Medicinal Genomics Uses DNA Sequencing on their Strands of Marijuana

Boston Business Journal

Medicinal Geonomics Woburn company applies DNA sequencing to budding marijuana industry

 

By: Jessica Bartlett

October 6, 2016

From Purple Haze to Orange Crush, the names given to different strains of marijuana are colorful, and largely just based on where the plant is grown or what people experience when smoking it.

But with medical marijuana’s recent legalization in many states, Woburn-based Medicinal Genomics Corporation is clearing the haze from the differences among different kinds of plants, offering genomics-based quality and strain identification testing for medical and recreational marijuana.

Medicinal Geonomics Lab Photo Woburn“We set out to ask, what questions can we answer with DNA?” said Kevin McKernan, chief scientific officer for Medicinal Genomics, which also offers genomics testing for patients. “The first thing that became apparent in the market is people are tired of not knowing what strain they are dealing with. People name the strains with esoteric and colorful names, but there is no guarantee of what you have.”

After offering a test version of the service to Colorado marijuana manufactures in April, the five-year-old company this week started offering genomics testing for marijuana growers across the country. Clients send DNA samples to the company and receive a partial genome sequencing of the plant, providing a fingerprint of each plant. That can help growers know which plants are psychoactive — containing the euphoric ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol — and which have high amounts of a compound known as cannabidiol that offers medicinal properties of the plant, without the ability to get someone high.

In the 25 states and the District of Columbia which have legalized medical marijuana, the market for genomics testing is wide open. Scientists now typically test only for contamination of plants.

But growers have started to sequencing their strains for intellectual property reasons, and also analyze the genetics to determine which plants are male and shouldn’t be planted (male plants pollinate, ruining an entire crop), and which ones are most productive. For consumers, genetic mapping can tell patients which strains are related, so they can effectively shop at dispensaries. In recreational pot markets, growers are using genetic testing as a branding tool.

McKernan says the size of the market is tough to gauge, but he says safety testing in the food industry — which typically captures 1-3 percent of the market — may be a good guide. If that same percentage holds true in cannabis, the market opportunity could be as much as $1 billion, given the estimated $20 billion to $40 billion market anticipated by 2020. McKernan argues it could be even larger if the company helps marijuana growers breed specific plants with specific properties such as a longer plant with tall stems for hemp fiber, or one with a lot of seeds to make oil.

“We think it will go beyond measuring the fingerprints,” McKernan said. “Traditional agriculture genomics is they began measuring … to select particular traits and could accelerate breeding programs.”

While Medicinal Genomics is growing the marijuana-testing side of the business, the 100-person company will recognize most of its 50-100 percent annual growth on the other side of the business that looks at patients’ genomes to determine the best treatments. Currently, the company is sequencing between 500 to 1,000 patients a month.

San Francisco-Bound: IR Planning for the 1Q 2015

Various Healthcare Conferences Provide Access to Industry Partners and Investors

As we work through the fourth quarter, are you thinking about the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco?  This annual event is one of the largest and most important events for those of us in the health and life science industries.  In 2015 the event will be held on January 12 – 16.  When I say the event, I am not just referring to JP Morgan but also the other conferences that run simultaneously with JP Morgan—Biotech Showcase and OneMedForum.

While the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference is a bank-sponsored event and is by invitation only, Biotech Showcase and OneMedForum provide opportunities for networking and business development as well as provide investor access.  Biotech Showcase is an investor and partnering conference that runs January 12 – 14 at the Parc 55 Wyndham and provides both public and private biotech and life science companies the opportunity to connect with investors and industry executives. OneMedForum is similar in that it attracts both public and private companies, but this conference targets emerging growth companies and is also held on January 12 – 14 at a new, larger venue, the San Francisco Marriott Marquis.

SF

Hopefully you’ve booked your hotel and/or meeting room.  With thousands of professionals attending each year, hotels and meeting rooms get booked very early.  Some companies even book their reservations following the conclusion of the upcoming conference for the following year.  Biotech Showcase offers its conference attendees discounted room rates at the Parc 55 Wyndham by using their online reservation system or calling 800-697-3013. Since many attendees book meeting after meeting all day long, there is something to be said for staying in the same location as the conference.  If the hotels where the conference you attend has no rooms available or doesn’t meet your needs, consider locating rooms close to the venue as running back and forth through San Francisco, known as the second hilliest city in the world, doesn’t bode well for your feet by the end of the day.

Your next consideration should be which conference you will attend or perhaps you are considering attending all of the conferences.  If you are planning to choose between Biotech Showcase and OneMedForum, look at who is attending each conference and who has attended in the past.  Which conference focuses more on your target audience?  Not sure of your target investor audience?  Look at your competitors and who follows them.

Will you host a company presentation or attend to set up one-on-one meetings or do both?  Biotech Showcase offers participants their PartneringOne system while OneMedForum offers participants their OneMedPlaceConnect system.  Both of these online meeting systems make it easy to target attendees you are interested in meeting with, sends them invitations, assigns meeting places and even keeps your schedule helping you keep track of any last minute changes.  They save you the time and effort of booking and paying for a meeting room, which are in high demand and very expensive in San Francisco during JP Morgan but may be worth the expense if you want to establish a higher profile and brand presence with your target audiences.  Assessing your priorities for the upcoming year should help you decide whether a corporate presentation or partnering meetings or both are right for you. Think about your goals—are you trying to raise money, increase awareness about your company and/or its product(s), establish partnerships to market your product ex-US or gain expertise in a certain treatment area?

Planning a company presentation is a great way to increase visibility among investors where they can sit through a brief introduction and decide whether they want more information about your company and its products.  What does your company presentation look like?  Why is your story relevant now?  You should be able to say what you need to say in 10 – 18 slides.  Take a fresh look at the story line, messaging and visual content; make some changes.  What are the key touch points for your products whether on the market or in development?  Are you addressing those points in your slide presentation?  Check out or blog on “The Winning Formula for a Killer Corporate Presentation.”

Looking at all of the work that needs to happen to make these conferences worthwhile may seem overwhelming, but attending JP Morgan is your best opportunity to reach investors and industry executives.  Keep in mind that participation at JP Morgan can potentially set your tone and have a big impact on 2015.  Consider working with a strategic communication partner with a clear understanding of the ropes and audiences present.  It may be worth making sure you obtain a clear return on investment.

Now that you are thinking about 2015, take a look at other financial conferences taking place this year and next: