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Making Cannabis History in 2020

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2020 is expected to be an exceptional year for the expansion of work done in Cannabis genomics. At the annual PAG meeting held this January in San Diego, academic experts and industry leaders met to share insights on the work they’ve done with this plant. While there were several scientific presentations made during the conference, the highlight of the event came the last day of the conference when an international group of industry and academic volunteers came together to form the International Cannabis Research Consortium (ICRC).

The ICRC is tasked with creating a unified approach to curating and documenting work done in Cannabis Genomics. As Cannabis sativa includes both hemp and marijuana types, leaders such as Larry Smart from Cornell and Graham King from Southern Cross University as well as industry representatives from the US, Canada, Europe and Israel were all able to contribute to the discussion.

The first order of business was to agree on a ‘reference genome’ and chromosome id’s for Cannabis. This was a bit of a challenge as there are several reference genome assemblies already available in the public space to be considered for use as the de facto reference. Consensus from the committee was that currently, the CBDRX CS10 assembly was the best quality assembly with a supporting transcript dataset and it was proposed that this should be declared the Cannabis reference for future work. However, even with choosing a reference, there remains the challenge of reconciling datasets across all the genomes already out in the public domain. This is because the chromosome assignments for each assembly can vary widely.

As NRGene has recently generated it’s own Cannabis Genomic Database (CannaGene), we’ve already done the analysis on the chromosomal mapping across 4 of the reference genomes in the public space (see the table below). We’re providing this to the ICRC as well as information on the chromosome lengths and N-content for the 4 genomes we’ve looked at. This will be used by the consortium to check chromosome order and length.

 

* Chr 1 is the sex chromosome, nomenclature for this chr is not yet established
** The assignments of chromosomes 5-9 in PK were amended in V5 (October 2019)

In the coming months you can expect to see more from the International Cannabis Research Consortium as there are plans for a website and a white paper describing chromosome IDs, gene annotation standards as well collaboration and shared resource information. We here at NRGene are humbled and honored to be doing what we love while part of history in creating the ICRC. As such, we’ve decided to start a regular blog to update you on insights we’ve gained from our work in the Cannabis and Hemp space based on our years of work with providing solutions for premier plant breeding companies. Please check back often to learn more about the future of genomics in Cannabis and Hemp breeding.

If you’d like to find out how you can get involved in the ICRC, please reach out to us at [email protected].

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