41 | Andrea Holmes, Ph.D., Organic Chemist, Precision Plant Molecules
“We’re heading towards, CRISPR. We’re heading towards optimization of the genome of cannabis and we’re heading towards figuring out how is that all going to match with the human genome…”
— Andrea Holmes, Ph.D.
THC is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to active ingredients in cannabis. Scientists like Andrea Holmes, Ph.D., of Precision Plant Molecules are attuned to the new cannabinoids, terpenes and other compounds that are now being discovered, seemingly every day. After nearly 100 years of prohibition, there’s lots to learn about this plant and how we can leverage its healing properties to deliver safe and effective medicine for a range of conditions. If you’re curious about the future of cannabis medicine, this episode is a must-listen.
Kannaboomers (00:00): Hey, welcome back to the Kannaboomers podcast. There’s so much to talk about with this plant that was under prohibition for about a hundred years. While our scientific knowledge of everything else was advancing, it just means that we barely scratched the surface of all the cannabinoids that are in this plant, the terpenes, the many, many potential applications of it. Today’s guest, Andrea Holmes, Ph.D. Is an organic chemist with Precision Plant Molecules in Colorado. She has great passion for her subject and a lot of expertise on this, so let’s dive in. Thanks to Danny in Milwaukee for making a sound good. This is, Let’s Talk About Weed, the Kannaboomers Podcast, CBD, microdosing, and all things related to medical cannabis for baby boomers from San Diego. Here’s your host, Thomas J.
Kannaboomers (00:45): It’s Tom. Welcome back to the Kannaboomers Podcast. Today we have Andrea Holmes, Ph.D., organic chemist. How are you Andrea?
Andrea Holmes (00:52): I’m excellent.
Kannaboomers (00:53): We’re here to talk about CBD and wellness and I became interested in what you’re doing because I saw an article that you wrote in nutritional outlook where you talked about CBD and cannabis as a bespoke medicine. What do you mean by that?
Andrea Holmes (01:08): Well, I think the future of cannabis is personalized medicine because everybody has, you know, different needs and there’s different consumer sensitivities and you know, CBD and cannabis and all of the constituents that are in the plant. They have the potential to be, you know, customized and personalized.
Kannaboomers (01:32): Some of our listeners are familiar with cannabinoids right now. I think known cannabinoids are at about 113 or more than 200 terpenes. There are other plant based things that come into this. So I’ve spoken of it as kind of a matrix. There’s a lot of possibilities with this plant.
Andrea Holmes (01:50): In fact every couple of days I hear new cannabinoids emerging you know, where people are really doing a complete deep dive into the molecular structures and oftentimes there are cannabinoids that we don’t know off yet. And then, you know, some people who have the abilities to really isolate these cannabinoids, even if they are just available in a very small concentration, they’re able to isolate those and characterize them and then elucidate the actual molecular structure. And then come to find out, ‘Oh wow, we have a new isomer.’ Oh, the double bond is not between carbon one and two. It’s not between carbon three and four. And nobody really knows yet. Well, is this isomer good for something? You know, because we have no research at this point to determine whether there are health and wellness benefits associated with each of these cannabinoids that are found. But remember when I started in this industry that when I went to conferences, there were always speakers that would present data and they would refer to some of the data as, Oh, this is a mystery peak. This is a mystery compound. And then as we slowly start learning more and more about the plans, we’re starting to figure out, okay, so this mystery compound is a new emerging cannabinoid that nobody knows about, like CPT or an isomer off THC instead of THC, Delta nine or Delta eight. Now I just read an article yesterday, I think it was, it’s Delta 10. So it’s another shift in the double bond.
Kannaboomers (03:43): Wow. You know, the whole dynamics of this is humans have consumed this plant for thousands of years, but with the prohibition over the last 100 years, we didn’t really put it under the microscope, so to speak. And maybe literally it sounds like almost an explosion of research is happening.
Andrea Holmes (03:59): In fact, that is very true. More and more people are becoming interested and you know, after CBD was approved by the FDA as Epidiolex from GW pharma, you know, people are starting to pay a lot of attention that we need human trials. And if you do a literature search out there in the scientific literature, you know, most of the literature hits you back are still on THC followed by CBD. But but then there’s also a lot of research that you can find now on, on the ones that like CBN is the next one in terms of numbers. And that’s then followed by CBG and then CPC. And then some of them even have zero hits because nobody ever looked at them yet. But more and more research is coming. But the unfortunate thing at this point is the major cannabinoids, THC and CBD, they’re the only ones that have actual human double blind trials that, you know, have a good reputation. But the research on the minor cannabinoids and the terpenes, the CBN, CPGs and the terpenes et cetera, have mostly animal models or in vitro cell models. So, and we can make really good scientific conclusions on the animal model or on the cell model, but it’s just not as well, you know solidified unless you have a human trial.
