From the outside, it is a normal greenhouse, but inside you quickly notice that this is no ordinary plant nursery. If you want to get in here, you have to take protective measures: scour your hands, put on protective gowns, even disinfect your shoes. And gloves are required when touching the plants. Strict rules apply on the Swiss Puregene research campus because of the delicate nature of the plant research inside, including groundbreaking cannabis studies!
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Inside the greenhouse, cannabis plants are lined up, grouped according to different growth stages. The smallest are a few weeks old and only a few centimeters high. A plant breeder lovingly plucks the smallest leaves with tweezers. The DNA of each leaf sample is sequenced in the laboratory.
It is all part of the companies efforts to better understand the highly controversial plant. Switzerland has not yet opened up as much as some of its neighbors but remains a relatively progressive country when it comes to hemp. Where it really shines however is in the pharmaceutical industry and the bio-sciences that back it. Areas that are now getting further interested in Hemp and Cannabis as they become economically viable.
Hundreds of different ingredients deciphered from cannabis genetics
The Puregene team conducts fundamental research. With no smaller goal than wanting to completely decipher the cannabis plant. To do this, they are constantly growing and analyzing new plants and strains. The team is creating a huge database for each of their various properties and ingredients. The results are rolling in, while the long-term promise of revenue applications is rolling out.
“This year alone we generated 200,000 data points for cannabinoids only.”
“There are over 400 components and compounds,” explains founder and managing director Stevens Senn. “We already know about 200 of them at Puregene.” They can be used, for example, in medicine, the food industry, cosmetics, and so much more. In fact, the hemp plant’s application can extend even into unexpected territory like other Agricultural use cases. Showing that the research being conducted goes beyond better understanding current uses, but also breaking down core components and impacts.
The work going on at the Swiss greenhouse is also helping to move the entire industry forward.
Early Successes in Pest Control for Swiss Cannabis Genetics Research
Puregene has analyzed and evaluated the DNA of thousands of plants. With this knowledge, new cannabis plants with new properties can be developed and grown. For example, to better adapt plants to climatic conditions. “One of the largest listed companies that produces cannabis worldwide is also producing in latitudes where they have big problems with a fungus,” explains Stevens Senn. Citing the difficulties being faced by producers in non-native climates, like Canada.
«This leaves almost a quarter of the harvest to rot. That’s a loss of millions ”. Puregene is now breeding a new plant for the company: With the same properties and ingredients, combined with resistance. The breeding takes place conventionally via crossing. With no genetic manipulation required, sometimes the traditional methods are the most effective.
Swiss Genetic Cannabis Research Unlocks Billions
Not only genetic information flows into the Puregene database. Hundreds of plants were dissected, measured, and photographed in field tests. The size, smell, even the appearance of the roots, everything matters.
The potential market for various cannabis products is enormous: the pharmaceutical market alone is estimated at $1,200 billion. This raises the question of why someone hasn’t tackled such fundamental research a long time ago. “On the one hand, you didn’t have the opportunity because of the legislation. Cannabis was demonized for a long time,” says managing director Stevens Senn. “In addition, a program like the one we have would not have been technologically possible a few years ago.”
Ready for Cannabis Plant Breeding of the Future
“This year alone we generated 200,000 data points for cannabinoids only,” explains research director Gavin George. “We generated a million data points for physiological properties. And our gene sequencing generates 10 million data points per week ». This is not possible without artificial intelligence and enormous computing power. The basic research will soon be completed and Puregene will be ready for a billion-dollar market.
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First published in SRF, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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