Through a partnership, Agrima Botanicals Corp–Ascent’s wholly-owned subsidiary–and Simon Fraser University (SFU) have made a number of exciting discoveries.
“The intent of this project was to develop a better understanding of the production methods for cannabis that would lead to better quality product for consumers,” said Zamir K. Punja, SFU’s plant biologist.
Philip Campbell, Ascent’s CEO, said he thinks the collaboration with SFU could have huge upsides. He said it offers his company some IP perks and gives them more opportunities to use science-driven strategies to limit “crop-loss risk.”
Campbell also said using the cutting-edge science will allow Ascent to deliver better quality weed by eliminating different forms of cannabis pathogens that could hinder quality.
Better science + better product = better profit.
Campbell and James Poelzer, Ascent’s CBDO, said they felt that for Ascent to pull ahead of the pack, they would need to do their homework.
“We could see the need for research on many fronts,” said Reid Parr, Ascent’s COO, via email with Equity Guru. He added Campbell and Poelzer are SFU alumni, so the strategic partnership with SFU was a natural fit for them.
“Getting a handle on our genetics, producing new products, producing them consistently from batch to batch, and beginning to understand the physiological effects of these different cannabinoid and terpenoid combinations was a top priority for us,” said Parr.
One of the first things Parr and co. did after applying for their company’s license was to secure that research partnership with SFU.
Over the last several years, the gig with SFU has flourished, Parr added. Ascent has taken the fruits of that relationship to build a “portfolio of intellectual property” that they’ve been able to monetize through commercial production of cannabis and cannabis-related products.
Punja said he loves the partnership because he loves the opportunity — an opportunity he says arose because of the the professionalism and ingenuity of Ascent’s braintrust.
“They approached me with an idea of trying to discover new research information,” Punja said in a promotional video. “I was impressed by the fact that they were very forward looking. They seemed to have a really good business plan. They were very curious about what could be discovered in cannabis that hadn’t been known before. They wanted to understand more about quality [and] consistency.”
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Punja gets giddy talking about how great things are: “They are very open minded, and they are willing to take some of that research finding forward into the marketplace and do something with it.”
One of those marketplace successes has been Green Screen, a piece of tech Punja calls exciting and useful. A plant sex ID kit, Green Screen identifies male and female plants at a very early stage in the development process.
Peter Ruben, professor of biomedical physiology & kinesiology at SFU, said he thinks the joint project has a lot of capability to find answers to some tough questions.
“This is the first time in modern history that a substance is going from a completely illegal status to a completely legal status. We know very little about how that’s going to impact society,” Ruben said.
“We need to know whether cannabis really has the medical, the therapeutic effects that people suggest that it might. So there’s huge potential for research opportunities.”
From potential to actual
The partnership between Agrima and SFU was co-funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) through a Collaborative Research and Development grant.
Some of that HUGE research potential Ruben mentioned has already come to fruition. Here are five recent fruits from the Agrima-SFU partnership:
- Identification of pathogens and molds affecting cannabis plants using media-based and molecular methods.
- DNA fingerprinting approaches for identification of cannabis strains used in production, ensuring consistent harvests from batch to batch.
- Development of commercial tissue culture methods for micropropagation of cannabis.
- The continuous identification and implementation of systems to prevent or control common plant diseases known to cannabis such as powdery mildew, fusarium, and pythium.
- A DNA-based testing kit to distinguish male plants from female plants is currently available on the market that was an outcome from this collaborative research.
- The science has been successful (Green Screen).
- The science is heading in multiple positive directions (five new cultivation-boosting techniques).
- Ascent expanding (Keep watch for a new Equity Guru article in the coming days).
How can, or will, Ascent bring more of their science-based research wins to market? And when? What will expansion mean for business and stock price? How successful will Green Screen be?
The partnership includes a cannabis industry graduate-study program. In December, the joint research project will enter its third year.
Ascent has facilities in Canada, Denmark, and the U.S.
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