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Nature vs. Nurture plays a critical role in cannabis. Understanding how and why these traits are expressed can help the cannabis industry how to create a consistent, reproducible product.
This week we dive into cannabis genomics with Dr. Daniela Vergara, Founder Agricultural Genomics Foundation. We discuss
Theory behind breeding
Defining synthetic plant-based or full synthetic
And so much more
About Dr. Daniela Vergara
Dr. Daniela Vergara is an evolutionary biologist, data analyst, educator, scientific writer, and public speaker. In addition to her multiple publications, she founded and directs a non-profit organization, the Agricultural Genomics Foundation (AGF; AgriculturalGenomics.org). AGF aims to make hemp and cannabinoid science available to a broad public. Vergara has been part of e scientific teams at private companies including Steep Hill, Inc. who are a global leader in agricultural testing, and the biotech company Front Range Biosciences.
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[00:00:00] Bryan Fields: What’s up guys? Welcome back to the episode of The Dime. I’m Brian Fields with me as always, this Kellen Finney. And this week we’ve got a very special guest, Dr. Daniela Bera, founder of Agricultural Genomics Foundation, Dr. Daniela, how you doing? Good. How are you? Excited to talk to you, Kellen. How are you doing?
[00:00:19] Kellan Finney: Doing really good. Really excited. Excited to talk to Daniella, uh, especially cuz it’s a, a science-based episode finally. So
[00:00:26] Bryan Fields: it certainly is. I think it’s really important though, we get to exactly where Dr. Daniella’s current location is so that we can make that little East coast, west Coast Palo. So, Dr.
[00:00:34] Daniella, your location please. Bloomfield,
[00:00:38] Dr. Daniela Vergara: New
[00:00:39] Bryan Fields: York.
[00:00:40] Kellan Finney: I think we were talking though before the show, and she might have some loyalties on the west coast though
[00:00:47] Bryan Fields: she certainly might have some loyalties and experience on the West Coast, but her current location would put her on coast team, so that is another one for us.
[00:00:54] So you’re, yeah, I’m making up the rules as we go for, I like it. I [00:01:00] like it. You know, Dr. Danielle, if our listeners aren’t familiar by you, can you give a background about
[00:01:04] Dr. Daniela Vergara: yourself? Uh, okay. Where, where do you want me to start? Like, I am Colombian originally. Um, and I moved to the US to do a PhD in evolutionary biology.
[00:01:19] I then met, who’s now my husband, and decided to stay. And when, and we moved to Colorado. I did a postdoc there at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I still have a lecture and researcher appointment there. Um, and that’s where I started studying cannabis. It was by chance I was gonna study sunflowers, but you know, it was a Friday night with my husband and his friend, and then it turned into cannabis that Friday night.
[00:01:51] Um, and, uh, From then I started doing genomics, um, and bioinformatics, which was the lab that I was [00:02:00] in at Nolan King’s lab at U Boulder. And he and I still have a strong collaborative environment and a grant that’s ongoing with one of his, uh, graduate students. And then a, on late 2021, I moved to New York State.
[00:02:14] Okay. Before that I worked for the private industry. I was funded by Steep Hill Labs, so I worked for Steep Hill Labs for about two years. Um, while doing research at CU Boulder and then the r and d team from Steep Hill got purchased by Front Range Biosciences, so I moved to Front Range Biosciences and continued doing research and then there were some financial issues with Front Range and I had to find a job.
[00:02:40] I looked for a job, found this one at Cornell Cooperative Extension, and moved for three days between Colorado and now where I am in Bloomfield,
[00:02:50] Bryan Fields: New York. I love it. So for our listeners that maybe are un familiar about genomics, can you give them the, the basic definition of what that means and how it work fits into cannabis?[00:03:00]
[00:03:00] Dr. Daniela Vergara: Absolutely. So genomics is the study of entire genomes, right? So a genome is all of the collection of dna, n a, of genetic material of an organism. So all of the, you know, agcs, you know, ninth grade, like all of your d n a, all of the collection. So one genome. I have a genome of myself, right? I have my genome, right?
[00:03:19] Brian and Kellyann, they have their own genomes. If we compare the three genomes, we’re comparing our three genomes. They’re gonna be similarities and differences. Um, and then what I did was that I looked at genomes in cannabis, so hemp type, marijuana type, and I look at differences and similarities. Steep Hill was very interested.
[00:03:40] I I come, my PhD was on. Sex. Why is there sex? Why do organisms reproduce sexually instead of cloning themselves? Like that was, and this was a question that Darwin himself asked, like, why would organisms not clone themselves? And so my thesis was on that. So when I [00:04:00] jumped into cannabis, I was coming with that mindset and I was interested like, oh, it has monia, so, so what people call Hermes.
[00:04:07] So it has monia individuals and males and females, and that was what I was interested in. But, you know, I started being paid by the industry and Steep Hill was like cannabinoid jeans. So I started doing cannabinoid jeans, which I absolutely love. Like at the beginning it was like, oh, I don’t wanna, but then I was, this is so fascinating and I absolutely love them.
[00:04:29] So I really know a lot about cannabinoid jeans. Um, and that’s what I did for a, for, I have several papers on cannabinoid jeans. That’s, so when we
[00:04:37] Bryan Fields: say
[00:04:37] Kellan Finney: cannabinoid genes, are you referring to the sequence and the D n A that codes for like the enzymes that make these cannabinoids? Is that what you’re looking
[00:04:46] Dr. Daniela Vergara: at?
[00:04:46] Absolutely. That’s a great way to say it. Yeah. The enzymes that make T H C A or C B D A or C B C A, yes.
[00:04:54] Bryan Fields: Why would
[00:04:55] Kellan Finney: that be valuable to like a steep hill? Just kind of like filling in the P puzzle pieces, you know what I mean? Does it [00:05:00] help with economics for
[00:05:01] Dr. Daniela Vergara: them? Well, and at the end of the day, if you want to, for example, silence the gene for hemp, you don’t want hemp to produce any cannabinoid.
