Willow Biosciences Inc. has further accelerated its path to commercialization following continued scale-up development success and the addition of multiple new cannabinoids for production. Willow is a Canadian biotechnology company creating high purity, plant-derived compounds for the global pharmaceutical, health and wellness and consumer packaged goods industries.
“Willow’s scientific and operational success to date has solidified the use of yeast fermentation as a production platform,” said Trevor Peters, Willow’s Chief Executive Officer. “Our scientific discoveries over the past 14 months have contributed to the development of not one, but five different cannabinoids and our pilot project production samples expected to be available in Q3 of 2020 will make Willow the first to biosynthetically produce material amounts of cannabinoids. We expect to offer a portfolio of ultra-pure, pharmaceutical grade quality cannabinoids by the end of 2021. As we transition from a research-focused company to a production company, we are investigating a variety of end markets, including pharmaceutical and consumer products. We see significant potential in consumer packaged goods for the North American recreation market, where interest for high quality ingredients such as ours is strong.”
Accelerated Pilot Scale Production
The Company announced it has commenced scale-up in March of this year with its development partner, Albany Molecular Research, Inc. (AMRI). During this time, Willow has made significant improvements to both its proprietary cannabinoid-producing yeast strains and production process at 20 liter scale. Having reached its development milestones with AMRI ahead of schedule, and due to interest received from consumer packaged goods companies in the North American recreational market, Willow has expedited its 500 liter pilot from Q4 2020 to early Q3 2020, and expects to be in a position to deliver samples of cannabigerol (“CBG”) and cannabidiol (“CBD”) in Q3 and Q4, respectively. This success puts the Company’s pilot six months ahead of schedule, largely driven by the innovation, commitment and expertise of its industry-leading science team.
In addition to progressing its work in developing CBD producing yeast strains, the Company has developed a process to produce CBG, which is a promising cannabinoid with early research suggesting it has anti-microbial and antioxidant properties. While CBG cannot be produced in appreciable quanitities in the plant, Willow’s proprietary yeast production process is expected to be able to produce commercial quantities. Willow anticipates being able to commercialize CBG in the first half of 2021 and the Company is in the process of selecting its manufacturing locations, from which it can reach both local and world markets. While the market for CBG is still developing, the Company believes there is substantial nascent demand for the product, which cannot be met by plant extracts alone. Willow sees significant potential in CBG for people seeking the therapeutic effects of the cannabis plant.
The success of the Company’s proprietary yeast producton platform has enabled Willow to develop strains for producing additional high value cannabinoids. The Company has developed yeast strains and methodologies that allow it to produce significant quantities of cannabigerovarin (“CBGV”) at lab scale. Based on the accelerated pace of Willow’s CBG and CBD programs and the initial success with CBGV, the Company has allocated resources to the development of commercial processes for CBGV, cannabidivarin (“CBDV”) and tetrahydrocannabivarin (“THCV”), all three of which are collectively referred to as the “Varin cannabinoids”. The Varin cannabinoids are considered minor or rare cannabinoids in that they occur naturally in cannabis plants at less than one percent of biomass, making them challenging and costly to produce via cultivation. Despite the lack of supply, there are advanced clinical trials and significant recreational interest due to the possible therapeutic benefits of the unique properties of the Varin cannabinoids. Willow expects to be in a position to start commercialization of the Varin cannabinoids in the second half of 2021.
Growing Intellectual Property Portfolio
Willow continues to strengthen its intellectual property portfolio and aggressively protect proprietary rights on significant discoveries. Since the beginning of 2020, the Company has filed multiple patent applications covering a diverse collection of more than 200 novel genes that help to increase cannabinoid production and purity in yeast. The majority of the discovered genes originate from our proprietary genomic databases that are expected to lead to multiple additional discoveries and patents throughout 2020 and beyond.
Willow is a Canadian biotechnology company based in Calgary, Alberta, that produces high purity, plant-derived compounds that provide building blocks for the global pharmaceutical, health and wellness, and consumer packaged goods industries.