UK: Interpreting Biological Sequence Claims At The EPO – A Cannabinoid Case Study

UK: Interpreting Biological Sequence Claims At The EPO – A Cannabinoid Case Study

20 May 2022 by David Hammond Haseltine Lake Kempner LLP In this next instalment of our series of articles looking at patenting cannabis-related inventions, our focus is on the growth in industrial biotechnology in this area: genetically modifying plants or host organisms to produce key intermediates in the cannabinoid pathway, or end cannabinoids themselves. Historically, as commercial and medical interest in cannabinoids increased, technologies, and resulting patent filings, focussed on methodologies for extracting relevant cannabinoids from cannabis plant extracts. Such techniques are inherently limited by the quantities of active compounds, or their precursors, naturally produced by the plants: supply of sufficient levels of plant materials has to keep up with the demand, while being constrained by the requirement to only grow plants in a secure environment, and the large quantities of energy and water required to grow the plants and isolate the cannabinoid products. In a world concerned with climate change and energy demand, interest has therefore naturally turned to more industrial processes, in particular, the use of genetic engineering to increase enzymatic turnover within the cannabinoid pathway, either in cannabis plants for increased yield after extraction, or in host systems such as E.coli or yeast. Exploiting the cannabinoid pathway The biosynthesis of cannabinoids in nature is shown in Figure 1, and includes the enzymes olivetolic acid cyclase and prenyltransferase, to make the key intermediate cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). CBGA is then converted by cannabinoid synthases to either Δ9-THCA or CBDA, intermediates which are non-enzymatically converted to Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (the psychoactive component of cannabis) and cannabidiol respectively. Figure 1: Cannabinoid Pathway Companies such as Genomatica and Ginkgo Bioworks are developing extensive patent portfolios around variant enzymes along these pathways, and engineered cells which express these enzymes. In recent years, Genomatica’s WO2020/214951, WO2020/247741, WO2021/211611, and WO2021/046367 have published, directed to olivetol synthase variants, olivetolic acid cyclase variants, cannabinoid synthase variants, and prenyltransferase variants respectively. Ginkgo…

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Source : UK: Interpreting Biological Sequence Claims At The EPO – A Cannabinoid Case Study

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