In Israel, seeds of a heady future for medical marijuana
While recreational use of cannabis is still illegal in the Jewish state, therapeutic use is not only permitted but encouraged
AFP — With its moat, wall, barbed wire, armed guards and security cameras, the facility could be mistaken for a military base if it weren’t for the pungent odor of marijuana in the air.
Here, on the outskirts of a quiet village in northern Israel, 50,000 plants of 230 varieties grow at the country’s second-largest medical cannabis plantation.
“For cannabis, we are in the promised land with a good climate, 300 days of sunshine each year and perfect levels of humidity,” said Tamir Gedo, head of BOL Pharma, a company authorized by the Health Ministry to grow and distribute medical cannabis.
The recreational use of cannabis is illegal in the Jewish state, but for the past 10 years its therapeutic use has not only been permitted but also encouraged.
Last year, doctors prescribed the herb to about 25,000 patients suffering from cancer, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress and degenerative diseases.
The purpose is not to cure them but to alleviate their symptoms.
The use of cannabis in medicine divides doctors around issues of addiction and behavioral problems such as aggression.
Nevertheless, it has long been known to revive lost appetite and to help in treating sleep disorders, anxiety and inflammation, its supporters say.
They say much research remains to be done but it is advancing faster in Israel, where authorities allow human clinical trials, than in many other countries.
Entrepreneurs, investors and researchers are increasingly entering the business and searching for the holy grail of medicinal marijuana: a purified form of the drug with minimal side-effects and which can be administered in accurate doses.
Inside the fortified premises of BOL (Breath Of Life) Pharma are laboratories and greenhouses, with each plant monitored by software that remotely controls its biochemical parameters.
Growing cannabis for medical use demands careful supervision of active ingredients such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which gives recreational users their high but is not recommended for all patients, particularly children.
“With the support of the (health) ministry, which has always had a pioneering attitude to this issue, we have built up expertise in clinical trials and we can share it with companies in the United States and Europe,” said Gedo.
He cites initial results of trials on patients with Crohn’s disease, which is characterized by chronic inflammation of the intestine, diarrhea and recurrent abdominal pain.
Forbidden to export its cannabis plants, Israel is concentrating instead on marketing its agronomic, medical and technological expertise in the hope of becoming a world hub in the field.
The prestigious Hebrew University of Jerusalem has just opened a cannabis research center joining 19 other teams from local academic institutions.
About 200 industry players gathered in Tel Aviv this month for Canna Tech, an international conference on the industry.
Suited salespeople, some a little red-eyed despite a ban on consumption laid down by the organizers, exhibited products including electronic cannabis cigarettes, cannabis-based creams and ointments and a remedy for dry mouth.
Some startups are focused on the plant’s by-products, others on user accessories, but a few have bigger ideas.
“Look at what has happened in the past two years, the speed at which legalization of cannabis is advancing,” said Saul Kaye, head of the first Israeli incubator for cannabis industry startups. “We’re not going to miss this opportunity, and seeing what the first investors are putting on the table, we feel that it is going to be very big.”
In January, US tobacco giant Philip Morris plowed $20 million into Israeli company Syke, which produces precision inhalers for medical cannabis.
At the same time, Israeli firm Eybna announced it had isolated therapeutic organic compounds from the plant without the psychoactive ingredients that make unprescribed use illegal.
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Medical cannabis seeds israel
Israel’s booming cannabis industry has recorded a significant achievement with the signing of the first of a kind genetics breeding deal. Israeli Agtech startup, RCK , which specialises in science-based cannabis genetics, signed an agreement with SeedTech, a Dutch seed company, for developing unique cannabis strains in the form of elite hybrid seeds.
The agreement will accelerate RCK’s planned growth with the expansion of its facilities for breeding activities and the hiring of new employees.
RCK has devised for SeedTech a dedicated breeding plan to develop unique cannabis strains for medical and commercial uses such as cosmetics and food. The deal is valued at several million dollars for breeding services, but its potential is greater, as RCK will receive royalties from the sale of seeds over all the duration of the patent life of each strain.
Eindhoven based SeedTech B.V. focuses on agricultural R&D, food production and life sciences and is one of the pioneers in the European cannabis sector. The Dutch company uses advanced technological methods for breeding to develop new uniform and stable cannabis strains that are suitable for specific market segments.
SeedTech cooperates with several of the most innovative companies in the industry and is aiming at taking a leading position in global breeding programs based on the specific integration of products and markets. The new genetic products developed by SeedTech will be marketed as raw material for professionally approved and licensed organisations.
