Willow Biosciences Inc. (“Willow” or the “Company“) (TSX: WLLW) (OTCQX: CANSF), a leading biotechnology company that manufactures ultra-pure, sustainably produced cannabinoids via yeast-based biosynthesis, is pleased to provide an update on its operations as it transitions to a production company and expands its R&D capabilities to accommodate additional development programs, including cannabinol (“CBN“).
Expansion of Commercial Operations and R&D Teams
With its lead program, cannabigerol (“CBG“), now successfully at manufacturing scale, Willow has added resources and expertise to manage commercial production and further expand its R&D capabilities to grow its product portfolio. Willow has expanded its Vancouver, British Columbia and Mountain View, California teams to include manufacturing, quality and regulatory groups, along with additional R&D scientists focusing on strain optimization and process development. Willow’s total headcount is now 55 employees, 42 of which are in technical roles.
Expansion of Development Portfolio
With Willow’s lead proprietary yeast strain now producing biosynthetic CBG at commercial scale, and agreements in place to generate product revenue, Willow’s R&D teams are now focused on development of cannabidiol (“CBD“) and tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC“) programs for commercial manufacture. In addition to Willow’s commercial development programs for CBG, CBD and THC, Willow’s R&D team continues to develop biosynthetic processes for cannabidivarin (“CBDV“), cannabigerovarin (“CBGV“), and tetrahydrocannabivarin (“THCV“), and has now added an additional development project for production of CBN from its biosynthetically derived CBD or THC. Early research indicates that CBN may be effective as a sleep aid or sedative, in addition to other potential health benefits. The Center of Disease Control’s Sleep and Sleep Disorder Program states that one in three adults in the United States do not get enough sleep, a crucial component for good health, and CBN is increasingly being incorporated into consumer products designed to improve sleep quality.
Update on Intellectual Property Position
Since its formation, Willow’s R&D team has placed significant focus on the development of its core strain engineering technology platform that enables the generation of key intellectual property, such as proprietary genes, proteins and microorganisms for the biosynthesis of cannabinoids. During this time, Willow has established its own in-house cannabis genomic databases for identification of novel plant-derived genes, developed a rapid enzyme evolution platform for generation of proprietary engineered cannabinoid biosynthetic genes, and built multiple tools for genome-wide editing of its host organism. Using this strategy, Willow has developed proprietary genes for the primary cannabinoid biosynthetic pathway, identified novel secondary supporting genes for boosting productivity, and generated proprietary production host organisms for efficient cannabinoid production. Combining its in-house and production partner’s upstream and downstream process development knowhow and expertise has led to the rapid development of a scaled production process for CBG. Willow has filed, and will continue to file, multiple patent applications relating to its proprietary genes, proteins and microorganisms and their use for the biosynthetic production of cannabinoids. Willow’s first group of patent applications will publish later this year with subsequent patents publishing on a continual basis.
Formation of ESG Committee
The safe and environmentally efficient quality of Willow’s manufacturing process is core to the Company’s corporate and operational objectives. As Willow’s team and operations grow, Willow continues to invest in its industry-leading sustainability management capabilities. To this end, the Company is pleased to announce that Willow has established a senior-level Environmental, Social, and Governance (“ESG“) committee to oversee sustainability integration efforts and to provide a direct line from operations to the board of directors on all ESG matters. The ESG committee is comprised of cross-functional representatives and meets quarterly to ensure consistent progress.
ESG priorities for Willow in 2021 and 2022 include ESG strategy development, data management on identified safety, environmental, and social KPIs, target-setting, and internal and external stakeholder engagement.