[00:05:08] Do you need to have the sequence to know where do I silence it or how do I silence it? Or if you want to enhance it, You need the sequence. So because at cannabinoids are the most valuable thing from marijuana, right? Both medically or recreationally. That was the thing. And we didn’t know much about the cannabinoids at the time.
[00:05:31] Now we know much more, but that’s how I started in my cannabis stuff, was mostly cannabinoids.
[00:05:38] Bryan Fields: So give us, give us a breakdown on one of the things that surprised you when you started getting interested in in it. So in
[00:05:46] Dr. Daniela Vergara: cannabis in general or on Canada? Yeah, in cannabis in general. So in cannabis in general.
[00:05:51] Okay. So first, my dad is a university professor. I grew up in a university. I’ve never left a university. I come from academia. [00:06:00] My uncle is a PhD. My cousin’s a PhD. Like that’s what my family did. You know, like I didn’t know that you could do other things in life until I got into the cannabis industry where I met, for example, for the first time, I’m marketer.
[00:06:13] Or, you know, there were, uh, architects or, right. And uh, and, and that was like, oh, this is an industry, this is like, my mindset completely shifted. And I don’t know if you guys have prospects with Marine McNamara. Uh, from cannabis trainers in in Colorado, she taught me how to talk to people. Like I was coming from academia and I was used to talking to academics.
[00:06:39] Yeah. And I didn’t know, and besides English is my second language, so I didn’t know that much of the jargon from academia is jargon from academia. Like people do not really. Use those terms. So it was Maureen that, that taught me like, okay, now you need to talk to the rest of the world. And, and so she, she taught me how to, how to do that.[00:07:00]
[00:07:00] And it opened my, my world basically like, you know, like besides academia, there’s other things in life. I, I didn’t really understand that until working in the cannabis industry.
[00:07:11] Bryan Fields: So are, are breeders switching, slightly, switching gates are breeders when they cross breeding the, the different strains, are there an understanding of what they’re doing?
[00:07:18] Is it guest test revised? Take us through the process now and what you think should be actually
[00:07:22] Dr. Daniela Vergara: be happening. Okay. Yeah, that’s a great question because at the end of the day, evolutionary biology is the, um, theory behind breeding, right? You’re selecting for plants whose phenotypes you like, whether it’s THC or whether it’s height or whether it’s.
[00:07:39] Lemon smell. So when you are breeding for a plant, you’re choosing individuals that have physical characteristics or phenotypes that you desire and those phenotypes, so those physical characteristics come usually in parallel with some sort of genomic trait, right? Like it for there, there’s some characteristics that are very, [00:08:00] very, Um, heritable.
[00:08:02] So heightened humans is the perfect example. If your parents are tall, it’s likely that you’re gonna be tall. So if you select the tallest individuals, it’s very likely that you’re gonna have tall offspring, right? In cannabis, ideally, we would be able to do that and we would be able to, um, associate physical characteristics with particular genomic locations.
[00:08:25] And we know, for example, for THC that there’s a particular gene. A particular sequence that gives you the possibility of having a lot of THC now every single physical characteristic. Is a, is a product of genes and environment, so nature and nurture. So if you grow your, your cannabis in, in shitty environments, it’s probably not gonna produce as much cannabinoids as it could produce if you grew it in a very good environment with good lights or good nutrients.
[00:08:55] So, so yeah. So the idea of starting the genome is, at the end of the day, being [00:09:00] able to predict, uh, what’s gonna happen. Is your plan gonna be a female or a male? If it’s gonna be ha have high THC or not for hemp, for example, if it’s gonna produce big, eh, size seeds or uh, the fiber, is it gonna be tall or all of those things, right?
[00:09:19] Bryan Fields: So are, are breeders now, when they make, looking into making those decisions, are they thinking about that and then are they making tests in order to try to correlate that? Or is it kind of a, a guest test for advisor where they, they, they take two, look at two different strains and they say, these two we think are the strongest, and then we cross read those.
[00:09:34] Do you have any idea on how that goes today typically, and what you think people can do in order to do a more effective job?
[00:09:40] Dr. Daniela Vergara: So there are some traits, you know, whether. Your plant, you, there are some sex tests, for example, that you can, you can know whether your plant is gonna be a male. So yes, if you’re breeding and you wanna know whether that plant is gonna be a male, you can do a sex test.
[00:09:59] It doesn’t tell you if [00:10:00] it’s gonna be asis. Right. If it’s gonna be a Herma or that, or if you, if you stress it out, if it’s gonna produce Poland. But yeah, for males you have, we, there is a possibility of doing it for THC also. Flowering times, there’s also, so, yes. I don’t think that breeders for marijuana in particular have, there are some that use these.
[00:10:24] Um, there’s some companies in out West usually that are using some of these techniques, but breeders in general, like the breeder that breeds instilling closets and basements, I, I don’t think that they’re using any of these techniques.
[00:10:39] Kellan Finney: How useful do you think it is to, for breeders to actually get the genomics of say, two different strains, and then try to piece together what they think the offspring is gonna have from a characteristic standpoint?
[00:10:53] How close are we to like being able to do something like that? Does, is that, does that make sense?
[00:10:59] Dr. Daniela Vergara: Yeah, it [00:11:00] does make sense. And I think that for particular traits, we, we can Right for, yeah. Again, for cannabinoids, for, um, sex. We can predict, um, or we can tell you how the plant is gonna be when it’s very tiny.
[00:11:14] When it’s small. There’s other traits that we have no clue. Like I, I don’t think that we know much about what terpene, like terpenes are a big kind of worms. Um, but I don’t know if it, if it’s gonna be good for a breeder that is breeding low scale in their basement. I don’t know whether that’s a good idea, because if you look at.
[00:11:37] Other crops, like if you look at corn for example, you have big companies that are breeding companies that are the ones that do that. And then the farmer already buys the seeds from these companies. And to be honest, breeding at a large scale is not an easy endeavor. [00:12:00] Like you need highly qualified personnel, and especially if you’re doing.
[00:12:04] Marker assisted selection, which is what I’m talking about, where you look at the DNA in order to select for those individuals that whose DNAs you like because they’re related to a trait that you like, right? That is not easy, that is not uneasy by informatic task, especially if you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of plants.