Kannaboomers (05:47): Sure. I mean, that’s the gold standard, right? Yeah. How about computer simulations? Do you guys use those too?
Andrea Holmes (05:53): Yeah, a lot of drug discovery scientists, they use computers, simulated programs in which you can, you know, see how a particular molecule fits into a particular receptor. And so that is definitely one area that’s emerging research based on theoretical predictions. And you can do that by, you know, pulling up crystal structures of proteins or receptors in the nervous system and doing experiments where you take a molecule such as a cannabinoid and see how it would fit. And w they have a good match. These are called docking mechanisms where, you know, dust this molecule, like a cannabinoid actually really attached to this type of receptor. And if it does in what confirmation and what type of three dimensional structure does the receptor or the protein half where the docking or the binding is occurring.
Kannaboomers (07:00): Obviously you have to know what you’re looking for. Some of the cannabinoids you mentioned CBG and CBC, CBDV can you tell me concretely what sort of efficacies they might have?
Andrea Holmes (07:12): Yeah, sure. So, so CBG for example, but before, before I really say what some of these have, there’s a couple of things that I, I want to say ahead of time. And that is like any kind of statement that I’m making about efficacy when I do that based on my literature search, but I must say the minor cannabinoids are most of the in vitro studies in animal models. And the reason why that is is because the legal landscape has kind of still prevented all this research and clinical trials and the access to rare cannabinoids is still pretty difficult. And that’s why there’s pretty limited research and the, the CBG for example, and CBC and some of the other ones, they have very similar molecular structures and they all bind to receptors in the endocannabinoid system, which is part of your central nervous system. And so oftentimes these properties are overlapping and CBG could have the same type of efficacy as CBC. Justin talking about a CBG for example, it has been shown that it has great anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties against a methicillin resistant staphylococcus, which is commonly known as MRSA. These are oftentimes hospital-acquired infections when people go into the hospital and they had no infection and then they have some kind of surgery and then they get a really, really bad infection. And then they are really resistant against regular antibiotics. And so CBG has found these antimicrobial properties against MRSA. And then for skin it really has been interesting because CBG has sort of made a breakthrough into the cosmetic industry because of the properties that it has been associated with skin like psoriasis and itching and dry skin, red skin, acne, et cetera. So it’s oftentimes used in combination with CBD. And the reason why that’s oftentimes done where formulation occurs with CBD or THC in the presence of CBGs is because of the entourage effect.
Kannaboomers (09:40): You know, we’ve talked to other guests about isolates and the validity of the entourage effect. I assume you’re a believer in the entourage effect.
Andrea Holmes (09:49): Yes, yes, I am.
Kannaboomers (09:51): It’s not easy to quantify, I guess if, but when you start to pull out one cannabinoid and try to see what the effect of that is, that’s a big job.
Andrea Holmes (10:01): Yes, absolutely. And you know, the entourage effect can happen, you know, not just with cannabinoids, but anything. Basically you have to look at what, what is the definition of a cannabinoid, right? And the definition is, well, it’s a molecule that binds to the endocannabinoid system. And so by that definition, it’s not just the cannabinoids that are actually cannabinoids, because there’s a lot of things that are binding to the endocannabinoid system such as the terpenes. Right? so some of those terpenes should be called a cannabinoid because the, the major terpene for example, in in hemp is caryophyllene, which gives it the very spicy smell, the characteristic with one that is also associated with antibacterial and antifungal and anti inflammatory properties. And so when caryophyllene works hand in hand with cannabinoids, you know, binding on those same receptors and acting synergistically, then then the summation is so then the result is greater than the summation of the individual components.
Andrea Holmes (11:23): So, and it’s also interesting because you know, research has actually been done that was a really great review in 2011 in the British journal of pharmacology where they studied, which cannabinoid can actually work hand in hand in the entourage effect with what terpenoid. Just give you an example, THC and have shown an entourage effect with limonene and pinene. Limonene is the terpene that gives sort of like a lemony smell and pioneer is the smell that you have when you go through the woods and you smell the pine trees. And so THC and eliminating or THC and pinene have shown to have a great analgesic effect via the CB one and the CB two receptor. Whereas CBD in the presence or in connection with limonene and pinene has shown to have an enhanced effect with anti-anxiety. And that doesn’t even go through the CB one and CB two receptor. It goes through a completely different receptor in the body. So there’s just so much wealth of information that we’re just now getting our hands on how all these molecules are working together.