RCK is developing technology for producing new strains of elite hybrid cannabis seeds that meet the highest standards required for various medical needs. The seeds developed by the company will enable global mass production of medical cannabis and the development of new medications to offer relief to millions of people around the world who suffer from a wide variety of medical conditions.
Dr. Noam Chehanovsky, Co-founder and VP for R&D at RCK, said: “The agreement with SeedTech is the byproduct of the pioneering scientific-technological way of thinking that we developed that is now fulfilling its commercial potential. In recent years we focused intensive efforts to crack the genetic makeup of the cannabis plant and we learned to control its chemical compounds. As a result, it is possible to rapidly and efficiently breed new strains that are precisely suitable for various medical or commercial needs and facilitate wide scale growing of high quality cannabis plants that meet medical standards.
Shay Bar-Joseph, Co-founder and VP for Business Development and Marketing at RCK, said: “Through this agreement we have launched the industrial revolution in the cultivation of cannabis from seeds – a market segment that will expand to billions of dollars annually. The Dutch company and its customers in various territories will be the first in the world to benefit from RCK’s unique science-based cannabis breeding capabilities.”
RCK’s hybrid seeds are a big step forward in comparison to the traditional methods of cloning cannabis plants. In the traditional approach, the production of clones and the allocation of land and manpower resources translate into extremely high cost of growing from clones in comparison to the cost of growing from seeds.
RCK, which is located in Kibbutz Ruhama in Israel, operates a lab, indoor growing rooms and 1,500 square meters of breeding greenhouse and commercial propagation facility. RCK’s genetics bank already includes tens of new strains and seeds developed at the company’s R&D facility, some of which are already marketed as medical cannabis in pharmacies throughout Israel.
New strains are under development on an ongoing basis. Cannabis growers from around the world have shown interest in purchasing the company’s new hybrid seeds and in breeding plans targeted at developing new strains for various uses.
Canonic Announces Initiation of Cultivation and Breeding of Cannabis Varieties with Unique Genomic Profiles for the Development of Medical Cannabis Products
This announcement follows successfully importing a collection of widely genetically diverse cannabis lines, establishing specialized R&D facilities, and receiving regulatory approval from the Israeli Medical Cannabis Agency (IMCA)
Rehovot, Israel – November 6, 2019 – Canonic, a wholly owned subsidiary of Evogene Ltd. (NASDAQ, TASE: EVGN) focused on the development of medical cannabis products, announces today the initiation of its cultivation and breeding program of cannabis varieties with unique genomic profiles for the development of medical cannabis products. The initiation of cannabis cultivation follows: (1) successfully importing widely genetically diverse cannabis lines originating from different territories, (2) establishment of cannabis dedicated R&D facilities, including greenhouses, a molecular lab and tissue culture rooms and (3) receipt of the required regulatory approvals from the Israeli Medical Cannabis Agency (IMCA).
Canonic achieved an important milestone with the import of a genetically diverse seed collection of cannabis lines originating from different territories. These seeds were specifically selected to be the foundation of Canonic’s advanced breeding program and product pipeline consisting of MetaYield – medical cannabis products with a stable increase of total plant active compounds, and Precise product line – medical cannabis with a stable increase of specific plant active compounds.
Canonic’s R&D facilities, of which Canonic today announces the completion of their establishment, are among the largest in Israel and include molecular labs, tissue culture rooms and 22 thousand sq. ft. of controlled greenhouses, integrating the latest technologies for climate control, daylight control, fertilization and irrigation. The company also established a quarantine greenhouse, which has allowed the initiation of cannabis cultivation immediately upon receiving imported cannabis seeds and provides improved flexibility and quality control.
The company has received the required regulatory approvals for both greenhouses and labs including Good Security Practice (GSP) approval and possession license for cannabis from the Israeli Medical Cannabis Agency (IMCA).
Canonic’s scientific approach for the development of cannabis products with unique genomic profiles is based on decoding the cannabis plant’s genome to overcome the current market challenges associated with these products. To achieve this goal, Canonic employs the use of Evogene’s unique technology developed over the past decade, the CPB platform, leveraging deep understanding of plant genomics, Big Data and artificial intelligence. The Company intends to use the genomic data of the new varieties imported to expand its genomic database and to be integrated in the CPB’s computational platforms in order to accelerate development efforts. For more information please see the updated company presentation at: