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Growing plant cells for pharma in the lab: "Cannabis is challenging"

Lab-grown meat has captivated both food and climate scientists with the tantalizing prospect of reducing animal suffering along with methane output from farm animals that contributes to climate change. The same technology, it turns out, can be used to grow plant molecules in a lab.

ReaGenics, an Israeli startup, is leading this lab-grown plant revolution. Cannabis and psilocybin are high on the company’s list. In fact, ReaGenics started in 2019 with a focus on cannabis to treat inflammatory bowel disease.

“The problem with cannabis,” Kagan explains, “is that there are 140 different cannabinoids – the molecules that the cannabis plant produces. That includes THC, CBD, CBG, CBN, and more. They’re most effective when they work synergistically. But it’s not easy to get consistent formulations of the exact combination of cannabinoids when the plants are grown outdoors in a field or indoors with artificial lighting.”

ReaGenics can generate the precise molecules needed to ensure cannabis consistency. “If you made an isolate of just THC,” Kagan continues, “you wouldn’t have the problem with consistency, but then you don’t get the ‘entourage effect.’ For that, you need a technology that can create a consistent ratio between them.”

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