Kannaboomers (12:54): Right. Well, and then we do have our own endogenous cannabinoids.
Andrea Holmes (13:00): Exactly.
Kannaboomers (13:01): So what we’re learning is that, you know, you can supplement and possibly augment your endocannabinoid system with these plant-based molecules.
Andrea Holmes (13:10): You know, I forgot to mention that point earlier. You’re absolutely right. There’s these two, there’re these two predominant endocannabinoids and they completely look totally different than any cannabinoid that you can isolate from the planned but yet they are called cannabinoids, right? Because they are binding to the receptor and then you have to also then ask a bigger question, like I said earlier, what is a cannabinoid? Is it a molecule that leads to basically regulation? Is it something that means that the balancing and the harmonizing activities for example, off adaptogens, adaptogens have reasonably made a huge influx into the nutritional world where you know, an adaptogen is a nontoxic sort of stress, reducing balancing plant-derived substance and it brings the body to a balance to a homeostasis. And these adaptogens, you know, the, you can almost use the definition of an adaptation into cannabis because it brings homeostasis into your body. But then, you know, what is it that we really want? I mean, we want cannabinoids, you know, giving us health and wellness and medicine benefits, but then you can, you got to really open your eyes to natural medicine as a whole and look at all of the beneficial compounds and plant extract.
Kannaboomers (14:47): As you’ve mentioned with terpenes. If you’re a believer in aromatherapy, that makes a lot of sense.
Andrea Holmes (14:53): Absolutely. I’m a big, big aromatherapy fan. You come to my house, there’s diffusers everywhere.
Kannaboomers (15:03): The fact that we even have an endocannabinoid system in our bodies wasn’t known until what, the mid nineties or so.
Andrea Holmes (15:10): Yeah. You know, there was always suspicion that there was something because, you know, in the 60s, the hippies when they started smoking marijuana, they, you know, there were a lot of medicinal reports that marijuana makes them feel really good. It helps with pain. It helps with, you know, overall feeling of wellbeing. So there were slow discoveries there with some major researchers in that area, but it really has only started getting some, some significant attention here in the 90s. And you know, it’s unbelievable because this system is really changing. It’s a revolutionary change in the landscape of medicine. If you think about the, the, the power that that system has, it’s, it’s directly located in your brain, in your central nervous system, and it really affects everything in your body and in your psyche. And the unfortunate statement I have to make though is that they’re only up to this point, only 10% of medical schools are really teaching the endocannabinoid system. The medical schools still focus on, you know, the major systems and not on the endocannabinoid system, but it is slowly changing.
Kannaboomers (16:37): So where did you educate yourself on the endocannabinoid system? How did you learn about it?
Andrea Holmes (16:43): I just study a lot. You know, I, I’m constantly reading. I browse the literature. I work very, very closely with my coworkers and basically any, I get so many emails a day from my coworkers that have to do with a particular topic and I have just taken the stand off. I’m not going to ignore any kind of email or any paper that comes across my desk or any new publication that I see. I’m just always taking the time to look at that, even if it’s a quick read. And I also look very closely at funding opportunities from the National Institutes of Health. So I always follow what kind of announcements, a notice of funding announcements are available. And so for example, last year in 2019, the first funded federal funding opportunity was announced by the national institutes of health to study the mechanisms of these underlying analgesic properties.
Andrea Holmes (17:57): And it was off the minor cannabinoids and the terpenes in particular that they were focusing on and not the major ones like THC and CBD. And the other impressive piece that I saw there is that that initiative really encouraged the interdisciplinary collaborations. So it’s not just that a chemist like myself can apply for that. In fact, I would have to be collaborating, which is exactly what science is with pharmacologists, other chemists, physicists, neuroscientists, geneticists, immunologists, I mean behavioral scientists. All of this has to be interdisciplinary if we’re going to really get our hands and on, on good knowledge. So, and then this year they actually announced the same funding opportunity. So there’s lots of money now that is being approved by the federal government to encourage research and to overcome some of those restrictions that we’ve had in the last, you know, so many years where researchers can apply for funding. And the, the hurdles of getting access to cannabinoids, you know hopefully these are getting a lot easier and not so stringent like it used to be.