[00:12:23] Um, so, so I don’t know how, I think that people need to understand genomics and understand because. I think that that makes it easy for them to understand what the companies are doing, especially if the companies may not have your best interest as a farmer. Um, that allows you to understand more of what the company is doing.
[00:12:45] How is the company doing it? When is the company doing it? Why is the company doing it right? And that a allows you to make more, uh, educated decisions, but I don’t know if you necessarily need to be the breeder [00:13:00] yourself. You mentioned
[00:13:01] Bryan Fields: marker
[00:13:02] Kellan Finney: assisted selection, uh, selection, right? And so there’s kind of two different buckets as, as it stands in terms of trying to get, uh, a plant to have a specific characteristics, right?
[00:13:16] So marker select selected is one. What is the other one? Is it uh, actually going into manipulating the genome itself to create that characteristic? Um, like genetic engineering, for example. Providing that that gene to the plant is that kind of technology that’s possible within the breeding process?
[00:13:37] Dr. Daniela Vergara: Yes.
[00:13:38] That is a technology that is possible within the breeding process. It’s not easy again. And then you need a molecular biologist that actually can take the gene and take and put it there. Right. And, and do that stuff. Um, it’s not easy. It’s possible it’s been done right. Like that is gmo, right? Like that is such a modified organism.
[00:13:59] Um, [00:14:00] it depends on where you draw the line of what is A G M O and what is not a G M O. Um, because there are things that do not necessarily occur in nature, right? Like seedless watermelon, they were bred for, I don’t know if they, I don’t think that they were genetically in engineered, but in nature alone, if you, we were not to touch nature at all, that wouldn’t have happened.
[00:14:25] Seedless watermelons, right? Or. right? Like that is a lot of breeding that went into Ash Chihuahua and if you see all of the dogs, there is a cost for the amount of inbreeding. Like when you think about Ash Chihuahua, you don’t picture a German Shepherd. You picture Ash Chihuahua and you know that they’re very different.
[00:14:50] They’re used for different things, and there’s a lot of inbreeding that went into that. You know, like father mating. Daughter mating, father, mating [00:15:00] brother, right? Like there’s a lot of inbreeding and that comes with consequences. All of those nasty diseases like cancer or these ulcers that these dogs have due to inbreeding, that comes with consequences and it also comes with consequences in plants.
[00:15:18] And now with genetic engineer, I mean, I guess that it depends on your personal susceptibility. Whether you go to the store and eat strawberries that are polypoid, right? That are these huge strawberries that look like an orange that is also developed in the lab. Um, so I mean, I am a big g m proponent. Um, I give talks about GMOs.
[00:15:41] I have my issues with GMOs. Yes. But yeah.
[00:15:44] Bryan Fields: Where do you see the, the line. Where do I see the line? Yeah, you said, it says, you said it depends on where you see the line with GMOs and in cannabis. So where do you see the line with is what you think is GMO and what is [00:16:00] non GMO for what is currently happening?
[00:16:02] Dr. Daniela Vergara: So, in my opinion, and this is my definition of GMOs, if you ha if you need a lab in order to do it, that is G M O. If I can do it on my closet, on my my basement, that that is not. So if you’re just
[00:16:14] Kellan Finney: naturally breeding and doing kind of like the Mandel process, right? Um, with his beans, for those of you who don’t know, it’s a great thing to go look up, uh, Nelson Mandel.
[00:16:24] But if you’re doing that, you, I wouldn’t count that as G M O either, because I mean plants do will do that on their own, right? Naturally, we just help facilitate it and actively put. Like the two tall people together, hope, hoping they fall in love, I guess you could say. Right.
[00:16:41] Dr. Daniela Vergara: So, okay. So first I think, okay, first, like Gregory Mendel had a lot of time, he was a monk.
[00:16:47] I, yeah. I’m assuming that monks have a lot of time. Hopefully, I don’t really know much about the life of a monkey except for him that was just crossing peace, you know, like, [00:17:00] but he’s dedicated. Exactly. Uh, but again, even if you are breeding, like all of these breeds of dogs have been the work of multiple generations.
[00:17:15] That probably didn’t happen out of the blue, like there were dedicated. Mendels that were breeding for these dogs. Same for, you know, all of the species or, or brassica. I think it’s a greatest example. Brassica, the wild mustard is the same, is the same species for, for, um, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts is the same species.
[00:17:43] So you selected Yes. Yeah, exactly. That phase is the correct phase. What exactly? So Kale, you selected for the flowers. Brussel sprouts for the lateral buds. Cauliflower for the flower. Right. And it’s the same species. It didn’t happen. Willynilly out in the [00:18:00] wild like it was work that that went into that.
[00:18:04] Those things I could maybe, if I dedicate my entire life, I could do it in my. Shower, right? I don’t need a lab. Like I don’t need to introduce a gene, right? So in my opinion, those are not GMOs. What is a GMO A GMO is when you necessarily you need a lab. You need a lab in order to do that. Whether it’s polyp, ployed because you added chemicals cautiously and then right, or whatever it is.
[00:18:32] But you need a lab. So are we talking
[00:18:36] Bryan Fields: synthetic cannabinoids? Is this where we’re kind of, we’re moving towards. Is this what we’re talking about?
[00:18:41] Dr. Daniela Vergara: I, I wasn’t going there, but if you wanna go there, let’s, well,
[00:18:44] Bryan Fields: I, I, I’m just curious, right? Like, I’m trying to, like a, attach the lines because we talk about synthetic cannabinoids and then what is naturally occurring in the plant.
[00:18:51] So I’m curious to know like, where is this line? Because in cannabis it always feels like everything is very gray and it turns out like everything kind of just ends up in [00:19:00] there. So is this, are we in synthetic cannabinoids or are we talking about something different?
[00:19:04] Kellan Finney: I mean, could you classify a synthetic cannabinoid as a cannabinoid that’s manufactured from a genetically modified organism?
