A molecular information company called Medicinal Genomics (MCG) has partnered with 12 cannabis processors and cultivators to develop genomics-based safety and quality standards, and they are using the bitcoin blockchain to track DNA sequencing cannabis strains.
Inconsistent Strains Pose Challenge
The lack of consistent cannabis strains from the same grower can pose medical challenges for patients since even slight changes in a plant’s genetics can impact the strain’s effectiveness. Many patients require a specific cannabis strain for effective treatment. When plant genetics vary, patients can lose symptom relief.
While some U.S. states have passed testing requirements for microbial requirements, heavy metals, yeasts and molds, no laws or guidelines enforce genetic consistency of the strains used by patients for medical reasons.
Technology Enables Strain Verification
MGC has created technology for use with hemp and cannabis that allows growers, processors and testing laboratories to implement strain verification and stability programs to ensure product consistency and safety.
These programs provide confidence to patients using these strains and strain-based medicines. They also reduce product liability risk for growers and processors. Doctors and regulators who were previously unaware that genetic variance and cannabis effectiveness is of significant concern are commending these programs.
Kevin McKernan, chief scientific officer of MGC, said current industry nomenclature for characterizing a strain’s medicinal benefits has no reliability, consistency or association with the effectiveness of the product patients use. Clinically-validated next-generation sequencing techniques now provide the tools to decipher the genetics driving the medicinal properties of cannabis strains that patients use.
Blockchain Manages Intellectual Property
“Furthermore, this information can be linked into a distributed ledger to serve as the basis for claims about intellectual property, branding, and scientific discovery in the advanced breeders market,” McKernan said.
DNA sequencing is employed through MGC’s proprietary StrainSEEK™ service to record the cannabis’ and hemp strains’ unique fingerprint into the bitcoin blockchain database. Such genetic registration ensures the safety, consistency and branding integrity of strains used in the treating patients in states where medical cannabis is legal.
An Improved Medical Marijuana Industry
Kevin Murphy, managing director at High Street Capital, one of the early partner companies planning to utilize StrainSEEK™ for its medicinal cannabis operations and some of its holdings, said MGC is bringing consistency, quality and reliability to the medical cannabis industry.
“Using the most advanced scientific tools to ensure quality and patient safety is essential as we expand our national footprint of high-quality medicinal cannabis operations,” he said.
Medicinal cannabis is estimated to be a $6 billion industry and increasing at a 24 percent combined annual growth rate, according to Cowen and Company’s September 16, 2016 equity research report.
Twenty-five U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized medical cannabis and more are expected to join the list in November 2016. The industry, however, is highly fragmented and nascent in its use of safety and quality standards governing the regulated food or crop industries.
MGC is leveraging the clinical neurology sequencing and bioinformatics pipeline of Courtagen Life Sciences, its parent company, to generate and analyze the DNA information.
Featured image from Shutterstock.