Kannaboomers (19:16): That’s good news. I wasn’t aware of that. If they’ve relaxed some of the stigma around this. That’s very good news indeed. And I think it’s interesting when you talk about interdisciplinary and even going back to, you know, in the 60s as you mentioned, people were smoking cannabis and there were a few people who said, yo, you know, it stops nausea, it has medicinal properties, but they were voices in the wilderness. But now you describe finding almost every day that there’s another new compound in this plant that’s happening. And on the other side since say the 60s the whole human genome has been mapped and we understand that in ways that we didn’t before. It seems to me, I don’t know exactly where you put yourself, but are you sort of a matchmaker trying to see what’s in the plant that can fit the genetics of that particular human?
Andrea Holmes (20:07): Oh wow. That is way beyond what I could possibly do. But that is exactly where we should be heading, right? I mean, that is the true essence. That’s the true essence of personalized medicine, right? Where we can do a complete match between your genome and whatever mutations you have and how we can, you know, do gene therapy using cannabinoids and other phyto compounds. And I think we’re far, we’re quite far away from that right now, but we’re moving into that direction because even the genome off of cannabis hasn’t been fully determined because other, if we would know all of the genome off of cannabis, we would be able to successfully knock out you know, the THC generating gene for example, because so many people want to know, have THC free biomass because of the increased legalization of hemp all over the United States as the farm bill was approved.
Andrea Holmes (21:09): But we’re not really able to do that where we’re working on it by, you know, by breeding, breeding out the, the, the THC generating gene. But if you think about it the technology called CRISPR, which is basically a teen editing tool, you know, we don’t really know yet where’s the THC generating gene and can we just cut it out? And that’s where we’re heading. We’re heading towards CRISPR. We’re heading towards optimization of the genome of cannabis and we’re heading towards figuring out how is that all going to match with the human genome and how can we develop technology to do this matchmaking that you were talking about?
Kannaboomers (21:54): Yeah. So that’s the ultimate vision and I guess we’ve kind of scratched the surface, right? So it must be very exciting to be a scientist in the middle of this.
Andrea Holmes (22:03):I’m super, super excited about it. Like I said I have kind of found a new calling in this area. I’ve been very successful in my career over the last 20 years. I’ve run multimillion dollar federally funded research grants and have really done a lot of work. But I have never, you know, and the work I’ve done in my career was interesting but not nearly as interesting as what I’m doing now. But so this is, this is just a solo super and mind boggling. And, and in many ways I would almost consider it really, really difficult, you know, because of the newness, because of the fact that, you know, we don’t, you know, sometimes I have to quote Plato: ‘All I know is that I know nothing.’ and, and that is exactly what this feel is, is for me right now. I just feel like, even though I may appear to know a lot, I know nothing and that is what invigorates me because I want to learn, I want to discover and I want to figure things out. And you know, every time I look around, the market is turning into a new direction. You know, every time I hear something, now all of a sudden people don’t want CBD anymore. They want the acidic form of CBD, like CBDA or CBGA or you know, THCA because all of a sudden people have heard anecdotal evidence from others that CBG is actually more effective than CBD to reduce nausea and has cytotoxic against colon cancer and is good for diabetes and THCV helps with weight loss and things like that. So there’s always like new things and then I have to figure out, Oh wow, I got to go dig into this and see, see what, what’s new.
Kannaboomers (24:00): There’s so few human clinical trials. So there’s so much room to test things and see what’s working.
