In Australia, the cannabis market is still behind the rest of the world in many ways. We’re lagging from both a business and consumer perspective. The idea of cannabis genetics is probably a new concept to many Australians. One aspect of cannabis genetics is creating new cannabis plants that have specific properties tailored to a specific goal. A simple example is breeding a new CBD only strain.
In this article, you’ll get an overview of what cannabis genetics is. You’ll also learn how genetics will help lower the cost of cannabis in the long run. And, the most exciting part is that Cymra Life Sciences is working toward creating specific types of cannabis plants that are tailored to treat chronic pain.
If you’d like to skip ahead, here is what’s covered:
- Why we need more solutions for chronic pain treatment
- How Cymra is addressing chronic pain through cannabis genetics
- Cannabis genetics’ impact consumers in the long run
- Clinical trial on the new plant breeds (for chronic pain)
- How to participate in the trial
More Solutions Needed
Chronic pain is a condition that impacts over 3.2 million Australians. The prescription of opioids was further restricted in June 2020. There aren’t many other prescription medications that are efficacious in treating chronic and have limited side effects.
A study from 2019 shows that the cost of chronic pain in Australia is about $48.3 billion. While opioids do have a place in treating chronic pain, a study found that there were 1,088 opioid-induced deaths among Australians in 2018.
There’s an opportunity to provide a therapeutic that can both treat chronic pain and reduce the opioid burden worldwide.
Cannabis Genetic Engineering For Pain
Cymra’s mission is to improve agronomic benefit to farmers, reduce the cost of product to patients and most importantly, help those in need of medical cannabis through development of specialised cannabis genetics. A major focus for Cymra is cannabis for chronic pain.
The team is currently performing research with the National Institute of Complementary Medicine. The study focusses on cannabis compounds’ effects on inflammation in cell cultures. In simple terms, this means that scientists are looking at cannabinoid and terpene combinations to see which combos have the best results on inflamed cells in a petri dish. This is the clinical research phase before going to animal trials.
The goal for these tests is to help the Cymra team to understand the strongest combinations. The results will allow the team to adjust their breeding programs thus producing plants with the highest yield of the anti-inflammatory combination. These plants would then be turned into medical cannabis products.
“Our breeding programs have already started based on indications from preclinical research. We are currently growing our second generation plants in the Cymra greenhouse in Ballina, NSW.”
Cannabis Genetics Impact On Consumers
Cannabis genetics programs are much like other agricultural genetics programs. There’s little difference from those focussed on vegetables, wheat, cotton, corn and all other large scale agricultural products.
When grown at scale, efficiency is very important. Joel mentioned three areas where cannabis genetics are really important.
- Agronomic benefit
- Higher yield of active ingredients
- Risk reduction
The agronomic benefit is that through special breeding programs you get faster growth, more plants per square metre and therefore lower labour costs. This has an impact on the cost of the end product.
Breeding programs allow farmers to get higher yields of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) such as cannabinoids or terpenes in a single plant. For example, the result could be higher yielding CBD or THC plants or even plants that yield more flower per square metre. Therefore, a farmer can get more revenue with fewer plants which also helps to drive the price of product down.
Finally, when looking at risk reduction one of the main focuses is disease or pest outbreak. The Cymra team is working on cannabis breeds that can withstand pests and pathogens. Diseases, fungus or pests can wipe out a whole crop which can hurt a farmer financially. If it gets to the whole crop, pests can destroy a year’s worth of work.
“Ultimately, what this means is that if all farmers are producing at optimal scale, supply is meeting or exceeding demand. In the end, the prices of cannabis will drop.”
So, the work that Cymra and other cannabis genetics companies do have a huge impact from seed to patient.
Clinical Trial On New Plant Breeds (for chronic pain)
Clinical trials are important for any new medication. Cymra is currently running one of Australia’s largest open label, observational clinical studies with Applied Cannabis Research and CA Clinics. The plan is to look at about 360 chronic pain patients over the course of a year.
The team wants to understand chronic pain patients’ demographics and specific conditions with the goal of understanding how certain cohorts respond to cannabis specific cannabis medicine. Patients will be observed and monitored on a number of factors including:
- Physical and mental health
- Quality of life scores
Results will help both doctors and the genetics team to better understand the type of medicine, dosing and other information that might make treatment for certain types of patients more repeatable.
How To Participate In The Trial
The following is information about the trial. It is not a recommendation to take part in the trial or to use cannabis for any reason. If you think cannabis and the trial might be right for you, please bring the following information to you doctor.
The study analyses data collected from patients undergoing medicinal cannabis treatment for chronic pain at CA Clinics. Being involved in the research study is voluntary and will not impact the treatment patients receive. Patients can also decide not to participate along the way and data collected the patient will cease to be included in analyses.
Only patients of CA Clinics can participate in the study, so the patient’s doctor must provide a referral to make a booking with CA Clinics to be assessed for suitability of treatment. The patient will need to fill in a Patient Information and Consent Form, where they will have the option to participate in the study.
Providing consent allows researchers to analyse information collected as part of the patient’s treatment.
Once referred, at the patient’s first appointment at CA Clinics, the patient will have the option to ask more questions of the doctor before providing consent. Enrolment in the study is conditional upon the patient’s suitability for medicinal cannabis treatment as assessed by the CA Clinics’ doctor.
This data can then be analysed across a large number of participants to see if there are trends in prescribing or effective dose, as well as assess how well medicinal cannabis may be working for different conditions. Any data being reported does not allow for any patient to be identified; only group data is presented. This may be at scientific or medical conferences, journals or used to help design future cannabis clinical trials.
For more information, call CA Clinics at 1300 991 477 or email [email protected].