Startups want to biosynthesize your CBD

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Startups are competing to use biosynthesis to produce the cannabinoids found in different strains of cannabis.Why it matters: The market for various types of CBD — a non-psychoactive component in cannabis — for medical and nutraceutical purposes is growing rapidly, and biosynthesis promises a cheaper and more controllable method of production than growing plants.By the numbers: According to a recent research note from Raymond James, the present size of the global cannabinoid biosynthesis market opportunity is around $40 billion.A number of startups are moving into the biosynthesized cannabinoid space, which Raymond James analyst Rahul Sarugaser has written is “synthetic biology’s next killer app.”Background: The conventional method of obtaining cannabinoids like CBD involves cultivating cannabis plants that contain the strain wanted, and then extracting the desired chemicals.Because some of the most in-demand cannabinoids occur in very low concentrations in nature, a lot of plant matter is needed, which means production costs can be higher than $50,000/kg.Growing cannabis can be “backbreaking work,” notes Dennis O’Neill, the chief investment officer of the biosynthesis startup Biomedican, and regulatory issues mean that whole cannabis crops need to be destroyed if levels of THC — the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — are too high.How …

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