Bio Tech Company Pushes Cannabis DNA Sequencing into Public Domain, Providing Patent Protection Against Big Ag, Big Pharma


An Oregon start-up biotech company, Phylos Bioscience, has begun offering an online interactive guide to map out genetic relationships of around 1,000 types of cannabis plant.

The interactive map, known as Galaxy, is a visualization tool that displays the DNA and other genetic data of the plant, grouping it into its “families,” in a 3-D map not too dissimilar to that of a star field. The New York Times reports “the distance between the samples is indicative of how much genetic material they share.”

In itself, the ground breaking mapping will help the scientific community to understand the variety of plants through genetic sequencing, with Phylos hoping to add animals, and other plants to the database in the future.

Dr Holmes, a molecular and evolutionary biologist and also co-founder of Phylos Bioscience, said they hope to bring order to what was once an underground business that is now making a commercial transition. “We’ve collected samples from all over the world, and cataloged the genetic information encoded in their DNA,” Dr Holmes said.

Phylos Bioscience is the first company to offer DNA sequencing, and by making it public on Galaxy, makes cannabis patenting theoretically impossible after it has been in the public domain for 12 months.

“You can’t patent anything that’s been in the public domain longer than a year,” Carolyn White told Willamette Week. “We set out to bring more knowledge and transparency to the industry and that’s still what we’re doing.

“Sample collection was a huge part of this process. One side was a collaboration with growers, dispensaries and labs to collect modern samples, and the other a process of hunting down ancient landrace strains from all over the world.”

For Big Ag and Big Pharma, this could spell bad news as cannabis becomes legalized across the globe. This data collection will help with patent protection, particularly against giant Ag companies such as Monsanto.

“We think Big Pharma and Big Ag will be the primary audience after patents, and it will likely require writing new DNA in to the plant,” White tells WW. “None of the folks at Phylos really see patenting as a viable tool for the average breeder.”

Good news for cannabis growers worried about their intellectual property rights as the market continues to expand.

Sources: Vice News, New York Times, Willamette Week, Phylos Bioscience.

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