of safety, stability, and onset time compared to the fat-based cannabinoids currently prevalent in the market. In recent weeks, the New Mexico lab also engineered hemp plants that it says are producing four times the amount of cannabidiol (CBD) of conventional hemp plants. “We’re focused on developing the technology that enables our partners to provide the best possible cannabinoids that can be used in pharmaceutical applications, beverage applications, health and wellness, topical ointments, and a broad range of novel products using CBD or THC,” McDonough tells SND.

As infused cannabis products roll out in Canada later this year and the CBD market continues to explode in the U.S., Trait says its water-soluble cannabinoid technology in particular is a game-changer. The company uses a process called glycosylation (the addition of a sugar molecule) to convert fat-soluble cannabinoids to water-soluble cannabinoids. That allows infused cannabis products to have a rapid onset time similar to alcohol, compared with fat-soluble versions that can take significantly longer. Moreover, water-soluble cannabinoids are more desirable because the nanotechnologies used to integrate fat-soluble cannabinoids in beverages can create nanoparticles that can potentially permeate human tissues and build up in organs, the company says.

Beyond the well-known THC and CBD cannabinoids, Trait sees vast potential for a host of so-called minor cannabinoids that could have an array of commercial and therapeutic applications moving forward. “People tend to use the term CBD in a way that creates a misunderstanding that all cannabinoids are similar,” McDonough notes. “In fact, there is a broad spectrum of what we refer to as major cannabinoids and minor cannabinoids. The majors are THC and CBD, but there is emerging interest in more than 100 additional minor cannabinoids. Each of these minor cannabinoids has distinct properties and benefits. The challenge is that the hemp and cannabis plants don’t produce a lot of the minor cannabinoids that will be needed to formulate new CBD-infused products. So Trait developed technology that amplifies the plant’s productivity and enables it to grow a broad spectrum of minor cannabinoids in greater quantities.”

Most recently, Trait announced that it completed “the first-ever successful stable genetic transformation of the Cannabis sativa (hemp) plant.” Trait chief science officer Dr. Richard Sayre said the initiative will allow the company to develop hemp and cannabis strains with novel attributes looking ahead. Plants grown through the new technology have 35% more trichomes (buds), produce naturally water-soluble cannabinoids, and produce about four times the amount of CBD compared with conventional plants, Trait says, adding that they also grow faster and require less light and water than conventional plants. The result, McDonough asserts, will be “products that will be more affordable, have better quality, and deliver more predictable, repeatable experiences than anything that’s on the market currently.” As cannabis companies look to reduce production costs and increase efficiency in a bid to become more profitable, Trait’s activities will no doubt garner wide interest in the years ahead.—Daniel Marsteller

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