We’ve bioengineered crops like corn and soy beans. Now it’s time to bioengineer hemp. At least, that appears to be the case as biotech startups eye the crop.
Hemp has a long history. Originally grown in China, it has been cultivated for hundreds of years because of its usefulness. In the United States, it was a highly-regarded crop until the 1930s prohibition on marijuana.
But hemp has been making a comeback. Major corporations are experimenting with products made from the plant. Even Coca-Cola is looking at the potential for CBD-infused beverages. The corporate movement comes as Congress considers full legalization of the crop for the first time in decades.
And biotech startups are getting in on the action. Space Tango, a Kentucky company that develops microgravity research platforms, has launched a hemp subsidiary. According to SpaceNews:
The new startup, which has not been named, will look for ways to enhance and bioengineer hemp for biomedical applications on Earth. Space Tango attracted new partners for the venture, including Atalo Holdings, a Winchester, Kentucky, company that develops and distributes hemp seeds, and Anavii Market, a Lexington, Kentucky, firm that sells hemp-derived cannabidiol therapeutics.
Space Tango announced the spinoff “to build awareness that we are quickly evolving into more than a space service company,” Kris Kimel, Space Tango founder and chairman, said by email. “Our plans include a significant focus on product development and value creation. We also want to make the wider biomedical community aware of this in part to raise awareness of microgravity as a new frontier for medical solutions for Earth.”
Meanwhile, Front Range Biosciences, a Colorado startup, has raised $10 million to work on engineering marijuana and industrial hemp plants suited to industrial-scale agriculture, according to Forbes. According to Forbes:“There’s always this dynamic between the scale of industrial agriculture versus the quality and business practices of your smaller local farms,” Jonathan Vaught, cofounder and CEO of FRB, told Forbes. Vaught, who previously worked in molecular diagnostics and food safety, notes that regulations are important for consumer and environment safety as well as to ensure that quality products make it to the market. “We’re all dealing with these regulatory challenges no matter which part of the supply chain you’re working in. It’s really about how you scale effectively and meet regulations,” said Vaught.