[00:19:12] Dr. Daniela Vergara: No, I think that those are more like chemically producing the lab. Right. But if, if I were to produce GM O cannabis, what would I do? I think I would make this as resistant plants. I think I would make, um, maybe plants that produce a bunch, like they yield a bunch, like. What, 35%? T hc 75, you know, like something to the moon.
[00:19:40] Yeah. Like ultra lemon, 75%. Yeah. You know, like the huge trichomes, like I would just do, you know, like a, a huge tricom or, or multiple mi I would actually make trichomes grow in the leaves and in the stamps. And those are not regulated. They only regulate the bug. So why, why
[00:19:59] Bryan Fields: [00:20:00] has anyone done that? Because
[00:20:03] Dr. Daniela Vergara: engineer the plant.
[00:20:04] Exactly. And in order for you to do that, you need a lab. And in order for you to have a lab that has these capacities, it’s usually universities that have that. And in order for you to do that, you need federal legalization. Yeah. You cannot take marijuana into a lab. And I mean, yeah, you can take C B D, I guess.
[00:20:24] Bryan Fields: So staying on synthetic cannabinoids because it’s, it’s a very hot topic. How, how do we define that and how then we ensure that the, the end customers understand what they’re consuming, whether or not it is naturally occurring in a plan or, or not.
[00:20:40] Dr. Daniela Vergara: Sy is, is synthetic cannabinoids a hot topic? Is that really, I didn’t know.
[00:20:43] Kellan Finney: I mean, if you think like Delta eight and Delta 10, right? A lot of those cannabinoids have kind of proliferated a lot of these markets and so. I mean the, it’s just tough. Cause a lot of these can, a lot of the cannabinoids, so like the federal government says that [00:21:00] like the reason Delta eight is legal right now mm-hmm.
[00:21:02] Is because it’s like a loophole around Delta nine because the cannabis plant technically only makes Delta nine th thc. And so cannabis, the plant is illegal because it has Delta nine t hc. Right. And so if they’re making Delta a t hc. It’s technically legal, right? And they’re saying that it’s naturally occurring cuz it’s in low levels in the plant.
[00:21:26] But I, I personally have never seen a cannabis plant with Delta eight levels in it that high at all, honestly. Um, and so that’s a, an argument for another day, but if you’re able to manipulate the genome of cannabis to manufacture this Delta eight cannabinoid that was considered synthetic, is it a way around the, the federal laws regarding Delta nine, T H c.
[00:21:50] Dr. Daniela Vergara: So, okay. So I think, is that defining what is a synthetic canna? You know, I think it’s a difficult thing, right? Because yeah, [00:22:00] it’s something that you do in the lab, right? So I can take, I don’t know, T hc, like delta nine THC and do it in the lab or from delta nine, then produce delta eight, or from thc, then produce cbn, right?
[00:22:14] And then at the end of the day, the plant does produce. T H C A, right? Delta nine, t h c a. And then when we heat it up, decarboxylation, then you have Delta nine T hc, and then it ages and oxidation. And then you have C B N, right? And then the difference between T H C A Delta nine and delta eight is a bond between twos.
[00:22:39] And so it’s, it’s kind of very easy to go from one place to the other. And I have analyzed data that has Delta eight in low quantities, but it is present. But there are other cannabinoids. There are other synthetic cannabinoid, it’s like the spice thing, right? That are very, [00:23:00] very toxic. So there are cannabinoids that are produced.
[00:23:06] Therapeutically, right? So you have all of these drugs like Epidiolex or uh, dronabinol or Navone that are produced in the lab, but they are based on what the plant produced. But there’s other cannabinoids like that or the spice that are not produced by the plant. And, um, Are much stronger. Right? So Delta nine T HC is a partial agonist of the endocannabinoid system and it’s partial.
[00:23:47] And that’s a partial agonist, right? And that is compared to our own cannabinoids that we produce our endo cannabinoids. Then you have this other synthetic cannabinoid. It’s like that Alpha is the one that I [00:24:00] know the most. Cause I wrote at some point about it. It’s not partial. It’s entirely an agonist, so it is much stronger.
[00:24:11] And so I, I don’t know. I, I think that we need to define what those things are and what is synthetic and what is not, and it is if it’s synthetic plant-based or if it’s full synthetic, that has completely been engineered in the lab. I think that those defin, those definitions are, are important.
[00:24:29] Bryan Fields: A hundred percent.
[00:24:29] And and that’s really why I wanted you to clarify that because it is so complex and so difficult. So for the people who are making decisions down in DC who are unsure of some of these nuances and details, it just layers on the complication that when these rulings go down and it’s like, well, it’s not as black and white as that.
[00:24:44] So for example, when I was in Miami, someone offered me T H C P and I had no idea what T HCP was. And they said, well, it’s like T H C O but better. And I was like, define better. And was frightened, right? Like to think that like this was something that could all of a sudden pop up and they’re just like [00:25:00] literally going down the alphabet, right?
[00:25:01] L m n, op. Like, is this really what we’re doing here, guys? Like that? That’s what I was fearful of. Like how, how, how are we doing this? How are we defining this? And is there any sort of basis before like quote unquote better? So your thoughts.
[00:25:15] Kellan Finney: Better is just the pharmacokinetics, right? So T H C P has seven carbons on the Alcan tail, I think instead of normal five, which is a Delta nine T hc.
[00:25:26] And so it binds better. Right. And that’s also what’s going on with uh, the Alpha Pak. Is that correct? Dr. Daniella, right? It just, it sits in your CD one receptor longer, so it causes that your high lasts longer, and it’s a more intense feeling because it’s just sitting in that enzyme in your brain for a lot longer.
[00:25:46] Bryan Fields: but my fear right, is that a consumer walks into a store and doesn’t understand the differences between they won’t cannabinoids and grabs a product that goes, ah, t h ccp like. Just gonna get high, right? Ask the person behind the counter that’s selling the unlicensed products and he is like, yeah, [00:26:00] you’ll get high, has no idea.
[00:26:01] It goes home, has a terrible experience, and is immediately offput by cannabis A and B. Like if we could have a really bad reaction setting off, you know, a negative sentiment towards the industry, when ultimately what is, what is he consuming? And
[00:26:13] Kellan Finney: this brings up a really good point from kind of this trend within breeders right now.
