Production of cannabinoid in bioengineered microalgae

Plant natural products (PNP) are important resources for pharmaceutical and food industry. In the last decades, the market price of several PNP inflated because of the limited amounts produced in plants and the challenges in growing healthy crops. To overcome this problem, our team developed a multitool box of molecular methods to transform marine algae Phaeodactylum tricornutum.
Bioengineered microalgae are great candidates to manufacture PNP because of the relatively close behavior to plants’ compared to bioengineered bacteria or yeast. We designed and inserted genes encoding enzymes involved in cannabinoid biosynthesis. We succesfully detected the production of precursor molecules from the first part of the pathway. Now, we designed genetic constructions for the rest of the pathway to produce the final products i.e. cannabinoids. This project is a proof of concept of how microalgae could be used in pharmaceutical to encounter natural limitation of PNP. The aim to produce cannabinoids is the first step because of the trend after the law change in Canada, but the PNP could be also other therapeutic molecules of medical or nutritional importance such as Taxol or omega-3 fatty acids.

Fatima Awwad
Superviseur universitaire: 
Isabel Desgagné-Penix
Partner University: