As Corteva Agriscience rang in today’s session of the New York Stock Exchange, celebrating its independence from DowDupont, I couldn’t help but think about Big Ag’s flirtation with cannabis, especially after CEO Jim Collins referred to Corteva as “a new kind of agriculture company.”
Corteva, which began trading today under “CTVA,” hits the street as a self-proclaimed leader in the $100 billion seed and crop protection market. While it has nothing to do with cannabis directly, a game of connect-the-dots quickly associated Corteva as an indirect aider if not abettor of medical cannabis-related research and product development, and possibly more.
Evogene Ltd. provides one such dot. In April, the Rehovot, Israel-based biotechnology company, which develops products for the life science market, announced the launch of subsidiary Canonic Ltd. to “develop next generation medical cannabis products.”
According to the announcement, “Evogene has been evaluating the medical cannabis field for more than a year, including market evaluation, obtaining governmental approvals for its research program and the establishment of a research facility, technology assessment and initial product line planning. Canonic’s initial activities will focus on creating improved cannabis varieties by addressing the current developmental roadblocks of yield, stability and specific metabolite composition. These development efforts will be based on the utilization of Evogene’s broadly applicable leading Computational Predictive Biology (CPB) platform, which has in the past demonstrated success in addressing similar objectives for other crops.”
Identifying three main challenges to growth—“(i) low metabolite yield – causing high costs for patients, (ii) low variety stability – causing inconsistent products that have become unreliable as a medical treatment and (iii) uncertainty in connecting cannabis metabolite profile to specific medical indications—Canonic claims significant competitive advantage due to its capabilities in plant genomics.
“These capabilities,” added the company, “have been developed and utilized for more than a decade through multiple collaborations with world leading ag-companies such as BASF, Bayer, Corteva, ICL and Monsanto focusing on crop improvement via plant genomics…” [BOLD added]
In May, Times of Israel blogger Karin Kloosterman took a positive view of Evogene’s move into Cannabis via Canonic, writing that its collaboration with the world’s dominant agritech companies should allow it to “not only meet the challenges but also to accelerate the product development process through its predictive science driven approach.
“Does this mean the big ag companies will dive into cannabis through Evogene?” she added. “We can only hint so much.”
Canonic is making itself as attractive a potential portal as possible. Per its new head, Dr. Arnon Heyman, “Having led Evogene’s Ag-Seeds division for the past few years, I am proud to now lead Evogene’s cannabis activity as Canonic’s CEO. Evogene’s cutting edge genomic technology, alongside our multidisciplinary team of professionals, uniquely positions Canonic to bring to market the most advanced, stable and consistent next-generation medical cannabis products.”
Evogene President and CEO Ofer Haviv offered similar assurances in a prepared statement: “With the establishment of Canonic, we expect the new company to advance rapidly in executing its mission of developing next generation medical cannabis products and to create substantial value in a relatively short time. This expectation is based largely on Evogene’s capabilities in plant genomics and computational know-how that will allow Canonic to uniquely address the major challenges in this large and rapidly growing field.”
Those expectations of timely success are backed up not just with capability and know-how, but also with proprietary intellectual property in the form of “validated & patented genes for traits of interest (e.g. trichomes density, growth rate, flowering time).”