[00:26:17] And so I don’t know if you’ve heard, there’s a couple breeders out in California that are. That have high, like T HCV strains. Right. And so T HCV is just one less, two less carbons. Right? It’s three. Three less
[00:26:32] Bryan Fields: cumber carbon, I think. Yeah. Yeah. I think,
[00:26:33] Kellan Finney: I can’t remember. Right. It’s just they mess with the, the chain.
[00:26:36] So again, now we’re seeing these plants be bred to make these minor cannabinoids that could have stronger interactions than what someone would be used to with cannabis. Like what is your thoughts on, on those kind of. Trends from a breeding perspective.
[00:26:54] Dr. Daniela Vergara: I think it’s awesome. Great. I I, I love that they’re going for something else besides [00:27:00] tht is that cannabis is, look, I have been a cannabis consumer for a very long time, but my taste is kind of like a yes no type of thing.
[00:27:11] You know? It’s like, yes, this tastes good, and no it doesn’t, and it’s usually a yes. I am a great eater. You can invite me to eat anything, and I’m always gonna thank it. So just don’t eat anything I cook, you know, for your safety. Um, but, um, so when I, I didn’t believe all of these things that, you know, cannabis people said like, oh, and this one smells like blah, blah, blah.
[00:27:33] And I was like, really? Until two things happened. First I started working for Steep Hill and they threw a bunch of data at me and I started analyzing the data. And it’s like, yeah, this is true. There’s a bunch of different compounds that are produced in different ratios, different strains, produce different things.
[00:27:48] Um, Straight names do not mean much. It doesn’t matter. But in any case, yes, there’s a bunch of different things. And then I was pregnant and when I was pregnant I smelled everything and I was, [00:28:00] I was selected to be a judge for high times and I wasn’t able to do it cuz I was pregnant. So my husband did it and I was able to smell all of the things that he, and, and I could tell you right then, like, this smells so different from this one.
[00:28:16] Right. Like this one definitely smells more strawberry like. And this one definitely smells like a skunk. And so I, so then and analyzing the data, like this is real, right? So right now that it’s going into mainstream and people go to a liquor store and it’s like, give me the highest, like, you know, 75% ethanol, that’s the one I wanna drink and I wanna be wasted.
[00:28:40] Same thing happens with cannabis. Like give me, you know, like the 38% thc, which at the end of the day, first we don’t think it acts the same way as alcohol. And second, there’s so many other things, like I, I do believe in the centage effect. I think that there’s a little, there’s a tiny bit of evidence, but I do [00:29:00] think that it’s likely right, that you’re putting a bunch of different things in different ratios.
[00:29:04] They act in different ways, right? So I do think that that is true. Um, and so why not breed for these other different things that you could, right. High C, B, C, um, C B D V. Uh, why not? I think that that is awesome for breeders. Like, yeah, go for it. Like the sky sky’s the
[00:29:26] Bryan Fields: limit. Any, any fears of the unknown that we haven’t consumed high amounts of CBC for long periods of time, and kind of we’re walking down this path of unknown where there could be ultimately bad results.
[00:29:39] I know that’s kind of a pretty negative feeling, but just wandering to this unknown. We’re kind of adjusting these plants in order to maximize these different analytes. I’m curious to know if you have any fears of what could be waiting for a similar side.
[00:29:53] Dr. Daniela Vergara: I, yeah. Like, you know, with great powers comes great responsibilities.
[00:29:56] Yes. But, um, [00:30:00] I, I love that.
[00:30:04] Um, I don’t, I don’t think there’s anything worse than the opioid epidemic that we’re currently having. Right? Like, is there gonna be something worse than that? I don’t think so. Um, of, of course, this is a. Personal opinion, redundancy, you know, sample size of one me here, like, but, and going back to the question that Killen was asking about T H C P and T A C O and all of that stuff, um, I remember when Colorado just legalized, so this was, this was probably 2015.
[00:30:39] And there was, I think this New York Times, uh, article that came, A reporter went to, uh, a dispensary, got, um, some edibles and got ultra high and was not able to leave her room in her bed. And it was an entire story of. This is awful. And it’s like, yes, it comes with [00:31:00] education. Like, I don’t know. I mean, here in the US it’s a little different, but when I was, you know, 14 and in Colombia, everyone drinks and I was, you know, like the first time I drunk, I was younger.
[00:31:11] But they tell you like if you drink a lot, you’re gonna get drunk and then you’re not gonna remember it. So you have to educate your consumers. And especially I think there’s two types of consumers that are the most important ones. The very younger ones and the very older ones. The very younger ones, because they’re dumb and like, oh, I wanna get super high.
[00:31:32] And the very older ones, because they actually go there because they are in pain, they have hip pain, they cannot sleep. They need something that helps. They need and, and then, You get a person, you know, a dispensary above tender that lives in Colorado and it’s leaving the dream and it’s snowboarding in the winter, you know, and I work at a dispensary.
[00:31:49] Oh my God. Yeah. Take the one that has the most T hc and that is not the case necessarily. So you really need to have good education until people, okay. We, we do not know [00:32:00] entirely the effects of cbc. We, we don’t know, but try it. And if you like how you feel, come back and order the exact same thing. Right.
[00:32:09] That’s what I recommend. Start, start little by little. Don’t eat the entire gummy, eat half of the gummy. Make sure that you’re not gonna drive, that. You’re not gonna use a chainsaw. Just watch a movie, right? And then if two hours later you feel okay, or three hours, then eat the rest of the gummy. But start with a quarter or a half powerful message.
[00:32:35] Bryan Fields: Byebye. Is cannabis just one
[00:32:39] Dr. Daniela Vergara: species? Yeah. Cannabis is one species, yes. With a lot of genomic and PPIC diversity. Yes.
