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Biosynthetic Cannabinoids Idea Proposal

Biosynthetic Cannabinoids Idea Proposal

Which companies own the key intellectual property and have the best path to commercialization for biosynthetic cannabinoids?

Report Available: August 8, 2019


Blueshift’s initial research found significant investment in the development of biosynthetic cannabinoids for use in medicines, foods and other products. The biosynthetic process offers the promise of major advantages in cost, scalability and regulatory restrictions compared to the challenges of growing cannabis plants and extracting the key chemicals. With so many companies ramping up their R&D, patent development will be a crucial factor in determining the ultimate winners and losers in a market with billions of dollars at stake.



  1. The race is on to develop efficient, scalable methods to produce cannabinoids that do not rely on the time-consuming and costly process of planting, cultivating and harvesting cannabis plants. Cannabinoids, such as CBD and THC, are a class of chemical compounds that have shown great therapeutic promise in a variety of areas, spurring significant R&D investments for their use in medicines, food, beverages and other products. While some companies are working on creating fully chemical synthetic versions of cannabinoids, so-called biosynthetic versions have gained momentum. Biosynthesis is a well-established process involving the use of host organisms such as yeast or bacteria as mini “factories” to produce different molecules.
  2. The overall market for CBD, which is just one of more than 100 cannabinoids in a cannabis plant, could hit $16 billion by 2025, according to one estimate. Myriad companies, both public and private, are working to cash in on that opportunity and others. Private company Ginkgo Bioworks Inc., whose partners already include BAYRY, ADM and Cargill, has a $122 million deal with CRON to develop cannabinoid manufacturing capabilities at scale using genetically engineered yeast. XON announced a $100 million licensing agreement last week to allow U.S.-based Surterra Wellness to use its proprietary yeast fermentation platform to produce cannabinoids. OGI, meanwhile, has invested $10 million into Hyasynth Bio, a Canadian company using yeast and sugar to produce cannabinoids in a lab.
  3. A key issue in the battle for supremacy in biosynthetic cannabinoid production will be intellectual property, as many of the steps and even specific enzymes used in the biosynthesis process are potentially patentable. InMed (TSX:IN), for example, filed a “Patent Cooperation Treaty” last fall aimed at protecting its technology for using E. Coli bacteria in cannabinoid biosynthesis in 150 countries. German-based pharmaceutical company Farmako applied for a European patent in March related to the use of genetically modified tequila bacterium to produce cannabinoids from sugar. With hundreds of such patents pending or already granted, it is not clear yet who holds the key IP that will prove to offer the best path to commercialization at scale.
  4. Intro-Blue’s May 24 Cannabis Industry Primer concluded that cannabis sales are poised to experience a 30% compound annual growth rate over the next three years. Opinion polls and current U.S. policies suggest that the transition from illicit to legal status could prolong this growth rate over the next decade. The report said tobacco and beverage companies are the most likely long-term winners, while opioid-focused pharma companies face the greatest threat of cannibalization.


Which companies holds valuable IP for the development of biosynthetic cannabinoids? What do the economics of biosynthetic cannabinoid production look like at scale? Which companies have the best path to commercialization? How close is the industry to producing biosynthetic cannabinoids at commercial scale? To answer these and other questions, Blueshift will gather data and issue a market research report from independent sources in the following areas: Biosynthetic cannabinoid developers, Academic researchers, and Industry specialists.  


Companies: Canopy Growth Corp. (TSX:WEED), Cronos Group Inc. (TSX:CRON), InMed Pharmaceuticals Inc. (TSX:IN), Intrexon Corp. (XON)


Research Begins: July 15, 2019


To see other ideas Blueshift Research is currently working on, please click here.


Blueshift Research’s sister company, Intro-act, is launching its Intro-act Scorecard, the C-suite’s standard, ongoing measure of corporate investor engagement.


The Scorecard optimizes the ROI on corporate access by measuring: Concentration, Directionality, Breadth, Impact, Depth, and Duration