Scientists Mapping the Cannabis Genome Work to Prevent Patented Strains

Scientists mapping the cannabis genome say they are on the verge of producing the world's most complex and detailed reference for the plant's DNA. An underlying concern is that their work will be used by big pharma to create patented strains, but the scientists are actively trying to prevent that from happening.

According to law professor Sean O'Connor, cannabis patenting by the most significant industry players is inevitable. O'Connor, whose focus is on intellectual property, says both recreational marijuana companies and pharmaceutical brands will try to get patents for as many strains as they can.

O'Connor's future vision of the industry includes patent competition and lawsuits based around the ability to isolate specific strains of DNA. The end product is often an isolated compound that allows the patent holder to maximize their monopoly through a patent but ignores the influence of other compounds on the therapeutic action, or whole-plant medicine.

However, the scientists at Phylos Bioscience in Oregon are working to prevent such a future by putting as many strains as possible in the public record. Though they cannot block the U.S. Patent Office from granting a patent, they can make it far less likely the strain will qualify.

Phylos Bioscience is a significant contributor to the Open Cannabis Project, a resource for documenting the different cannabis genomes that have been sequenced. So far they have contributed more than 1,000 strains to the archive. This provides evidence that the strains are not new, making it far less likely the patent office will grant the patent.

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