[00:32:48] Bryan Fields: Can you kind of expand on, on how that works? I’ve seen you compare it to the, the chimps and humans. I’m curious to know if you can give us a breakdown. Oh yeah. Where did you see that? I can’t tell you where I did my research.[00:33:00]
[00:33:02] Dr. Daniela Vergara: Yeah, I mean, it has a lot of diversity. It has as much diversity as maybe two different species, or at least with some sort of preliminary results that I did at some point. It has maybe two or three times as much genetic variation than we do, which is exciting because then you can do a bunch of combinations, right?
[00:33:22] If it were not regulated the way it is, we could. Do a bunch of different combinations and, and can you give us an example? For example, I think that it would be super cool to have very, very stinky plants that are very small flour, very early and are all purple. Just poor ornament, right? Okay. Very small out of flowers, big stinky buds all purple.
[00:33:54] Why not? And that produced trichomes in the, in the stems. Why [00:34:00] not OID content? Maybe, but you don’t. You wanna be Cause it’s stinky and it’s, it’s it’s ornament. Yeah. You don’t need to smoke it
[00:34:12] Bryan Fields: slightly. Yeah. So do i, I was thinking about that so slightly. Cannabis Sativa, the production manual. We got a quick glimpse into it. It’s absolutely beautiful. I’d love if you could share some, some insights in it and kind of what people can expect when they take a look.
[00:34:28] Dr. Daniela Vergara: Yeah. The cannabis production manual, that was exciting.
[00:34:31] That was my first big, um, big endeavor at Cornell. And it was really exciting because I learned a lot. Um, I learned that I know very little and I know just a little tiny part of the entire plant. Um, I was able to interact with a bunch of people, um, because I was leading the project and I needed information from a bunch of people.
[00:34:56] Um, and, and so in my opinion, that manual [00:35:00] is a 1 0 1. On if you want to start growing cannabis for any particular reason, you know, if you wanna grow fiber, hemp or grain, what do you need? How much money do you need? What space do you need? What equipment do you need? Uh, how do you plant it? What is the space between plants?
[00:35:17] How many plants, uh, what to expect? How do I harvest it? When do I harvest it? Um, so this one-on-one, of course, you can go deeper and deeper and deeper. For example, the high cannabinoid part. There’s so many cannabinoids and all of the biochemistry, like we didn’t really explain, okay, this is THC and this is C and this is cbc and this is how THC goes into, right?
[00:35:39] And C, C into, uh, C b, A and cb, right? We, we didn’t explain all that of that part and, and this carbon and this other carbon, but you can always go deeper and deeper or extractions. I’m lately fascinated by the biochemistry of extractions. And resins and rosins and, you know, solvent and solvent less. And why would you pay [00:36:00] more for this one than this other one?
[00:36:01] And the, but the biochemistry behind it. So that is, we, we don’t talk about it. I mean, it’s still 208 pages and we don’t talk about it. So it could be, you know, 600 pages if we talked about all of the stuff. But it’s kind of like an overall glimpse, I think.
[00:36:18] Bryan Fields: Did you learn anything that surprised you or shocked you when you were helping put it together?
[00:36:25] Dr. Daniela Vergara: Did I learn? Yes. I didn’t know that there were so many diseases that cannabis was susceptible for, um, and so many insects and I didn’t know much of. I’ve been in touch with, in Colorado, I was very in touch with indoor gros, but here there’s more outdoor grows, and of course going from indoors to outdoors is a completely different thing.
[00:36:50] So, Learning about nutrient and soil management, that was totally new to me. And, and, you know, and all of the ion that you do [00:37:00] indoors, you really do not do that outdoors. Or there’s other options outdoors. Right. People here use chicken manure, so, so you can do that. Right. Um, so that was, that was new to me.
[00:37:14] Bryan Fields: On a scale of zero to 100, with a hundred being, we know everything about the plant. In your opinion, where are we today with our understanding of the cannabis plan?
[00:37:25] Dr. Daniela Vergara: Zero to 120, 30 maybe? I mean, the understanding of of,
[00:37:32] Bryan Fields: of what, what we currently know about cannabis and how the, the human body interacts with it and what its potential benefits are and what we could potentially leverage it for.
[00:37:43] Future opportunities, whether it’s medicinal, recreational, Just from an understanding standpoint, information wise, where do you think we are today and what, like how long do you think it’ll take us to get to 60 or 80?
[00:37:57] Dr. Daniela Vergara: I think, yeah, I think that we’re about in a 30. And how [00:38:00] long does it take us? I mean, it depends on federal legalization, so, but I, it, it’s gonna be much faster than with other species cuz we have tools that were not there.
[00:38:13] You know, when I started working in cannabis at Boulder, they’re like, I remember, yeah, it was literally a Friday night. My husband had a friend in town and they were like, Hey, so why sunflowers? Why not weed? And I’m like, well, everyone knows everything about weed. And I started looking at what was out there.
[00:38:30] There was not much. And that was 2013 for 10 years. And what we’ve a, the, the advancements in 10 years have been. Incredible. So, so I do think that things are happening fast and there’s a lot of, um, biotech promise, not only in the marijuana front, but also in the hemp front, right? Like there’s a lot of biotech companies that are [00:39:00] coming out and that are breeding and that are producing different things, different products that are exciting.
[00:39:05] So, do think,
[00:39:07] Kellan Finney: do you think CRISPR gets involved in cannabis? Do you think those two fields merge here sooner rather than later? Oh yeah,
[00:39:13] Dr. Daniela Vergara: absolutely. Like CRISPR and other things like Oh yeah, like absolutely like, and I will do it like no bra like for hemp. It’s no brain for hyper hemp. Oh yeah. Just silence all of those cannabinoid genes in fiber hemp.
[00:39:25] Just send it
[00:39:26] Bryan Fields: as
[00:39:26] Kellan Finney: tall as they can get
[00:39:28] Dr. Daniela Vergara: E. Exactly. Like why do you need them there? Right. Like just silence those guys out and then you don’t care cuz they’re not gonna produce any economic, you’re totally legal. Right. Totally.
[00:39:40] Bryan Fields: Yeah. What’s the biggest hindrance for doing that? Is it money to get that off the ground?
[00:39:46] Kellan Finney: Yeah. And you got a paid beam or someone else that’s already licensed the technology, right?
