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Developers say genetic ID can lead to better plants, help resolve IP issues

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Israeli company Tikun-Olam Cannbit said it has developed Cannabis Genetic Fingerprinting (CGF) technology, a system to identify and track cannabis strains based on their genetic codes. 

The company said the CGF system aims to set a standard in terms of strain identification, leading to greater genetic stability, and reducing deviation ranges in cannabis plants’ active ingredients.

The system also can lead to improvement in the process of registering cannabis varieties, providing greater protection of intellectual property rights. That would help regulators around the world who have struggled with issues such as breeders’ rights, patents and branding, Tikun-Olam said, noting the CGF system also has a role to play in the management of seed banks.

Simple leaf samples

The technology allows growers to characterize cannabis DNA through plucked leaves, without harming the plant. In development for about three years, CGF can help producers maintain stability in cannabis operations by detecting contaminated genetics. More than a thousand plants have been tested with the system since it was first developed, Tikun-Olam said.

The system diagnoses a variety of unique sequences along the cannabis plant’s genome, based on a number of consecutive genetic technologies, revealing “a biological and totally natural barcode (non-GMO), which accompanies the plant throughout its complete life cycle and, in some cases, into the final product,” the company said. To receive a genetic fingerprint, producers simply deliver plant leaves to a CGF-equipped laboratory for analysis.

‘Holy grail’?

“It’s the holy grail of the cannabis world,” said geneticist Assaf Shalmon, who developed the system and calls it “the only and exclusive parameter that completely and independently characterizes each cannabis strain.” CGF was developed with technical support from the Plant Metabolism Laboratory at the MIGAL Galilee Research Institute in northern Israel.

Currently, the identity of cannabis plants is determined based on biological parameters such as plant height, color, rod diameter, profiles of active component substances and other traits. But such things as lighting, fertilizers and cultivation methods can affect many plant components, as can moisture, pests, diseases and other factors, Tikun-Olam noted.

Clearing ‘big mess’

“The poor reliability of these methods has resulted in poor identification of plants,” the company said. “This, in addition to the accumulation of mutations in the multitude of plants, has led to an accumulation of genetic diversity within the populations of strains, hence a ‘big mess’ manifested in ‘erosion’ and weakening loads, as well as evenness and flatness.”

The CGF system is now being scaled up to offer a more cost-effective and faster platform for implementation on a large scale. Tikum-Olam said it will offer CFG identification services directly, or market them through a related but independent company.

Tikum-Olam Cannbit was created when Cannbit Pharmaceuticals, also of Israel, purchased Tikum-Olam at the end of 2019. Observers said at the time that the roughly $40 million deal was largest ever medical-cannabis merger involving Israeli companies. Tikum-Olam Cannbit trades on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

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