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Cannabis Genomics Conference 2024

Cannabis genomic variation in the Himalayas

Wageningen University and Research, The Netherlands

Robin Van Velzen

Biography

Robin van Velzen is a lecturer at the Biosystematics Group, Wageningen University and Research, in the Netherlands. His research focuses on Cannabis biodiversity, investigating population genomic history and reconstructing the evolution of biosynthetic pathways.

Abstract of lecture

TBA

Robin Van Velzen

Date

Daniela Vergara

Biography

Dr. Daniela Vergara is an evolutionary biologist, data analyst, educator, scientific writer, and public speaker. In addition to her multiple publications, she founded and directs a non-profit organization, the Agricultural Genomics Foundation (AGF; AgriculturalGenomics.org). AGF aims to make hemp and cannabinoid science available to a broad public. Vergara has been part of the scientific teams at private companies including Steep Hill, Inc. who are a global leader in agricultural testing, and the biotech company Front Range Biosciences.

Dr. Vergara recently joined the Harvest New York Extension Team from Cornell University as an ‘Emerging Crop Specialist’ to help hemp farmers with their crop. Dr. Vergara’s scientific publications include the comparison of the cannabinoids by the federally produced Cannabis to that produced by the private market. These results were featured in news platforms such as The Atlantic, Science, and FiveThirtyEight.

 

Recently, she published a comparison between the genome of these federally produced varieties to the genome of the varieties found in the private markets. Some of her other scientific publications are a compilation of the existing genomic tools available for Cannabis research that was featured in Science, and the maternally inherited genomes (chloroplast and mitochondria). Vergara has authored these publications along with collaborators from the private sector in the Cannabis industry as well as academics from several institutions worldwide. Through AGF, Vergara educates the public about science, data analysis, statistics, evolutionary biology, and genomics.

 

Vergara is also an international consultant and policy advisor and has advised companies in the US and Latin America. Additionally, she has worked as an expert witness for multiple legal cases in the US and abroad. 

Abstract of lecture

Robin van Velzen is a lecturer at the Biosystematics Group, Wageningen University and Research, in the Netherlands. His research focuses on Cannabis biodiversity, investigating population genomic history and reconstructing the evolution of biosynthetic pathways.

Utilizing Basic Genetic Tools to Uncover Genotype-Phenotype Complexity in Cannabis

Date

Anna Schwabe

Biography

Dr. Anna Schwabe, an expert in Cannabis Science and Education, holds a B.S. in Cellular & Molecular Biology, an M.S. in Biological Sciences with a focus on Plant Population Genetics, and a Ph.D. in Biological Education and Cannabis Genetics. Her award-winning doctoral research, "A multifaceted approach to investigate genetic aspects in Cannabis sativa," has resulted in multiple journal publications. Currently an Associate Professor at the University of Colorado, Dr. Schwabe co-teaches "Modern Cannabis Science" and spearheads a comprehensive Cannabis education program at Shore/420 Organics in New Jersey. A distinguished presenter and published researcher, she is a prominent figure in the Cannabis industry.

Synopsis

Understanding the relationship between genotype and phenotypic expression in Cannabis sativa is just beginning to unfold.  The utilization of basic genetic tools, in the absence of federal financial support due to legal restrictions, this research suggests that this relationship may be more intricate than previously realized. We chose reliable and cost-effective de-novo simple sequence repeat markers to explore genetic diversity within strains. Surprisingly, we observed significant phenotypic variation despite identical genetic fingerprints, highlighting the profound impact of environmental factors. This investigation exemplifies how basic genetic methods are effective for examining essential aspects of a valuable yet underexplored plant. Persistent limited research funding, stemming from its illegal status in many parts of the world, underscores the critical nature of these explorations. 

Integrating genomic and morphometric approaches to study the diversity of wild cannabis populations 

Botanical Institute of Barcelona (IBB, CSIC-CMCNB)

Manica Balant

Biography

Manica Balant is a doctoral student, carrying out her PhD at The Botanical Institute of Barcelona. In her research she is focusing on studying genetic, morphologic, and phytochemical diversity of wild and landrace Cannabis accessions and its traditional uses worldwide.

Synopsis

Cannabis has been used by humans for millennia, which resulted in a complex evolutionary history, involving long distance dispersal, selection and numerous hybridizing events between populations. Combining different approaches can therefore give us a wider view of the unexplored diversity within this species. Phylogenomic and population genomics workflows of over 90 accessions of wild/feral and landrace representatives showed no clear division into species or subspecies but indicated that East Mongolian populations do form a distinct group. The importance of including wild/feral and landrace accessions was also confirmed with our novel morphometric analysis, where many of them displayed distinct leaf shape traits.   

Robin Van Velzen

Date

Pablo Romero

Biography

Robin van Velzen is a lecturer at the Biosystematics Group, Wageningen University and Research, in the Netherlands. His research focuses on Cannabis biodiversity, investigating population genomic history and reconstructing the evolution of biosynthetic pathways.

Synopsis

Robin van Velzen is a lecturer at the Biosystematics Group, Wageningen University and Research, in the Netherlands. His research focuses on Cannabis biodiversity, investigating population genomic history and reconstructing the evolution of biosynthetic pathways.

