The small players – the breeders and growers who created the wide variety of diversity we see in clinics from California to Massachusetts – are barely as viable today. Will they be crushed by the next wave of consolidation?
Holmes, who is named after a character in The book about the forest and raised in a forest commune on the outskirts of Eugene, Oregon, seemed more aware of this dynamic than anyone else. A molecular biologist with a doctorate from Columbia University, Holmes helped found the Open Cannabis Project in 2016 with the aim of protecting the genetic diversity of cannabis.
In 2015, when the US Patent and Trade Office issued for the first time in a series of so-called utility patents on cannabis, he and his colleague Jeremy Plumb realized that all the genomic data that Phylos is collecting could protect growers and breeders by establishing “cutting edge art” – firmly Your intelligence is known or available. (Plumb, who was the first executive director of the Open Cannabis Project, is currently the manufacturing science director of a Portland-based cannabis grower Prūf Cultivar.)
If you pre-document the technique by putting genetic data in the public domain, it will make it harder for companies to patent those strains. The Open Cannabis Project will link to raw genomic data, which Phylos will post – with the consent of the client – to the National Biotechnology Information Center, a public database at the Institute of Medicine. National International.
As former Marijuana Expansion Board member Reggie Gaudino, president of Berkeley-based cannabis technology company Steep Hill, told me, “There’s this database that says’ Look See, this already exists, so you can’t have that patent, Monsanto! ‘”(In 2018, Bayer acquires MonsantoBefore long, breeders and growers from all over the world – who might initially hesitate to share the genetic data of their favorite exclusive cultivar – sent them over. Phylos, who sequenced DNA using a system that could read 2,000 web pages on the genome.
When I spoke with Holmes in early March about his genetic testing company expanding into breeding, he learned that some of them were Phylos-like. “There is justified paranoia. Small growers are fighting for their lives right now, ”he told me via daiquiris at the Cuban bar on the ground floor of the Phylos office building. “They have never seen an agricultural company as a good actor.”
In states like Oregon, where recreational marijuana was legalized in 2015, too much marijuana flowers are making prices so low that farmers will be unemployed. According to Holmes, Phylos’ new breeding program – instead of competing with small-scale breeders and growers – will provide them with an economic opportunity, according to Holmes. “We have to give breeders the tools and genetics they need to keep making things interesting,” he said.
For example, if Phylos scientists can breed cannabis strains that are resistant to botrytis (a type of mold that can damage crops) or chalk disease, or give high yield or jaws less well known (but medically promising) cannabinoids such as CBG, CBC or THCV, they can give them to growers.
Holmes promises the plants will “be widely available and very affordable” and in many cases they will be sold under an open source license – meaning other breeders can continue to work with them. (The company partnered with the in-house agriculture venture Crop One to form a new business called Nurserywhere cannabis copies will be sold.)
Conception will also sell the start-up product of small-scale breeders, label them with the name of the breeder as well as the name of the cultivar, and will provide fair credit and royalties. But unfortunately for Holmes, these positive possibilities for small-scale growers have been overshadowed by the fearsome fear that Phylos will use genomic data for its own gain, and it will adopt the strategy. Big Ag companies are despised. Or maybe even become part of one.
Benzinga’s sales video certainly didn’t help. In it, Holmes told investors that all the marijuana around today will soon disappear, being replaced by new optimized varieties that Phylos will grow. After the video, a handful of growers (East Fork, Prūf Cultivars and Willcox Pharm in Arizona) abandoned the Breeding Innovation Network, at least two Phylos advisors quit and the Open Cannabis Project was dissolved.