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Forget growing weed?make yeast spit out CBD and THC instead

UC Berkeley
the Werc Shop
CNMN Collection
Condé Nast

Jay Keasling
Jeff Raber



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The New York Times
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“CBGA is this kind of central cannabinoid that's the mother of all the other cannabinoids,” says UC Berkeley chemical engineer Jay Keasling, coauthor on a new paper in Nature detailing the technique.To make THC, that yeast produces CBGA, which then turns into THCA thanks to the yeast's particular enzyme. (Though small amounts of THCA convert to THC over time as cannabis flower cures.) Edibles work because manufacturers first transform THCA into THC with a process called decarboxylation.The reason researchers and cannabis companies are interested in alternative ways of producing cannabinoids is that working with the original plant is messy and complicated. That is, you’d want optimize your yeast to churn out a whole lot of product.“Can you keep making it highly concentrated, or does it become toxic to the organisms that you're actually using to produce it, and therefore you have a limit?” asks Jeff Raber, CEO of the Werc Shop, a lab that’s picking apart the components of cannabis.Regardless of production hurdles, the beauty of this kind of bioengineering is that it gives researchers a powerful platform to dig into not just what each cannabinoid might be useful for—whether treating anxiety or inflammation or epilepsy—but how the many cannabinoids in the plant might interact with one another. The terpene linalool, for example, may have anti-anxiety effects.In the nearer term, let us celebrate yeast, that miracle microbe and creator of all things good: bread, booze, and bioengineered cannabinoids.As cannabis use goes recreational in California, producers are facing a reckoning: They’ll either have to clean up their act, or get out of the legal market.CNMN Collection© 2018 Condé Nast.

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