Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Opium and marijuana research go underground

High-security Canadian mine used for biochemical research into opium poppy and cannabis

The world’s leading expert on the opium poppy has joined forces with researchers working on another infamous drug-producing plant – cannabis – in hopes of finding new uses for the much-maligned sources of heroin and marijuana.

Peter Facchini, professor of Biological Sciences and Canada Research Chair in Plant Biotechnology, has received a $650,000 NSERC Strategic Project Grant to create new varieties of opium poppy and cannabis that can be used for medicinal and industrial purposes, but will have no value as illicit drugs. And his work is taking him where few Canadians have gone before: Deep underground into the country’s ultra high-security medicinal marijuana growth facility.

“It’s certainly unusual for a plant biochemist to work in a copper mine hundreds of metres underground,” Facchini said. “This is a really great project that involves two of the world’s most important medicinal plants and is clearly unique in the plant biology field.”

Facchini and a new team of U of C postdoctoral researchers have teamed up with Saskatoon-based Prairie Plant Systems Inc., the National Research Council – Plant Biotechnology Institute, the Alberta Research Council and the University of Saskatchewan to create and study mutant varieties of opium poppy and cannabis in an unused portion of a copper and zinc mine near Flin Flon, Manitoba. Prairie Plant Systems produces medicinal marijuana under contract with Health Canada in this state-of-the-art facility.

Despite awareness of the importance of crop diversification for the long-term success of agriculture in Canada, few plants are cultivated for the production of high-value bioproducts. Opium poppy accumulates the alkaloids morphine, codeine and thebaine, and cannabis produces psychoactive cannabinoids and is used as a source of high-quality fiber and oil. The domestic market for codeine, morphine and oxycodone, which is derived from thebaine, is in excess of $1.6 billion annually, all of which is currently imported. “Canada is well-positioned to support the development of new crops cultivated for the production of valuable bioproducts, such as pharmaceuticals and fibers,” says Facchini. The research will identify novel genes for use in the metabolic engineering of opium poppy to accumulate high-value pharmaceutical alkaloids and to block cannabinoid production in cannabis. The latter will allow for a safe, legal, made-in-Canada cannabis crop that will have virtually none of the mind-altering chemical of marijuana but can be grown for hemp fibre, oil and food.

“The overall theme of this work is to modify plants to make them more useful as crops and chemical factories,” Facchini said. “Alberta is quickly becoming a leader in this area, especially in the area of biofuels. The immense potential of plants as sources of high-value bioproducts for the agricultural and pharmaceutical sectors also needs attention.”

The Biosecure Underground Growth Chamber is in a mine owned by Hudson Bay Smelting & Mining Co. Ltd. Facchini says it is a superb venue for his research. “It’s not what you would picture an old mine shaft to be. It’s clean and well-lit, it’s kept at a constant temperature and it’s one of the most secure places in the country,” he says. “It gives a whole new meaning to ‘mining our data.’”

Grady Semmens | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Cannabis Facchini Source crop marijuana medicinal opium underground

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>