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Thursday June 8th at 11am MDT - Ask Me Anything with Marigene

We’re hosting an Ask Me Anything event on Thursday June 8th, 2017 at 11am MDT with Jason, Matt and CJ from Marigene to answer all your questions about cannabis genetics.

@Marigene works with growers and breeders to genetically identify their current strains and to chart a course on how to leverage that information to meet their growing and/or breeding goals. Marigene tailors genomic tool development and research to provide the foundation for accelerated and targeted plant and trait stabilization, as well as gene based authentication tools to support licensing or IP protections. Additionally, these genomic tools lessen operating expenses associated with maintaining large breeding populations, maximizing space needed to support breeder’s ability to scale and work multiple varietal lines for improvement.

Service Offerings:

  • Strain Identification Services - create high-resolution genetic fingerprints that allow us to assign each plant a unique identification number called a “genetic barcode,” producing a heredity report that identifies the origins of the plant/strain
  • R&D Project Design/Guidance - identifying strains appropriate for specific purposes and designing tailored breeding programs to create superior strains
  • Marker Development - four general pursuits encompass this service offering: Marker Assisted Breeding, Product Authentication, Legal Protection, and Strain Stabilization

Click here to sign up for a reminder email the day of the event. You can also import the attached ICS file into your calendar:
Marigene_Ask_Me_Anything_on_Growers_Network.ics (1.3 KB)

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I come from a Biology background myself, so I’m curious to know what techniques you guys use in genotyping samples you use. There’s obviously the standard extraction, PCR, electrophoresis, and such, but are there any other tools or techniques you guys like to use?

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Is this service and genome mapping something that may lead to the ability to copyright or trademark cannabis strains in the future? If so how would someone prove their genetics are theirs and truly unique or new?

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Hi all from the Growers Network. We are Marigene and will be happy to answer any questions you may have. CJ is the scientist so he will be answering most technical questions. My name is Jason, fire away!

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Hi Hunter,
We have been utilizing next-generation sequencing techniques for genotyping. We still use traditional PCR based techniques for specific projects, but next-gem sequencing is the most efficient way to genotype a plant.

The reason next-gen is so attractive is that you receive information on thousands or millions of DNA differences and/or sequences. However, that is also its downside. There is so much information to process that analysis becomes difficult requiring specialized computer skills.

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Due to the amount of cross breeding between strains, how similar are the single nucleotide repeats (SNPs) seen in the DNA fingerprints ?

Are you finding a lot of gene similarity between samples with different names ?

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Hi Satchi, in short yes. Copyrights are not relevant. You will be able to trademark a strain or cultivar, providing it is unique. A genetic bar code of that strain will be part of the evidence to justify the trademark. In general, plant patents are a tricky so you should consult a lawyer. Proving “uniqueness” requires documentation of which a genetic bar code is essential.

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Do you guys maintain a database of sequenced strains to compare against?

If so, do you intend to become the 23andme of cannabis? :stuck_out_tongue:

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Hey hey! I have a few questions for you.

I would like to know where to real focus is in genetic development for cannabis. Are customers looks for unique flavors, or maximum THC/Cannabinoids/terpenes, yield, pest resistance, etc? What is the industry focusing on right now in your experience?

What is the biggest unsolved mystery in the cannabis genetic world?

What are your thoughts on plant patenting and do you seek intellectual property rights on the genetics you develop? How should that play out, how can someone lay claim to the original “Blue Dream” in your mind? and protect their claim?

Thanks!

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Can you please explain the strongest way that cannabis growers can protect their IP from monolithic corporations (e.g. Monsanto)?

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Hi Hunter,
We do maintain an extensive database/pipeline of genetic data…and it is growing. Ultimately on the “genetic identification” service, or what we refer to as Strain ID, yes we would aspire to be like 23 and me. Unfortunately, not too sure that business would be too profitable. Strain ID is a starting point on leveraging cannabis genetics, we use that data to develop and direct breeding programs to seek specific traits desired by our customers. We are also developing genetic markers to identify desired data, like sex, THC, CBD, etc.