Andrea Holmes (24:07): That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. And that’s what’s so invigorating about this field. And then the whole, you know, there’s a whole nother aspect of there’s just so many aspects to this area, like delivery methods, you know, what is the best delivery method for what person, because everybody like a, in that article, you know, bespoke cannabinoid medicine. What is that? What does that look like for you? Cause you have completely different, you know, you said earlier you were a runner, so athletes have completely different needs. Then, for example an elderly person who is suffering from arthritis you know, you might be willing to take some of the cannabinoids by sublingual transmission. Whereas an older, the person would prefer to take a cannabis based product and just rub it on their knees. You know, some people would feel really comfortable off you know, inhalation or using transdermal patches because it helps with, you know, a continuous drug delivery system. So it’s just the delivery systems themselves, like what, what exactly it gives you the most bioavailability. You know, there’s just so many cool technologies out there and that are emerging that we need to figure out, okay, so should we use nano encapsulation to encapsulate the cannabinoids so that when the person takes it you know, that it becomes immediately available into the bloodstream? Or should we figure out what’s called liposomal, you know, and, and, and use cannabinoids in the presence of a fatty meal. I mean, there’s just a lot of technology there that needs to be developed. And so the, the, the future of these cannabinoids and in particular now that the minor cannabinoids and the terpenes, there’s just a lot of mass appeal there. And because of the use you know, customer based products in the massive demand that’s really now emerging across the globe. Um I think the, the, the, the future is just in, in healthcare products. The future is in dietary supplements, in, in, in functional foods and beverages. I mean personal care sports nutrition, you know and, and the pharma industry, I think it will have quite a high economic impact. And I just want to circle back around from, you know, before we started recording, when you and I were discussing the Coronavirus, I would not be surprised if right now, you know, researchers would, would target cannabinoids and terpenes and adaptogens and you name it and, and do, try to do antiviral studies to determine whether there are properties there. When I did a recent literature search, I looked for that and I found that cannabinoids have antiviral properties. Poor hepatitis and I think herpes, but it was only CBD and THC that I could find. So obviously the minor cannabinoids were not in that. The, I got no results on any of the minor cannabinoids and, but I wouldn’t be surprised if if we were to get research results that would show that, you know, minor cannabinoids in the presence of terpenes and other adoptomers would, would give an antiviral synergistic effect.
Kannaboomers (27:54): Well, there’s so much of it that, so optimistic, but as you say, it’s kind of out there. There’s a lot of studies to be done, a lot of work to be done on, on understanding the plant and then how it does match to the genome. But for the average consumer out there who’s concerned about their wellness, what are good practices right now?
Andrea Holmes (28:14): No, that’s a really excellent question because we are in the jungle of cannabinoid products, right? And we really don’t have sort of like what a physician can tell you, Hey, you need to take, you know, 200 milligrams of aspirin or two, you know, we don’t have that yet. And so the best practice is to know your body to know how you respond. You have to really rely on self observation right now and you have to rely on self dosing. And because not everybody’s the same, there are differences between females and males. There’s differences with ages, with preexisting health conditions, with, you know, psychological status, economic backgrounds, all of that stuff. And so you have, at this point, there’s nobody you can tell you, Hey, you should really take 30 milligrams of CBD every day. No. You can’t say that. You have to really listen to yourself and figure out where are you at with responding to a particular type of product. Including what type of delivery method is best for you.
Kannaboomers (29:31): Yeah, we’ve talked many times. It’s a test and learn scenario. It’s a good idea to keep a journal and as you say, really pay attention to your dose.
Andrea Holmes (29:39): I always like starting low and, and and, and see what effects it has and, and work my way from there. And then I you know, and I, I, I pay attention to the entourage effect and, you know, I, and I, I, it’s almost like your body’s sort of like a research trial for yourself.
Kannaboomers (30:01): Can I ask, do you take CBD?
Andrea Holmes (30:03): Oh yeah, I take CBD and I’d take CBG. You know, I, I really, really really, really pay attention to my health. And it has really helped me a lot. It has helped me give it, getting sort of an overall feeling of well-being. I feel really good and healthy and I really don’t need any over the counter. And they’ll, analgesic pain medicines. I used to take a lot of ibuprofen and Naproxen and things like that because I’m also an athlete. I’m, I like, I like, I, I’m a dancer and you know, and I’ve, I want to make sure I can dance. And so, yeah. And so I like, I also like the entourage effect, you know, with a CBD and CBG and you know, my husband for example, he has trouble sleeping and so for him CBN would be a nice cannabinoid. He’s not taking CPN right now because CBN products are still pretty rare on the market. And CBN right now because it is kind of like a Ray or cannabinoid is still pretty priced. The price point is still high. So products, any products with CBN are pretty expensive. But I know as we do more and more as more and more processors are, are providing CBN. I know that price point will come down very similar to what CBD came down to. So yes, absolutely. I take cannabinoids every day.
Kannaboomers (31:43): Do you prefer full spectrum or broad or an isolate?
Andrea Holmes (31:47): My preference is an isolate because that’s, but that’s just my preference because I love the fact that I can do very, very reproducible dosing for myself and also I give it to my animal. So I like to really know how many milligrams did I just give my dog a five or eight. It was the reproducibility of the five milligrams always. So I’m a fan of isolate, but I also know that the whole plant matters, you know, due to the entourage effect and yeah, I’m an isolate fan at the moment. Also the reason why, the other reason why I like isolate rather than full spectrum because full spectrum just tastes so horrible. Um the, the, you know, because you have everything in there, it’s just not very tasty. Whereas CBD, you know, you can mix it with like lemony type of, you know, oil. So it’s, it’s more tasty to me. But then on the other hand, I don’t get the advantage of the whole plant matters, entourage effect. So everybody has different sensitivities and different preferences. And that’s what I was talking about earlier. Everybody has their own little preference.
