A $ 255 million agreement to convert sugar into cannabis chemicals is opening the door to an unmarried era of marijuana.
Amyris already works with genetically modified yeasts that excrete designer molecules to make sweeteners and skin care products. He now plans to use this fermentation technology to convert sugarcane syrup to active ingredients found in marijuana, the California-based company said in a statement released on Tuesday. These ingredients can be used in consumer products, from beverages to creams and deodorants to the skin.
The initial focus of the project is to produce cannabidiol, or CBD, the molecule used to treat medical conditions such as anxiety and insomnia. But Amyris and her anonymous partners point to multiple cannabidiol molecules that have non-psychoactive medical and therapeutic uses, spokeswoman Beth Bannerman said by telephone. THC, the hallucinatory molecule that lifts people up, is not an approach, he said.
"We share our partners' mission to become a leader in CBD's sustainable products in the short term as we focus on empowering global markets for beverages and skin care," said Amyris Executive Director John Melo, in a statement.
The Amyris adventure joins two smaller agreements announced in September that also aim to ferment cannabinoids. Marijuana producer Cronos Group has formed a $ 122 million partnership with Ginkgo Bioworks, and Organigram Holdings has announced a strategic investment of $ 7.6 million in Hyasynth Biologicals.
By manufacturing the CBD and other cannabinoids in a brewing process, manufacturers can control quality and dosage, Amyris said. Eliminating plants from the equation ensures that the molecules will be completely free of pesticides.
The marijuana molecules that Amyris produces could be used in the company's current product list, said Bannerman. Amyris manufactures Biossance, a line of skin care products sold at Sephora cosmetics stores, and recently introduced a calorie-free sweetener for beverages.
Beverages with infusion
Interest in marijuana-infused beverages is increasing now that cannabis is legal in Canada and the CBD derived from hemp is legal in the United States. Canada's canopy growth company Canopy Growth is investing up to $ 150 million at a facility in New York to extract the CBD from hemp.
Constellation Brands, maker of Corona beer, has invested $ 3,800 million in Canopy Growth, while Molson Coors Brewing has begun a joint venture with Quebec-based Hexo to sell non-alcoholic cannabis beverages. Even Coca-Cola said it is interested in CBD-infused drinks, though it has no immediate plans to enter the market.
Amyris said its deal includes payments for three years after a final agreement is signed, which could total $ 255 million in cash if the initiative is commercially viable. Royalties on marketed products would be additional, the company said. More details on the partnership will be provided in March, Bannerman said.