[00:39:52] Dr. Daniela Vergara: Yeah, but I also think that it’s, the labs that need to do it are labs that may be federally controlled. I mean, I know that there’re [00:40:00] some institut in California that are working like a south institute in California is working.
[00:40:05] Big time on, on certain cannabis aspects. I know that there are some universities in Canada that are doing some G M O E type of thing. Um, I don’t know, Israel, right? Like Israel, they, they, they should be, they agree.
[00:40:22] Bryan Fields: So, yeah. Are there any aspects of the plant that intrigue you or in the back of your mind you’re
[00:40:28] Dr. Daniela Vergara: wondering about?
[00:40:30] Oh yeah. So many, so many. I mean, I think that the white chromosome is fascinating and the ESE individuals, I think that those are fascinating. And the Y chromosome in cannabis is very different from the Y chromosome in humans. So in humans, the Y chromosome is the smallest chromosome, right? In humans, the Y chromosome basically have one gene, and that one gene is the one that tells the rest of the genome, Hey guys turn on.
[00:40:55] You know, like, Hey, we’re gonna produce hair, testosterone, right? So basically, [00:41:00] As a female human, I have all of those genes, but I don’t have that one gene that turns everything off more or less. That’s more or less how it works. Um, in cannabis, the Y chromosome is the biggest one, and it’s, it’s huge and it has a lot of repetitive content and repetitive content.
[00:41:19] As the word says is, is repetitive, so it’s hard to know where it starts and where it stops, right? Because it’s a lot of blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So putting together, assembling the white chromosome, it’s hard. And where on the street is that there is. Some Y chromosomes that have been assembled in Canada and another one in the South Institute in California.
[00:41:40] So that’s a word on the street. Um, let’s see what happens. They’re not still publicly available. Um, so I think that that’s fascinating that monia individuals are fascinating, right? Because they apparently have two X chromosomes, but they still produce. Male flowers, like, what are you turning on? Or where, where is [00:42:00] that gene?
[00:42:00] Right. I, I, I think that that is, and that’s what drew my attention at the beginning, but the cannabinoids, I think are also super, the terpenes. Oh, the terpenes are, because the terpenes, it seems that one gene can affect multiple traits. And then there’s one trait that can be affected by multiple genes.
[00:42:19] Right? So that’s philanthropy and epistasis, that’s how it’s called. So they’re in play. And then, so I, I know that, you know, um, Jordan Sager.
[00:42:29] Bryan Fields: He’s a shout. He’s a friend. Jordan.
[00:42:31] Kellan Finney: Yeah. Dr. Long, really? Mark Long is the man, not ma. Yeah,
[00:42:35] Dr. Daniela Vergara: but they have, they’re
[00:42:35] Bryan Fields: not man Jordan like that on his shot. Well, I
[00:42:38] Kellan Finney: mean like, I’m sorry, but like Jordan learned under Mark, right?
[00:42:41] Like, I’m gonna give respect to Mark. We’re, I mean, I, I have mad respect for Jordan too, right? They’re doing big
[00:42:47] Dr. Daniela Vergara: things, but, but they, they have this 2019 paper. I always, because yeah, in my top five papers, That they showed that all of these genes may be acting in a network, right? And all of these genes may be acting together to [00:43:00] produce these very complex phenotypes.
[00:43:02] And I, I think that they may be right. Um, yeah. So
[00:43:07] Kellan Finney: also just shout out one of the most, the coolest things I’ve seen, um, That’s, uh, been achieved by scientists in canvases, Mark Long getting time on the super computer at Pacific National Labs to run a lot of that data through in order to pull those, uh, conclusions
[00:43:25] Bryan Fields: out of the data.
[00:43:25] So a little quick shout. Oh really? Yeah. He got time on it. I was like, what? Oh, that’s pretty cool.
[00:43:31] Kellan Finney: I know, right? It’s pretty cool just cuz it’s federally funded right? To do like, uh,
[00:43:36] Bryan Fields: cannabis enzyme work, so. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Dr. Daniella, when you got started in the cannabis space, what did you get? Right? And most importantly, what did you get wrong?
[00:43:46] Dr. Daniela Vergara: What did I get right? What did I get right? I, I don’t know. What did I get right? But I know that I, there were many things that I got wrong. So again, um, so first [00:44:00] when I started in the, in cannabis, we thought that, THC and C B D were one gene, right? That it was a one locust to allele type of thing. So you had either C, B, D that you got from your mom or THC that you got from your dad and you expressed them both, or only c, b or only T hc.
[00:44:20] So we thought that that was a case. Now we know that there’s a gazillion genes that they’re all in close pro proximity. So, and that happened in 2015. So while I was working in cannabis, we, we found that out. Uh, we know that, um, Yeah, so, so we know, um, that there are many, many compounds in different ratios.
[00:44:44] Um, so all of those things I kind of had them wrong. Also. There was, there’s a paper that, uh, we published in 20 21, 20 22, uh, with Leafly. Um, I love that paper. [00:45:00] Um, and, um, I had my hesitancy between labs. I was like, yeah, labs are, you know, they don’t tell the true story. You give them more money, they spike your T hc.
[00:45:14] And then we analyzed the lab data and the labs were very consistent between each other and they’re in completely different places. So one lab was in Washington, the other one was in Oregon, the other one was in Florida, Alaska. Michigan. Right. And they were super consistent. So there are labs that are doing a really good job, and that gave me a lot of faith and hope and in the cannabis industry, that despite not being regulated, despite being illegal, like despite having the federal government maybe shutting out your business, these labs are doing a good job.
[00:45:50] And, and I don’t know, I was just like, I love these labs. I don’t know who they are, uh, but I love them.
[00:45:58] Bryan Fields: If you could sum up your experience in a main [00:46:00] takeaway or lesson learned to pass onto the next generation, what would it be?
[00:46:06] Dr. Daniela Vergara: Why do you ask me this hard, philosophical question?
[00:46:09] Bryan Fields: We wanna learn from you.