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Have you noticed any SNPs or variations between clones that come from the same “source”? I’d be curious if there were mutations going on even under normal cloning circumstances.

Also, have you seen any cases of convergent breeding, where two strains are very similar, but their genetic makeup is different?

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Overall, Cannabis has a large amount of variation (1%) comparable to the difference between chimps and humans. However in marijuana (non-hemp) varieties, there is less variation due to breeding bottlenecks imposed by human selection. Thus in MJ varieties, we see less variation.

The question of strains names is a big one! We will never verify a strain name. We can tell you how similar (% wise) your strain is to a consensus sequence for a strain (ex. Durban Poison), but this also requires us to get enough legit Durban Poison sequences to make a consensus sequence. We have made great strides in cataloging the diversity out there, but many “original” strains are still lacking in data.

Our overall genomic comparison can give you an idea as to which strain, or group of strains, a plat groups with, and in the next 6 months we will introduce a painted chromosome which is essentially a complete reference genome resolved down to the 10 linkage groups (chromosomes). This will vastly increase our ability to determine heredity/identity. This of 23&me for Cannabis.

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Hi Nick, great question I am sure is on top of many grower/breeder minds. Collecting/compiling evidence on the lineage of how you derived the strain (i.e. parents, grandparents), and genetically fingerprinting (Strain ID) the parents and progeny is an excellent source of documentation. Also, is the strain stable? In other words, if you go to seed do you get consistent offspring? Depends if you are trying to license a clone, then stability isn’t quite as important. But for licensing seed, you would need stability for IP. In short, document, document, and document…and speak with a lawyer.

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Followup question to this one. What software do you use to store the genetic data? Is it something you purchased or built in-house?

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Oh boy! I wished I typed faster…I could go on forever.

There are two camps; MJ and hemp. We look at hemp as agricultural and group CBD specific plants into the MJ world.

For agriculture, and hopefully MJ someday (for energy usage issues), we are focusing on traits such as flowering time, maturation time, yield, height, water usage, nutrient usage, and pest resistance. Different traits armor amenable to breeding, those that are controlled by just a few genes.

For MJ we are developing markers/strains for tailored chemical composition.

Biggest question…those hermies!! One of our major projects is flowering time and this is somewhat related to sex determination. But sex determination (monoecious, dioecious, hermaphroditism).

I think someone can seek some type of protection if they breed something unique and stable. I am all for open access of information, but breeders also need to be rewarded for their time and effort. This whole issue is very sticky…But regardless, DNA does not lie. We can verify uniqueness and stability.

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We have en extremely smart bioinformaticist who has developed custom software to develop our genetic pipeline. The amount of DNA data is mind-boggling so custom code is needed to integrate all of the data and create information.

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That is cool, and makes sense. My mom worked at the NIH in the 90s developing storage databases for fly DNA, and I was curious if the industry had matured to the point where there were commercial DNA storage software available yet, or whether people still generally wrote their own. Sounds like the latter is the case!

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Hi Hunter,

A study in Arabidopsis determined that there were “7 x 10(-9) base substitutions per site per generation.” That means there should be almost undetectable DNA differences between clones, because they are not actually going through sexual reproduction.

(Science. 2010 Jan 1;327(5961):92-4. doi: 10.1126/science.1180677.
The rate and molecular spectrum of spontaneous mutations in Arabidopsis thaliana.
Ossowski S1, Schneeberger K, Lucas-Lledó JI, Warthmann N, Clark RM, Shaw RG, Weigel D, Lynch M.)

Most likely, any phenotype differences observed in clones would be due to epigenetic (global chromosome structure) or environment.

For your second question, depends on the trait.

For THC/CBD, there likely is multiple pathways to accomplish the same goal, especially when you have the almighty hand of man guiding the process. Thus, high THC is most likely due to multiple THCAS genes and this has likely been selected for multiple times

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Following up on this, do you think predictive software for cannabis traits (based on genotype) would be possible?

On a different note, do you offer genetic screening services for breeders?

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