Hold your breath, make a wish and count to three.
It may not be Willy Wonka’s chocolate room, but Matt Taylor believes Curio Wellness’ new partnership with Clemson University is going to lead to a superior genetic bank of Cannabis strains the world has never seen.
“In a perfect world, there’d be 1,000 strains available on the market today,” said Taylor, the Director of Applied Science at Curio Wellness. “But let’s say you only have eight grow rooms. In those eight grow rooms, there’s only four tables. So you can only grow 32 cultivars at a time. You’re going to need a lot of space to hold those other 968 strains.”
Tissue culture, Taylor insists, is the way of the future. Placing “micro-cuttings” into test tubes that are then stored and secured in a tissue culture lab could allow for the storage of 1,000 cultivars in a 2,000-foot-square space.
“That’s the gene bank,” said Taylor, who holds a doctorate degree in horticultural science from North Carolina State University. “Then whenever you want to [grow a certain strain], you just bring it out.”
In June, the Clemson University College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences announced a two-year partnership with Curio Wellness. The project kicked off in August as first-year Clemson graduate students entered an internship program in which they will spend subsequent summers working in concert with Curio.
Michael Bronfein, Curio Wellness’ chief executive officer, said this latest research collaboration is an example of the company’s continued commitment to innovation that reimagines the way medical Cannabis is cultivated and delivered to patients.
“At Curio, everything we do is rooted in scientifically-derived methods and processes,” said Michael Bronfein, the company’s chief executive officer. “This research partnership with Clemson is a prime example of how Curio is investing in the future of medical Cannabis for our patients and everyone in need of safe, effective and reliable health solutions.”
Curio states the aim of the project is to conduct research that advances plant tissue science for the entire medical Cannabis industry, protecting plants from viral pathogens – in turn, improving production efficiency.
“This project is unique in that both organizations will conduct research using our individual plant collections,” said Project Leader Jeff Adelberg.
Adelberg is an expert in plant tissue culture and a horticulture professor at Clemson. He has been assigned to lead both the university and Curio Wellness in the study. Clemson will be restricted to conducting hemp-based CBD studies due to South Carolina state laws, while Curio’s team will be using their Maryland-based Cannabis operations to study the plant. By law, industrial hemp must have less than 0.3% THC, while marijuana may contain between 10 and 100 times that concentration. By contrast, hemp has higher concentrations of CBD.
“Research conducted at Clemson will be shared with Curio for use on their plants in Maryland,” said Adelberg. “They have the medical expertise to create the best products from Cannabis. This collaboration creates an opportunity for researchers from both institutions to use their knowledge to benefit people across the globe.”
“It’s really exciting,” added Taylor. “You don’t really see formal universities having partnerships with [Cannabis companies]. This is one of the first of its kind.”
The teams will also study how to utilize tissue culture to reduce viral pathogens such as Hop Latent Viroid which began puzzling California scientists and devastating crop yields in 2017.
“Viruses are an industry-wide issue,” Taylor said. “By utilizing tissue culture, you stay ahead of the viroid. Whether we’re talking about Cannabis, horticulture or agriculture, viruses can be devastating to an entire industry. Even the USDA has gene banks for grapes and strawberries. They keep everything in tissue culture because of viruses.”
Ultimately, being able to experiment with a wide variety of strains is the key, as fluctuations are often seen from cultivar to cultivar.
“There’s a lot of genetic diversity within that species,” Taylor said. “We want to get [our Cannabis] growing and have it be super happy. Every strain is different, but there are little things you can fine tune to make them all happy.”
With the heart of a horticulturist and the dedication of an Eagle Scout, Taylor believes this project has wings that will take off and rewrite how the industry maintains genetic profiles.
“Clemson University is recognized as one of the top agricultural and horticultural schools in the world,” Taylor said. “Through our partnership, we are building the knowledge base for Cannabis tissue culture, which in its current state is inadequately understood. The ultimate goal is genetic preservation, which will enable us to continue cultivating high quality, plant-based medicine for patients in Maryland and beyond.”