[00:46:15] Dr. Daniela Vergara: Um, if I could say that
[00:46:20] Bryan Fields: you could sum up your experience in a main takeaway or lesson learned. To pass to the next generation, what
[00:46:28] Dr. Daniela Vergara: would it could be?
[00:46:34] Okay, so two things. Like you never know what you’re gonna be and ending up doing in life. You never know and what you’re learning as an undergrad or in grad. In grad school, whenever. That is the time that you’re gonna learn that you’re not going to. It’s like, oh no. Yeah, I’ll revise that in 10 years from now.
[00:46:56] Like, that’s not gonna happen. You learn that [00:47:00] then and there, or you did not learn it, so, so do it then. Make sure that you do it then. Love
[00:47:10] Bryan Fields: it. Alright, prediction time. Dr. Daniella. I gave you a magic wand. You can do an experiment or study with money not being an issue or ethics being involved at all. What would you do to help us expedite our learning and understanding of the cannabis plan?
[00:47:29] Dr. Daniela Vergara: What would I do? Money or ethics or not? And I can do anything. Okay, perfect. This is what I would do. I would have a bunch of plants that. I would, I would give people a bunch of weed for them to try. I would know, or it would be a double blinded study. Right. So I wouldn’t know, or the [00:48:00] consumer wouldn’t know exactly.
[00:48:01] I. What they’re taking, it doesn’t matter what strain it is, but I would know. But we would know the chemotype, right? We would know how much th hc, c, b, d, hopefully terpenes, et cetera. And then we would gather information from them about how they felt, uh, what they felt, Wendy, and, and we would gather a bunch of other information.
[00:48:20] Are you, uh, did you exercise? Did you sleep? Did you eat? Um, are you depressed? Right? Like all of this information. And then we would pinpoint. What compound does what, that’s what I would do. And whether you ate it or whether you drank it, or whether you smoked it or you vape it. And so we would have, I don’t know, 10,000 participants like a true clinical trial.
[00:48:52] Like a clinical trial. Yeah. And not even, you know, like we would just gather questionnaires like from there you could go a [00:49:00] step further to actually withdraw blood and see al cannabinoid levels or Right. Or, but not even there, like just the first step of asking the questions. What did you feel? What did it smell like?
[00:49:13] How, how did it make you feel? Right? Because if you go to Lively’s website and you Google, I don’t know, um, Tangerine Dream, it’ll tell you, oh, this one, it makes me active, blah, blah, blah. So you already have that preconceived, right? You already know more or less. But if you have no straining name and you don’t know what’s there, then it’s a blinded study.
[00:49:40] Right? That’s what I would do.
[00:49:42] Bryan Fields: Like it ke
[00:49:44] Kellan Finney: uh, I think, I mean, I agree with Dr. Daniella. I think that looking into the entourage effect or the endocannabinoid system in any fashion from like, uh, well funded n I [00:50:00] h like. Study that’s executed at like a John Hopkins or like, you know, uh, a major institute that’s used to running these kind of really large trials on how human physiology interacts with different substances.
[00:50:15] Right? I think something like that is probably what’s most needed in, uh, cannabis research right now. Whether that’s understanding the true nature of every endogenous. Cannabinoid that’s floating around in your system right now and how deficiencies affect different illnesses or anything under the sun from a polypharmacy entourage effect perspective.
[00:50:37] What do you think, Brian?
[00:50:39] Bryan Fields: I’m fascinated by personalized medicine. I’m wondering if by understanding deeply about the plan and then being able to, to cross-breed, to have a specific. Plant profile, then we can align with people’s personal endocannabinoid system to maybe potentially help some of these therapeutic areas we’ve kind of leaned into.
[00:50:57] And I’m fascinated in understanding [00:51:00] that and wondering if cannabis can be, you know, really close to helping unlock that. So how that happens and how we get there, I’ll leave it up to the two of you, but, uh, that would be the, the study that I would, uh, lean for.
[00:51:13] Dr. Daniela Vergara: But yeah, it would also do. Leafy trichomes and trichomes in the stamp and trichomes, you know, like, and then like, I really, really like it when people do stuff that are kind of like obvious against the super regulations, right?
[00:51:33] So my best example, I, a friend of mine gave me these cookies that are made outta hemp. So all of these plants were less than 0.3%. But the cookies have a lot of THC because they take it, they concentrate it, and then they make the cookie. But it’s made outta hemp, so. Right. I love that. I was like, ah, you’re smart people.
[00:51:57] Bryan Fields: Industry just full of entrepreneurs operating in [00:52:00] straight gray area. Exactly,
[00:52:01] Dr. Daniela Vergara: exactly. And laws that do not make sense agreed
[00:52:04] Bryan Fields: by, by people who don’t know why they made them. Right. Dr. Moore.
[00:52:08] Dr. Daniela Vergara: Yeah. And one of my. Biggest one is the 0.3% thc. They, they do not understand the biochemistry. They do not understand how these enzymes work, how these components are produced.
[00:52:19] The 0.3% THC is like one of the biggest ones. And then they’re calling like CBD hemp. Like no, you just wanna call it hemp because you don’t wanna call it marijuana. But really that is low T HC marijuana. It has another compound. Yes. But it’s not ham for fiber. It’s not ham. Like we’re not making this T-shirt out of that plant.
[00:52:38] Bryan Fields: No. So, yeah. So Dr. Daniel, for, for those who wanna get in touch and they wanna learn more, where can they find
[00:52:44] Dr. Daniela Vergara: you? Where can they find me? You can find me in social media in all of the, I mean, I don’t use TikTok. Or Reddit. I don’t know how to use Reddit either. And I am pretty bad on the other ones, but you can find me there.
[00:52:59] Um, [00:53:00] in Twitter and LinkedIn. And Instagram, you can find me there. I’m Kana So means school. So it’s basically Kana Cool. But in Spanish, right. So Kana at KANA in Instagram and in Twitter and in Ding 10. I’m Daniel.
[00:53:16] Bryan Fields: Awesome. We’ll link it up. Thanks for taking the time. This was fun. Yeah,
[00:53:20] Dr. Daniela Vergara: thank you.