Kannaboomers (33:11): An isolate gives you just the CBD molecule and you’re not getting the entourage effect. But that works for you.
Andrea Holmes (33:17): It works for me. Yes. but I’m also, I’m also a pretty healthy person. So I, you know, I, I feel like even though I am a full believer of the entourage effect, I think at this point I’m, I’m doing really well on the isolate.
Kannaboomers (33:34): Is there a cannabinoid that might suppress the appetite? Do we know anything?
Andrea Holmes (33:40): Yeah, there is a THC THCV is supposed to help with obesity and weight loss. So that, that one has, has gotten, and I do want to say, even though the word THC is in there it’s not a, it’s not, the structure is not like THC and it’s not causing you to be high. So we call it low, sort of like a, we call it a non psychotropic cannabinoid THCV because it doesn’t make you high, but it has shown anti obesity and weight loss properties.
Kannaboomers (34:23): I would think there would be an enormous market potential for that.
Andrea Holmes (34:27): I can tell you before we started Precision Plant Molecules we kind of, I scouted the market before I even had anything that we could offer to the consumers or to clients. So I scouted the market cause I really wanted to know well, where, what do people want? And I would like to walk into a very, very famous CBD company and the head of that company said to me, I will give you a contract, a standing contract right now for a whole year, a standing contract if you can deliver me 10 kilograms of THCV every week. So it’s, you know, I didn’t even have it. I just want to do market analysis and meet and identification of niche markets. But this teaches CB, I mean if you think about it, you know, Americans have always loved things that helped them lose weight and that is definitely one that we should be paying attention to.
Kannaboomers (35:38): Well, you can’t be too rich or too thin in California. So I know that would be a huge demand out here.
Andrea Holmes (35:45): Okay.
Kannaboomers (35:46): You mentioned a Plant Precision Molecules, tell us more about what you’re doing there.
Andrea Holmes (35:50): So yeah Precision Plant Molecules. We started building the company, you know, once we you know, the Farm Bill was signed, everybody jumped onto the wagon of, okay, let’s all start. Processing him because the regulatory stringencies was less than the marijuana side. And so we started out with the business concept of doing commodity business to business hemp crude extraction as well as refinement, distill it and then eventually further refinement to isolate. And so we started out that way. But that idea basically came to everybody else as well. So everybody did the same thing. And then, you know, then there was a huge market out there of processors and a lot of biomass to be processed. And you know, all the farmers, you know, there was a huge increase in, in, in acreages that were farmed.
Andrea Holmes (37:01): And so we went, we, we decided we want to be part of that club and did that except for them. In 2019 we quickly realized that the market was somewhat, I don’t want to call it crashing, but in 2018 when I went into the industry, I know that CBD isolate was 8,000 bucks. And then, you know, now you can get it for 1000 bucks and we’re not talking about a huge decrease in, in, in margin. Right? And so when we realize that that the market is kind of like really, really tanking with regards to profit making in this industry, that’s when we rearranged our model and decided we’re going to be a specialty processor processor off specialty cannabinoids such as CBG and CBN. And so the challenge there was, well, how do you stay true to the planned and how do you get the minor cannabinoids out of the plant? Because those are the ones that we were going to go after. And so we had to like develop a full blown, I’m going to call it in parentheses and in quotation marks, almost like an academic research program and really allocated a huge amount of resources towards high caliber scientists that have credentials PhDs, yeah. You know, in plant medicine, in analytical chemistry engineers to put an interdisciplinary team together so that we could actually isolate and manufacture these rare special cannabinoids in a way that it’s scalable so that you can actually have enough that you can sell. So the scalability of these minor cannabinoids is an issue. And so we put a lot of work towards it, a lot of research, a lot of optimization, a lot of scientific manpower was needed to really get us to a point where we’re more of a niche specialty. Cannabinoid ingredient supplier.
Kannaboomers (39:32): Do you perceive yourself to be ahead of the curve? Are there other companies doing what you do?
