By LeeWEpstein

May 18, 2020


Infectious disease researchers at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada turn to cannabis as they work on a coronavirus vaccine. The research team says a plant-derived antigens may be easier to produce commercially on a large scale than animal-derived antigens.

Zyus Life Sciences, a Canadian medical cannabis company, has partnered with the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Center (VIDO-InterVac) to develop cannabis-derived proteins for a vaccine candidate.

How it works

We had a protein platform that we had been working on for several years before we were in the cannabis space,” said Brent Zettl, CEO of Zyus, I asked [our team] the question: do you think we could produce a vaccine of this type of protein using our other plant system? And they didn’t understand why.

Zettle went on to explain that his team works with two different types of compounds. One is made from cannabis and the other from a different plant. These compounds are used to produce a protein that can be used for a vaccine candidate against VID19.

The genetic information that VIDO-InterVac developed to find the antigen that would work as a vaccine is a strand of protein. We then take that DNA and put it into a plant, which can then make that same protein, Zettl added.

According to Zettl, plant-derived compounds have the potential to be more effective than animal-derived compounds because of plants’ ability to clone proteins more easily, which are also better suited to large-scale production. Increasing attention to animal welfare may also facilitate adoption.

Dr. Paul Hodgson, a scientist with VIDO-InterVac, said that today no one knows what a final vaccine candidate will be. But with each vaccine trial, the scientific community is learning more about the virus and how it can be thwarted.

Other initiatives are also investigating the potential of cannabis as a treatment for VIDOC-19. In the most widely reported, but not yet peer-reviewed, study, some cannabis extracts significantly reduced the activity of viral receptors in artificial human tissue.

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