In September 2014, we entered into sponsored research and a worldwide license agreement with Anandia Laboratories in Canada. Under the terms of the agreement, our Company was granted an exclusive sublicense in the United States and a co-exclusive sublicense in the remainder of the world, excluding Canada, to patents and patent applications relating to the hemp/cannabis plant that are required for the production of cannabinoids, the major active ingredients in the hemp/cannabis plant. The Anandia sublicense continues through the life of the last to expire patent, which is expected to be 2035.
Cannabinoids are a class of diverse naturally-occurring compounds that act on the cannabinoid receptors of human cells. The most notable cannabinoid is THC, the primary psychoactive compound of cannabis. However, there are more than 100 other cannabinoids in the hemp/cannabis plant, many of which may have medical applications independently or in combination with other cannabinoids.
Cannabis sativa (marijuana and hemp) has been used for millennia as a source of fiber, food (oil and protein), medicine and as a recreational psychoactive drug. Drug type cannabis (marijuana) that is typically used for medical and recreational purposes contains high levels of THC and is defined as a Schedule I narcotic by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Commercial type cannabis (hemp) is used for many purposes and it is legal under both U.S. federal law and most state laws. Accordingly, the presence of THC in industrial hemp is one of the biggest challenges facing the industrial hemp industry. Hemp crops are tested for THC levels; under U.S. federal law, hemp crops containing more than 0.3% THC are required to be destroyed.
Cannabinoids have been linked to a number of potential medical benefits. The mix, concentration, and characteristics of these cannabinoids vary widely and can be optimized through molecular breeding and other modern crop improvement technologies that have been utilized extensively in other crops, but which have been utilized rarely in hemp and cannabis plant varieties.
22nd Century’s collaboration with KeyGene provides the Company with access to a unique suite of crop innovation platforms, including genomics, molecular genetics, trait discovery and plant breeding technologies. 22nd Century holds exclusive worldwide rights to all hemp/cannabis plant lines, intellectual property on metabolic traits, and research results that are developed in our collaboration with KeyGene. Together with KeyGene, 22nd Century is focused on:
(i) Creating a cutting-edge genetic database which utilizes the results of genomic analyses of several hundred existing, exceptional hemp/cannabis plant lines for use in the acceleration of the Company’s development and licensing of uniquely characterized and improved hemp/cannabis plants;
(ii) Enhancing genetic variation to empower 22nd Century’s development of new and significantly improved varieties of hemp/cannabis plant lines and varieties with highly desirable cannabinoid profiles optimized for medicinal or therapeutic applications;
(iii) Creating a proprietary and industry-leading high-resolution “molecular genetic map” of the entire cannabis plant genome to facilitate rapid, cost-effective breeding of innovative varieties of hemp/cannabis plants with distinctive agronomic traits;
(iv) Analyzing the genomic sequences of multiple species of the hemp/cannabis plant and identifying shared genetic markers, allowing 22nd Century to develop improved commercial hemp/cannabis plant lines more rapidly than through conventional plant breeding approaches; and
(v) Initiating the rapid-cycle generation of hemp/cannabis plant lines with distinctive cannabinoid and terpene profiles to create elite hemp/cannabis plant lines.
As a result, 22nd Century’s ongoing research is product-oriented and focused on developing a range of next generation industrial hemp plants that contain optimized levels of medically important cannabinoids, including but not limited to CBD, CBC, and CBG.