Andrea Holmes (39:38): There are but I think that the competition is much less than if we were to be a business-to-business commodity supplier of crude. An extra of crude isolate and isolate but there are much fewer companies out there. And then if there are you know, everybody out there has their strengths and their weaknesses or they have a different proprietary way of off sourcing the cannabinoids, you know, so, so PPM we’re really priding ourselves that we have a scientific team that can, can process these minor cannabinoids in such a way that we get very high purity. You know, so that when we do sell our minors that we can show all of the data that we acquired on them. It’s fully characterized for molecular structure. We have the scientific know-how to make sure that we know this is the structure, this is the purity, this is the molecular mass. These are the, this is the nuclear magnetic resonance spectrum that demonstrates that there’s no contaminants. We tested for pesticides microbials we’d do the whole arsenal of testing so that we are putting out a safe product. And so that’s where our strength is. We have just a lot of scientific knowhow on how to go about sourcing these.
Kannaboomers (41:10): And the word interdisciplinary came up again. And you know, in this context you have to think about, okay, is there a seed geneticist? Is the grower observing organic practices? That whole chain of production has to be aligned. Are you contracting with particular growers and saying, ‘OK we know this, this cultivar has CBG, CBN.’ Is that how you go about it?
Andrea Holmes (41:36): Yeah, it just depends on the market need. You know, I’m, so, CPG was a big hit here in 2019 when Oregon had great genetics and I think I’ve even seen biomass had, had almost 18% CBG in there. It’s almost like CPG was the major cannabinoid and not the minor. So it really, really depends on your customer base. If you have a lot of customers that are interested in sourcing CBG from you, yes, you’re going to contract with a farmer that has good genetics for CBG. In 2019 I’ve worked with some genetics companies that were able to provide biomass that was THC free. And I did a lot of experiments on that biomass. And in fact, when I extracted it you know, there were non-detectable amounts of THC in there, which is really amazing, but we don’t, we don’t have that type of biomass out there yet. It’s working on the small scale where people are breeding and hybridizing, but we don’t, we haven’t really figured it fully out, but I know that there’s some, some, a huge initiative going towards that. And I think those genetics were supposed to be available either this year or next year. But you were mentioning an important part of you know, knowing from the very front to the very end, that whole, where does it come from and where is it gonna end up? And I think that is an important piece in the, in the hemp industry because it’s really existing in the, in, on the marijuana side. So because it’s really stringently regulated on how, you know, the traceability starts from the front end all the way to the shelf on the consumer. And so I think what’s going to have to happen is, and this is another thing that I was going to talk earlier about, you know, what is the future of the cannabinoid market. And one of the things is technology. And and, and right now what we have to really look at is at block chain you know, how can we implement blockchain into this whole hemp and cannabis industry so that everything is there at your fingertips where you can just, you know look on your phone. All right? So this is how the seat, this is where the seed came from. These were the fertilizing conditions on the ground. This is then how it was harvested. This is how it tested. The, the, the, the potency testing when it was harvested. Okay. Then it came to this process. I use this type of solvent then process or sold it to this company who’s then making consumer facing products and these are, and then how much was it, you know, what is the, what was the financial transaction, you know, was it by a a reputable third party financial bank or was it more of a cash payment? You know, these things are very important with regards to compliance and legal aspects to have that full clarity and that full transparency and knowing the traceability from the front to the end so that in the end we’re protecting every single person in the supply chain.
Kannaboomers (45:10): Yeah. That is an incredible vision and certainly would give consumers the confidence they need to have every piece of it validated and verified along the way. That might be a ways off too, but I love the vision.
Andrea Holmes (45:22): Yeah, that’s not that far away. I think I’m, because I’m hearing more and more about it now, whenever I go to expos and conferences, the, the, the, the concept of blockchain exists already, but not to the extent where I see it. So there’s like other, there are some entrepreneurial endeavors right now where, you know, there’s a certain part of the plan is being tracked like hemp tracker or something like that, but it doesn’t really have that whole comprehensive picture where, you know, sensor data is uploaded, where, you know, okay, so this was the pH of this biomass in the soil where, you know, you have that whole cloud computing uploading at every state, every state step of the way.
Kannaboomers (46:11): I just wish we could do it for news stories too. Another thing that popped in my head was, as we get better at isolating these so-called minor cannabinoids and learning about them, will there be pressure to create them synthetically in the lab?