Plant Breeders’ Rights Trials in the Netherlands to protect new cannabis varieties

Naktuinbouw, Team DUS vegetables, ornamentals, agriculture;

CPVO - Community Plant Variety Office

Judith J. Meijles & Lizah van den Engel ​ 

Biography

Judith: Graduated in Plant Breeding at Wageningen University in 1992, I worked as a breeder at private breeding companies in ornamental crops and pharmaceutical cannabis. With a passion for innovation in horticultural crops, I am convinced that having a strong IP is important for continuous breeding. I am working at the Variety Testing Department (Naktuinbouw, NL) as technical examiner for Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR) since 2007. At Naktuinbouw I started to examine vegetable crops and later also ornamentals and agricultural crops. Since 2017 I am fortunate to work with cannabis again. 

Lizah: With a background in medical and moleculair biology, I have 5 years of experience in performing quality tests for DUS (Distincness, Uniformity, Stability) to obtain registration and/or Plant Breeders' Rights at the Variety Testing Department (Naktuinbouw, NL). In this position, I am specialized in DUS work of a diverse range of vegetable, ornamental and agricultural crops, including cannabis. 

Synopsis

Dutch Inspection Service for Horticulture and the organization that assesses the identity, quality and health of propagating material. 

Introduction Plant Breeders’ Rights at Naktuinbouw (brief) - By granting exclusive protection to breeders, PBR enables them to recover costs and earn royalties from their innovative contributions. It also fosters collaboration, ensuring a robust system for quality control in the agricultural sector. Naktuinbouw conducted Dutch PBR trials for pharmaceutical cannabis several years ago. However, there was a period with no applications. When companies renewed their interest, they applied at the CPVO (the EU PBR organization) for European PBR. Naktuinbouw had the technical experience and is the only entrusted examination office to perform the PBR trails since 2017. 

PBR trials at Naktuinbouw (focus)- Overview of the procedure (incl. licenses,  material, trial set up, protocol, collections, cannabinoids testing) 

Cannabis DNA database (focus) - its role in DUS 

On March 14th, 2024 the first Cannabis Genomics Conference took place at the Botanical Institute of Barcelona (IBB), Spain. Over 120 people participated either online or offline in a series of presentations from leading scientists and industry experts in Cannabis genomics. CGC 2024 offered a space for debate and networking, a first of its kind in the industry. 

About

The Cannabis Genomics Conference (CGC) convened leading researchers and industry professionals at the Botanical Institute of Barcelona (CSIC-CMCNB). Focused on the exploration of Cannabis genomics, the event offered in-depth discussions into the current state of Cannabis genomics and anticipated future challenges, and developed responsible strategies to unlock the plant's full genetic potential. The CGC 2024 marked a milestone in the development of this dynamic industry, being the first of its kind within Europe. 

This hybrid event emphasized the investigation of unexplored genetic reservoirs and the improvement of conservation and accessibility for researchers, industry, and consumers. Additionally, it featured representatives from the Naktuinbouw, the Netherlands Inspection Service for Horticulture, who presented insights into the Cannabis cultivar registration process. 

Attendees had the opportunity to engage with speakers and peers, fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange.

During the final debate, the following topics and corresponding conclusions took central stage:

The implications on the GMO law changes, concerning more elevated terpenes and cannabinoid levels for the Cannabis industry.

While proponents advocate for the value of new techniques like genetic engineering to address research needs and potentially enhance plant traits, concerns persist regarding the ethical, practical, and educational dimensions of such advancements. The debate emphasizes the necessity for a nuanced approach that balances technological progress with transparency, consumer choice, and comprehensive public understanding. Advocates argue that traditional breeding methods remain a reliable pathway for enhancing medical cannabis attributes, emphasizing the plant's adaptability and effectiveness of traditional breeding techniques. 

Complications in conducting research on Cannabis and paths moving forward

Conducting R&D on the Cannabis plant implies significant challenges, including obtaining funding, navigating regulatory hurdles, and accessing research materials. The overarching conclusion emphasizes the urgent need for improved funding mechanisms, streamlined regulations, and enhanced internation collaboration to address these multifaceted challenges. 

The importance of country benefit sharing for Cannabis cultivars

The nagoya protocol is an important legal framework , provided by the UN to facilitate revenue-sharing agreements over plant genetics and facilitate payments to countries providing genetic resources. The debate on the Nagoya Protocol illuminated its core value in ensuring fair usage of Cannabis genetics and attempts at preserving the plants genetic diversity. However, challenges persist in implementing the protocol, including defining thresholds for benefit sharing and accurately identifying genetic origins. The consensus points towards a need for further development of the governmental bodies acting out and controlling the protocol for Cannabis, as well as increased efforts towards cultivar registration of the Cannabis plan.

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Speakers

Cannabis genomic variation in the Himalayas

Wageningen University and Research, The Netherlands

Robin Van Velzen

Biography

Robin van Velzen is a lecturer at the Biosystematics Group, Wageningen University and Research, in the Netherlands. His research focuses on Cannabis biodiversity, investigating population genomic history and reconstructing the evolution of biosynthetic pathways.

Abstract of lecture

TBA

Robin Van Velzen

Date

Daniela Vergara

Biography

Dr. Daniela Vergara is an evolutionary biologist, data analyst, educator, scientific writer, and public speaker. In addition to her multiple publications, she founded and directs a non-profit organization, the Agricultural Genomics Foundation (AGF; AgriculturalGenomics.org). AGF aims to make hemp and cannabinoid science available to a broad public. Vergara has been part of the scientific teams at private companies including Steep Hill, Inc. who are a global leader in agricultural testing, and the biotech company Front Range Biosciences.

Dr. Vergara recently joined the Harvest New York Extension Team from Cornell University as an ‘Emerging Crop Specialist’ to help hemp farmers with their crop. Dr. Vergara’s scientific publications include the comparison of the cannabinoids by the federally produced Cannabis to that produced by the private market. These results were featured in news platform