Surge into new agribusiness medicinal Cannabis venture
Recent legislative changes in Australia have provided a remarkable opportunity to participate in the development of a new, international scale industry estimated to be worth 55 billion dollars globally by 2025. The Centre for Plant Science through Prof Grof, has engaged with an innovative medicinal Cannabis company, CannaPacific, based in northern NSW. An initial engagement with CannaPacific was catalysed by the Faculty of Science via the Matched Industry Funding Scheme. Through CannaPacific, the Centre has direct links to a major pharmaceutical company. Extensive R&D opportunities in medicinal Cannabis are on the horizon for the Centre, through the conduit provided by an agreement signed between the University of Newcastle and CannaPacific.
Generation of new varieties of Cannabis plants
The initial project is focused on developing and delivering to the Australian medicinal Cannabis industry a series of unique, bespoke medicinal Cannabis varieties. The introduction of novel traits into commercial cultivars of Cannabis, or other agricultural crops, is reliant upon forward or reverse genetic strategies. A reverse genetics approach following introduction of random mutagenic lesions in DNA, will create unique changes in the secondary metabolite profile of Cannabis, likely impossible through conventional breeding practices. To date, directed anthropogenic selection and breeding of Cannabis has primarily favoured traits associated with industrial hemp fibre, hempseed and illicit drug uses
High throughput screening of mutant Cannabis plants
In order to identify the plant lines that possess the capacity to accumulate unique phytocannabinoids, many thousands of plants will have to be screened. The key to such an approach is the development and application of novel, high throughput screening methods. As part of this project, a unique hand-held screening tool is under development by CannaPacific in collaboration with CSIRO.
Detailed characterisation of unique varieties of Cannabis using a range of –omics tools, including genomics, methylomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics and proteomics
Once identified, unique varieties will be subjected to detailed characterisation. The impact of the mutagenic change will be investigated using leading edge tools developed by an Industry partner of CannaPacific, Xing Technologies. The genetic changes underpinning the phenotypic and metabolic changes identified during the screening phase will be determined, providing a powerful platform for unravelling the metabolic complexity underpinning cannabinoid synthesis, leading both to further fundamental discoveries.
Plant Growth Facility