Andrea Holmes (46:33): Oh, I, I’m, I’m sure, and I’m sure it’s already being done. And you know, and you know, everybody has to figure out what they want. Most and since, since, you know, I just have to be really careful in using the word synthesis because synthesis is oftentimes associated with something awful because we’re thinking about, you know, these awful what be called synthesized street drugs, you know, like spice or some of these other things that, that we have experienced these, these synthetic, synthetic cannabinoid like more dangerous types of substances. But if you think about synthesis, you really have to really understand that what the plant is doing is synthesis. You know, what the plant is doing is synthesis. We call it biosynthesis because it’s a natural occurring, a chemical reaction. Now we in the lab can mimic these biosynthetic pathways, but we can also, and I’m, I’m a synthetic organic chemist. We can also come up with really clever ways on how you’re going to take small components and put them together in such a way that it gives a cannabinoid. So I’m a, I’m a proponent for all different directions of sourcing, of high quality cannabinoids and you know, absolutely pressure is out there because organic synthesis can be quick. It can be clean, it can be pure. It can be perhaps made at a much lower price point. And then some people, you know, might not care. If it’s not fully isolated from the plant, some people might think, you know, I would rather spend $1,000 rather than $10,000, because it, it’s, it’s a cheaper production pathway It’s not always the case, you know, that it’s cheaper. But in many ways it is a cause if you think about it, a lot of medicine right now, like vitamin C and you know, aspirin and chemotherapy, agent, Taxol, these all were originating from the plant. And now, you know, we’re not extracting vitamin C anymore out of lemons. We’re making it. So there’s a lot of concepts that have to be considered, especially in the regulatory space, right? With the FDA having strong opinions on, you know, cannabinoids and are they considered a drug or a, or an active pharmaceutical ingredient or are they a nutritional supplement? Are they planted the right things? So there’s a lot of jumble mumble out there and we have to look at all aspects of all sourcing cannabinoids.
Kannaboomers (49:39): Yeah, the regulatory side is big, but also just as a scientist you can sort of dissect the entourage effect, right? Pull it apart. The metaphor that we hear sometimes, well the entourage effect, it’s like an orchestra. All the instruments come together and create this beautiful symphony. Well, what if you just want what the string section is producing or what the percussion section is producing?
Andrea Holmes (50:02): Oh, I love that analogy. I cannot even I cannot say it is better than that. That’s fantastic.
Kannaboomers (50:08): Oh, good. We’ve covered a lot of ground and I know you’re excited about a lot of things about this business, but what excites you the most about what you’re doing?
Andrea Holmes (50:20): Interestingly enough, you know, I, I, I just don’t want to be a stagnant and boring scientist or professor that has already checked out, you know I’m also, you know, in addition to being chief growth officer and cofounder at Precision Plant Molecules, I’m also a chemistry professor. An organic chemistry professor. And the worst thing that could ever happen to me is to be a stagnant uninspired professor. And I want to be interesting and I want to be interested. And I think you can inspire others if you’re inspired yourself. And if I have the excitement and if I have vision and if I have energy, then my students will follow my lead and they will follow in my footsteps and they will be equally energized. And I think with this field being at the cusp of discovery, being on, you know, on the top of the world right now of discovery, I think that that is what, what gets me going to, to be at the forefront of cutting edge innovation to be at the forefront off planned, derive molecules that provide health and wellness. And on, on, on the verge of being a change agent.
Kannaboomers (51:47): Yes, you’re right there for sure. I mean, everything we talked about is about helping people use this plant to achieve better wellness. And you’re, you’re right in the middle of it. So I’m so glad that you had time to share with us. Is there anything we should cover that we haven’t?
Andrea Holmes (52:02): I think that one thing that I wanted to just say is that while we’re still dealing sometimes with pushback and some stigma and negative reputation, I think now that we’re bringing so much professionalism to the table, we’re bringing highly qualified scientists and academicians, and we’re starting to educate students. I think this, this is just going to, this whole negative reputation is going to slowly get erased and we’re going to be looking at this as a wonderful, wonderful future.
Kannaboomers (52:48): You’re right, it’s being professionalized and with people like you at the forefront, you’re a great role model for any, any scientists who would want to come in and, and see the amazing things that this plant is capable of. So thank you again for sharing your time, Andrea. And can you tell us where we can find you online?
Andrea Holmes (53:05): Yeah, so you can, you can type into your Google or wherever, whatever search engine you’re using, Precision Plant Molecules. And if you just typed my name next to it, it’ll come up easily. But I’m also, I’m a professor at don’t university and don’t in Nebraska.
Andrea Holmes (53:26): And so don’t, is spelled D O A N E and if you just typed Doane University, Andrea Holmes I’ll come up as well.
Kannaboomers (53:35): Well thank you so much for sharing your expertise. I know our listeners are going to get a lot out of this episode and I know, I sure did. So thank you again for taking the time.
Andrea Holmes (53:44): Of course. Have a good one.