Agriculture Victoria scientists have used advanced DNA analysis to unlock the genetic code of medicinal cannabis, enabling more effective health products to be manufactured for people suffering from epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and cancer.
This has enabled faster precision breeding of medicinal cannabis with the world’s most complete genomic reference.
“Research into medicinal cannabis is a great example of how Victoria’s science and health sectors are working hand-in-hand for the benefit of our community, particularly those people who are suffering from chronic health conditions,” minister for Agriculture Mary-Anne Thomas said.
“Victoria’s cultivation trial has not only made medicinal cannabis available to patients, but has also provided our world-leading scientists with important genetic information to design more effective products.”
Using technology that can precisely measure and quantify cannabinoids, Victorian scientists can quickly and accurately identify cannabis varieties with the best medicinal properties.
Every plant and animal has a unique set of DNA including genes, referred to as its genome. Understanding the genome of medicinal cannabis allows scientists to select the best traits to make the most effective health products for patients.
Over the past four years, the Agriculture Victoria research team used their expertise in genomic DNA testing to create new tools, which made extracting genetic information from strains of medicinal cannabis from across the world possible. This information was then able to be put into a database.
This means scientists can link millions of DNA markers with traits such as growth rate, bud size and disease resistance, and quickly and cost-effectively test plants to meet compliance and regulatory requirements.
In 2018-19, Agriculture Victoria scientists sequenced 50 trillion bases of DNA. Advances in technology mean the same amount can now be done in three weeks – the equivalent to 60,000 cannabis genomes or 66,000 chickpea genomes.
The Victorian state government’s 10-year strategy for agriculture in Victoria highlights the ongoing importance of investing in research and innovation. The Strategy also outlines the need to maximise the growth potential of key emerging industries to grow the value and output of the agriculture sector.