CRISPR for cannabis: Gene-edited, disease-resistant marijuana poised for 2021 debut

marijuana pot in hand
Credit: Kimberly Thompson

Israeli startup CanBreed said it has reached a licensing agreement to use gene editing tools to provide cannabis growers with enhanced seeds for the production of medical grade cannabis.

The Givat Chen, Israel-based firm, founded in 2017 by Ido Margalit and Tal Sherman, said it has received a nonexclusive intellectual property licensing agreement to use CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology from Corteva Agriscience and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, which hold the rights to the technology.

CanBreed has developed what it says are “stable” cannabis seeds that will allow farmers to grow cannabis from seeds as opposed to cloning, as it is done now, from branches of the plant that are rooted.

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The use of the gene editing tools will enable the firm to create seeds with enhanced traits — making them more resistant to diseases and more suited to grow in greenhouses.

The company expects its stable seeds to be ready for sale by mid-2021, and also expects its first traits to be introduced by the end of 2021, with the introduction of a powdery mildew-resistant cannabis seed. Powdery mildew is a fungus that attacks plants.

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