Scientists map marijuana genomes to help protect the plant from big agricultural corporations, like Monsanto, that might try to patent certain strains. The genome mapping effort led by Mowgli Holmes and the startup company Phylos Bioscience.
Scientists at Phylos start by gathering samples from as much different cannabis strains as they can. They then analyze the genetic makeup of each one and figure out which strains a sample is most similar to.
All the information gets organized into what Phylos calls the “Galaxy.”
The Phylos Galaxy is a massive family tree of the cannabis plant that includes hundreds of strains.
On the company’s website, the Galaxy is presented as a 3-D model that visitors can browse. Phylos launched the Galaxy on 4/20.
Strains that are genetically similar to one another are placed close to each other on the 3-D map. Users can then move around on the map to see the genetic lineage of their favorite marijuana strains.
According to Phylos, the thing that makes the Galaxy different from other online catalogs of cannabis strains is that each strain is individually sequenced.
But the genome mapping project isn’t just about trying to understand the full genetic makeup of the cannabis plant. It’s also about protecting the plant as the marijuana industry moves into the future.
According to the folks at Phylos, the Galaxy could protect cannabis strains from being patented by big agricultural companies like Monsanto.
For a company to get an agricultural patent, it must show that the genome of its plant is significantly different from naturally occurring ones.
On top of that, companies can’t get a patent on anything in the public domain for longer than a year.
Phylos thinks that the more genetic information its scientists can process and make publicly available, the less room there will be for corporations to claim a patent on any individual strain.
“[But] you can’t patent anything that’s been in the public domain longer than a year. We set out to bring more knowledge and transparency to the industry, and that’s still what we’re doing.”