NASDAQ seed gene company Evogene jumps into cannabis

Evogene to Develop Next Generation Medical Cannabis Products through New Subsidiary – Canonic Ltd

Evogene Ltd. dual-listed on the NASDAQ and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (NASDAQ, TASE: EVGN), a leading biotechnology company developing novel products for life science markets, announced last week that it has established  a new subsidiary – Canonic Ltd – to develop next generation medical cannabis products.Evogene has been evaluating the medical cannabis field for more than a year, including market evaluation, obtaining governmental approvals for its research program and the establishment of a research facility, technology assessment and initial product line planning.

Canonic’s initial activities will focus on creating improved cannabis varieties by addressing the current developmental roadblocks of yield, stability and specific metabolite composition. These development efforts will be based on the utilization of Evogene’s broadly applicable leading Computational Predictive Biology (CPB) platform, which has in the past demonstrated success in addressing similar objectives for other crops.

The current cannabis market is estimated at ~$13 billion and is expected to grow to ~$24 billion by 2025. Although the cannabis market is growing rapidly, it is well recognized that next generation products will need to address the current limitations of: (i) low metabolite yield – causing high costs for patients, (ii) low variety stability – causing inconsistent products that have become unreliable as a medical treatment and (iii) uncertainty in connecting cannabis metabolite profile to specific medical indications.

Evogene is uniquely positioned to provide a significant competitive advantage in the resolution of these development roadblocks through its CPB platform and its recognized capabilities as a leader in the area of plant genomics. These capabilities have been developed and utilized for more than a decade through multiple collaborations with world leading ag-companies such as BASF, Bayer, Corteva, ICL and Monsanto focusing on crop improvement via plant genomics and are now expected to allow Evogene’s newly established subsidiary, Canonic, to not only meet the challenges but also to accelerate the product development process through its predictive science driven approach.

Canonic’s current workplan focuses on three main product types, through a non-GMO approach: (i) high metabolite yield cannabis varieties (ii) stable varieties with consistent metabolite performance and (iii) cannabis varieties with a unique metabolite profile tailored to specific medical indications. The indications that the company will currently address are: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe chronic pain and cancer.

Dr. Arnon Heyman, Canonic CEO stated: “Having led Evogene’s Ag-Seeds division for the past few years, I am proud to now lead Evogene’s cannabis activity as Canonic’s CEO. Evogene’s cutting edge genomic technology, alongside our multidisciplinary team of professionals, uniquely positions Canonic to bring to market the most advanced, stable and consistent next-generation medical cannabis products, and I am confident we can make a significant impact in the world of medical grade cannabis.”

Ofer Haviv, Evogene President and CEO: “The field of medical cannabis fits perfectly within both our plant genomics activities and our human therapeutics activities. We have been evaluating this field and our relevant competitive advantages for over a year, and now, with the establishment of Canonic, we expect the new company to advance rapidly in executing its mission of developing next generation medical cannabis products and to create substantial value in a relatively short time.

“This expectation is based largely on Evogene’s capabilities in plant genomics and computational know-how that will allow Canonic to uniquely address the major challenges in this large and rapidly growing field. We look forward to updating you with respect to Canonic’s progress.”

As Evogene has previously reported, in order to take full advantage of its broadly applicable CPB platform, Evogene focuses – either as an Evogene division or a subsidiary – on a number of significant life science based markets in which its technology can serve as the key differentiator in the development of next generation products. As with each of Evogene’s market focused subsidiaries, Canonic, as a wholly owned Evogene subsidiary, will have full corporate capabilities while continuing to have access to Evogene’s CPB platform for its market area of medical cannabis.  In addition, Canonic will have the right to pursue its own business strategy and secure additional financial resources at appropriate times in the future.

The global seed market is valued at $37B , as of 2016, of which 53% is attributed to available biotech seeds, seeds which have been improved by gene transformation, in crops such as corn, soy and cotton. Currently available biotech seed traits capture approximately $8B and it is expected that as additional traits become available, the market may reach $14B, thus attempting to provide a solution to improve traits such as yield, abiotic stress, disease resistance, insect control and herbicide tolerance.

As global seed companies constantly aim to reach beyond current limitations to address the world’s growing need for feed, food and fuel, Evogene forges collaborations with these global companies to discover genes and genomic elements to develop improved seed traits.

The key traits Evogene targets are:

  • Improved yield
  • Resistance to abiotic/environmental stress (e.g. drought…)
  • Nutrient uptake (N2)
  • Insect control
  • Disease resistance
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