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Producing cannabinoids through plant biotechnology: the STHEMPTECH project

Driven by the growing number of situations of chronic physical or mental malaise and faced with the emergence of scientific and clinical interest in cannabis, Heloise and Naomi have built the STHEMPTECH project, with the ambition to enhance the properties of Cannabis, a natural alternative for a health and social issue.


A highly controlled process

The technology is simple: it aims to develop an innovative plant biotechnology process to produce cannabinoids, active therapeutic molecules from Cannabis sativa, the cannabis plant. This production is carried out in vitro, in a very controlled environment compared to agriculture, where all parameters can be controlled.

These molecules are intended to be sold in BtoB to nutraceutical, cosmetic or pharmaceutical industries. The medical sector will be reached in the longer term, around 2025.

 

In search of a highly regulated market

Cannabis and its molecules being coveted products, producing them in vitro presents a major advantage from the point of view of production security. Indeed, the biomass grows in a controlled, continuous environment and is therefore not affected by the seasonality of the field, nor by climatic hazards or contamination, which ensures stable yields with much higher levels of purity.

On the other hand, the barriers to the entry on this market are numerous. In France, cannabinoids must only come from legal varieties. At present, only fifteen varieties of Cannabis sativa are authorized, all of which produce very little cannabinoids. Moreover, in high doses, these molecules can constitute a medicine and for their production, it is necessary to pass by the national agency of the safety and the medicine (ANSM).

The agency also controls the R&D on the subject what implies that for any manipulation on varieties not legal in France but which carry an interesting potential, it is necessary the agreement of the ANSM.

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A very promising start

Both students in biotechnology at Sup Biotech, Naomi and Héloïse created this project as part of an innovation program during their training. After receiving very good feedback on their solution, they were awarded an incubation program at Genopole, the place dedicated to innovation in biotechnology where STHEMPTECH is now incubated. This support enabled them to learn about entrepreneurship, in order to acquire the skills needed to create their company.

Their victory of the PEPITE prize during the Student Innovation Day of the Young Entrepreneurship Society will support them from a financial point of view but will also bring them visibility, credibility and support in their company creation.

Their advice? Be convinced that you have a project that makes sense and surround yourself with the right people to ensure its viability.

The next steps for STHEMPTECH will be to optimize the process in order to validate it on a pilot scale and start a fundraising campaign.