The leaders behind Front Range Biosciences (FRB), CEO and Co-Founder, Dr. Jonathan Vaught, and CSO and Co-Founder, Nick Hofmeister, sought to apply the lessons learned from other key agricultural crops to the world of cannabis. As the legend goes, over a cup of coffee, they looked at the natural development within other high-value crop sectors and asked themselves what types of biotechnologies had been pivotal to the development of these sectors.
In a recent interview with Cannabis Tech, Vaught explained the details of the playbook they developed. Vaught and Hofmeister identified two areas: tissue culture and plant breeding. Today, they work with hemp, coffee, and the regulated cannabis industry to provide consistent, clean, and high-yield stock to an industry in dire need of stable genetics.
Front Range Biosciences has come a long way in only four short years since its establishment in 2015. In September 2019, the company raised $8.5 million from an Insider Round of funding, which will allow the company to increase production in 2020, develop joint partnerships with key industry players, and continue to feed the progress of its in-house R&D team. In early 2020, they plan to launch headfirst into the next round of funding.
“The Plant is Our Specialty — It's What We Focus On”
While FRB is now branching out into the growing California coffee industry, its primary focus has always been on the cannabis plant, with a major focus in hemp. Vaught explained, “The plant is our specialty; it's what we focus on.” Providing hemp farmers with clean clones and feminized seeds, combined with a robust breeding program, FRB is working to both stabilize and revolutionize the plant's genetics.
FRB’s main priority today is its plant nursery, which relies on propagation through advanced tissue culture technologies. As a high-value crop just emerging into legal sales, “[s]upply for reliable, clean cannabis plants, leveraging tissue culture technology, is still less than 1% of total demand,” as FRB detailed in a recent press release.
The recent round of funding will launch the expansion of the Clean Stock® program along with their breeding program. Unique to FRB, “Clean Stock is a process used to propagate disease-free, virus-free, true-to-type plants, allowing farmers to start their growing operations with the healthiest, highest-quality plant material.” It's about improving ROIs and giving farmers a head start with the cleanest, healthiest stock from the beginning.
Through a state-of-the-art nursery facility, tissue culture laboratory, and plant breeding program, FRB is focused on setting the bar high in the world of cannabis genetics. In August of 2019, they announced the acquisition of Steep Hill's R&D team. This acquisition bolsters FRB's breeding program with 18 years of experience in patent writing, management, and prosecution in fields. The addition of Dr. Reggie Gaudino, his 11-person genomics team, and the in-licensing IP on cannabis genomics, was a pivotal development for FRB in 2019.
Big Announcements Coming for Front Range Biosciences 2020
As per Dr. Vaught's candid discussion with Cannabis Tech, FRB is planning to make big moves in 2020. First, with one round of funding behind them, they are scheduled to launch into round two in the first few months of the year. Vaught promised announcements on this round in the coming months. FRB is also expected to increase its nursery production by three-fold in 2020.
Vaught teased Cannabis Tech with new genetics, new seed stock, and new clones coming next year as well as several joint ventures with other biotech players in the industry. With Europe swiftly joining the hemp and cannabis industries, Vaught plans to expand FRB's reach into the EU to meet the expected demands on possibly an entirely new market.
Cannabis (including hemp varietals) is uniquely posed like no other high-value crop in history to advance with sustainable and regenerative practices — both of which are core values of FRB. With cannabis just now receiving the attention of big agriculture and a biotech treatment, it has the potential to shift outdated practices common within other businesses. FRB plans to infuse these values within its expansion over the coming years, without compromising clean stock, stable genetics, and high yields.
With the plant's extreme versatility, Dr. Vaught believes cannabis is “the world's most important crop.” The market is currently focused on cannabidiol to the exclusion of all else. However, Dr. Vaught sees a future for hemp for everything from nutraceuticals to plant-based proteins, fiber technologies, and construction materials, which is one of the reasons why FRB first set out to master cannabis genetics and breeding.
For FRB, whose mission is to improve the credibility and profitability of high-value crops through specialized breeding programs, and a state-of-the-art tissue culture-fed nursery, cannabis is an excellent model for implementing that strategy.