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ES: IRTA obtains permission to grow cannabis plants for research purposes

The Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS) has granted the Institute for Agri-Food Research and Technology (IRTA) a permit to grow cannabis plants for scientific research. This plant is a crop with great interest and added value for various industries, since its products have many applications: bioplastics, building materials, high protein foods and beverages, food supplements, textiles, stationery products and biofuels, among others. Since 2019, IRTA and the Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG) develop tools for the genetic improvement of cannabis plants within the framework of a project carried out in collaboration with the American company Front Range Biosciences (FRB).

Led by Jason Argyris, IRTA researcher at CRAG, the research and development project with FRB consists in using the technology of molecular markers for the improvement of varieties, and it is carried out in a high security greenhouse at IRTA facilities, and in the CRAG laboratories. The project plans to carry out field trials, selective cross-breeding and genomic research applied to germplasm lines, which take advantage of FRB's breeding platform and protected collections to obtain cannabis plants adapted to various production environments. Among the long-term objectives, the company expects to obtain new varieties that express different profiles of cannabinoids demanded by the pharmaceutical industry, and that are agronomically resistant to pests and diseases. "The permission of the AEMPS is a very positive stimulus to continue with this line of work, and will allow us to carry out the project with FRB in the long term, which is very ambitious, with all the security guarantees," says Amparo Monfort, head of the IRTA Genomics and Biotechnology program at the CRAG.

“IRTA and CRAG are world-class research centers and we are very pleased with the progress we have made in our improvement program over the past year and a half. The authorization issued by the AEMPS is a very important milestone to continue the expansion of FRB in Europe”, highlights Dr. Jonathan Vought, CEO of Front Range Biosciences. "The continuous growth of the medical cannabis industry throughout Europe represents a great opportunity for the commercialization of new varieties of cannabis and high-yielding seeds that allow the production of cannabinoids of medical interest," he adds.

According to the director of International Relations of IRTA, Eliecer López, “it is a good example of the advantages of public-private collaboration systems with a seed biotechnology company, in which varietal innovations will be produced from which products will be obtained with many applications with high added value. Despite being a productive sector with interest like any other, the restrictions of a crop of this type have not allowed it to advance in its research at the same rate as other types of plants of economic interest and, therefore, López emphasizes, “there is much journey to develop the innovations that the industry needs, and it is the industry itself that asks us for them”. However, in the last three years, more than 200 varieties have been registered with the European Plant Variety Office, a fact that shows the interest in the cultivation of cannabis as progress is made in legal and regulatory aspects throughout the world," says Monfort.

"IRTA is very aware of the potential to obtain new cannabis varieties through the use of state-of-the-art genomic tools, with which we work with other species such as melon, fruit trees or vegetables, and that is why, according to López "In our research center we have all the capabilities to respond to the growing needs of the sector, combining these tools with biosystem engineering, agronomy, integrated pest control or post-harvest."

For more information:
08140 Caldes de Montbui (Barcelona)
Tel: 93 467 40 40
Fax: 93 467 40 42


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