With a new injection of funding, Langara College is set to be a leading institution in cannabis research in British Columbia.
On Tuesday, the Vancouver-based school said its Applied Science for the Canadian Cannabis Industry project had received a total of $3.7 million in funding, one of the largest grants received by a post-secondary institution in the province.
The funds include $2 million from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), $1.3 million from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and an additional $400,000 from industry partners Ascension Sciences, Nextleaf Solutions Ltd. (CSE: OILS) (OTCQB: OILFF) and Pure Sunfarms, a subsidiary of Village Farms International Inc. (TSX: VFF) (Nasdaq: VFF).
The industry partnerships are in-depth, with the firms offering various cannabis products, access to their facilities and the ability for students to work alongside in-house research teams.
According to a statement, the five-year grant from NSERC will allow Langara to build upon the foundation of applied research created by faculty researchers. The project will span a wide range of study, with applications to plant genomics, plant metabolomics, cellular response to cannabinoids and use of nanoparticles for delivery of bio-active compounds.
“This funding is a testament to the growth and expertise in cutting-edge and cross-disciplinary applied research that Langara College has built over the years,” Langara interim VP academic Margaret Heldman said in the statement. “It presents a wonderful opportunity for our students to get hands-on, career-ready research experience as they complete their credentials, working under the tutelage of our faculty.”
The program aims to apply the latest technology to close the knowledge gap, address the needs of this new industry, and contribute to the unique opportunity to establish Canada as the leader in applied cannabis science, the college says.
Funding will allow students to use advanced research equipment and build industry-related expertise.
Read more about the grant and research program here: https://t.co/LuY5c7llFX
— Nextleaf Solutions (@nextleaf_oils) July 13, 2021
“The research addresses questions of importance to industry such as: what is the genetic basis of cannabis varietal designation? What is the relationship between varietal and compound production? How can new varietals be developed in a targeted way?” says Kelly Sveinson, chair at Langara’s applied research centre. “Connecting industry, college researchers, students and other institutions, this program will leverage federal funds to build global competitiveness in the sector and develop skilled people in the field.”
As legal weed has materialized in Canada, extracts have become an important emerging domestic biotechnology subsector with substantial economic impacts, the college notes.
The sector involves large companies, and small- and medium-sized enterprises, focused on cannabis production, harvest, curing, analysis, transport, processing, formulating and marketing, the statement continues. All of these aspects face scientific and technical challenges across the manufacturing cycle.
New program a ‘meaningful’ contribution to advancing Canada’s emerging industry
“We’re excited about working with our industry partners, leaders themselves in the various aspects of cannabinoid extraction, production and processing,” Sveinson adds. “Their expertise will be an invaluable contribution throughout the research ahead, and we look forward to collaborating.”
This applied research partnership not only gives students the opportunity to gain important on-the-ground experience, but also contributes to the advancement Canada’s emerging cannabis industry in a meaningful way, says Michael Lattimer, VP of operations at Pure Sunfarms.
“As other jurisdictions contemplate legalization they will no doubt be looking to Canada as we pave the way in research, innovation, cultivation and processing and we are happy to be part of this advancement in research,” he tells Mugglehead in an email.
According to Lattimer, over the duration of this five-year research partnership, the Langara research team will have:
- access to cannabis products including raw material, processed flower, and extract product for research purposes;
- access to its 65,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art processing centre, where its scientific team conducts research and development;
- access to on-site testing, extraction, and processing activities;
- the ability to work alongside the Pure Sunfarms research and development team; and
- senior leadership consultation and guidance.
“Pure Sunfarms is proud to partner with Langara College as part of our research program, and together we’ll work to develop new technologies to optimize and continue to improve the quality of our products,” says Mandesh Dosanjh, Pure Sunfarms CEO.
“At Pure Sunfarms, we believe education and research will not only build further scientific understanding of the cannabis plant, but also create important learning opportunities for future professionals in this fast-growing sector.”
According to its own statement, Ascension Sciences’ focus on nano-delivery platforms for cannabinoids will form one of the program pillars as the institution enables the development, validation and study of proprietary formulations for targeted needs.
“We are excited about actively participating in the project and we hope to leverage all the expertise and resources of the college for the benefit of the students, faculty and our own goals of advancing cannabinoid medicines,” said Tomas Skrinskas, CEO of Ascension Sciences.
Nextleaf CEO Paul Pedersen says his company will provide consultation with technical staff, review of project outcomes and future goals with senior staff, as well as supplies, equipment and raw materials for experimentation.
Prior to legalization in October 2018, Langara’s Cannabis Research Group conducted cannabis-related investigations, but they were social in nature and didn’t involve science with the plant itself.
Update (2021-7-13 2:15 p.m. PDT): This article has been updated with comment from Pure Sunfarms and Nextleaf Solutions, as well as to include a statement from Ascension Sciences.