NIH awards Cellibre $2M to advance sustainable cannabinoid ingredient production

By Liza Laws

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images
Cellibre, a pioneer in sustainable biochemical manufacturing, has received a $2 million grant from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

This first-of-its-kind phase 2 grant will expedite the commercialization of cannabinoid ingredient production via precision fermentation. The funding aims to develop cost-effective active pharmaceutical ingredients for treating conditions such as appetite suppression, obesity, inflammation, and diabetes.

Cellibre, established in 2019 by a team of biomanufacturing innovators, is dedicated to creating a sustainable manufacturing company that utilizes biological processes as production catalysts.

“Every cell on Earth functions like a tiny factory, capable of being engineered as a new way to produce chemicals and ingredients in a better, cheaper, and more sustainable way," said Cellibre CEO Ben Chiarelli. "Cellibre harnesses the world’s most elegant manufacturing technology, nature, by moving cellular assembly lines found in natural systems into microorganisms like yeast to create proprietary molecular factories. By feeding these cells nutrients, they produce pure, natural ingredients or chemicals, reducing the need to disrupt ecosystems – creating a revolution in sustainable manufacturing.”

Cellibre secures $2 million NIH grant for sustainable cannabinoid production

The grant will support the production of high-demand, non-euphoric cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) and cannabigerol (CBG). THCV is promising for appetite suppression and obesity management, while CBG is being studied for antibacterial properties and potential treatments for cancer and inflammatory diseases. Cellibre’s technology reduces cannabinoid production costs by over ten-fold compared to traditional agricultural methods. Additionally, the environmental impact of growing plants for cannabinoid production is comparable to the greenhouse gas footprint of 15 million cars annually. Cellibre’s approach significantly lowers land, water, and energy use while improving the quality and consistency of these ingredients.

“Cannabinoids have significant therapeutic benefits, but manufacturing these ingredients through legacy agriculture is riddled with challenges,” said Cellibre’s Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Spiros Kambourakis. “Our precision fermentation platform solves these problems by using biology to produce high-quality, lower-cost, more sustainable cultured cannabinoids – in essence deploying nature to combat climate change, improve supply chain resilience, and improve human wellness.”

Cellibre’s platforms have already shown economic and quality advantages over traditional supply chains. The award will accelerate these advances as Cellibre moves from research and development to full commercialization, focusing on therapeutically relevant cannabinoids.

Precision fermentation: The future of cost-effective pharmaceutical ingredients

Cellibre’s precision fermentation 'cell factory platform' drastically reduces the greenhouse gas footprint associated with agricultural and petrochemical-based supply chains for various plant-based compounds. The technology ensures a consistent, scalable supply of pharmaceutical-grade ingredients, free from the variability and impurities of agricultural-based production. Beyond cannabinoids, Cellibre’s platform also includes key bioactives for clean beauty and wellness, such as resveratrol, naringenin, bakuchiol, and other functional ingredients.

“Biology is the future of manufacturing,” Kambourakis stated. “By moving production from fields to fermentation, we can create products faster, at lower costs, and with higher quality, all while protecting our natural ecosystems.”

Innovative bio-manufacturing reduces environmental impact and production costs

With the global cannabinoid isolate market projected to surpass $34 billion by 2030 and over 400 active clinical trials in progress, Cellibre’s technologies are crucial for ensuring patient safety and access.

Cellibre is a manufacturing technology company that employs an organism-agnostic approach to turn cells into specialized, sustainable factories for large-scale production of globally significant products. The company’s scientific team has led programs from ideation to commercialization, pioneering breakthroughs in energy, ingredients, medicines, and more. Initially, Cellibre focuses on enabling the production of pharmaceutical-grade natural products and bioactives, eliminating the need for agriculture and revolutionizing the sourcing, production, and consumption of these ingredients. Cellibre was founded in 2019 and is headquartered in San Diego, California.

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