CNSI Noble Fund researchers find synthetic biology approaches to cannabinoid production

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Their Nobel Fund project is to combine synthetic biology and synthetic chemistry to develop cannabinoids, both the common cannabinoids as well as rare cannabinoids for medicinal use. They have been able to develop a microbial host that can produce these compounds in high titters, which allows further development of these compounds into the full biologically active compounds that can be used in clinical trials. Theirs is the first project to receive a UCLA-based grant to utilize the CNSI’s new Living Biofoundry, established through the National Science Foundation–funded BioPACIFIC Materials Innovation Platform.

Garg and Tang are two of six Chemistry & Biochemistry faculty members selected to receive CNSI Noble Family Innovation Fund grants for their nanoscience research projects. The Noble Family Innovation Fund, established with a $10 million philanthropic commitment to the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA, supports basic and translational research involving interactions on the nanoscale – measured in billionths of a meter. Funding is earmarked for projects with substantial promise for commercialization and societal impact. The goal is to create a model for academic research and entrepreneurship that enables strategic investment to seed discoveries that have the potential to be translated for the public good.

Professor Yi Tang is currently the Parson’s Family Foundation Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UCLA, and holds joint appointments in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry; and Department of Bioengineering.  His group is interested in natural product biosynthesis and biocatalysis and has also recently become interested in research at the interface of nanotechnology, biomaterials and drug delivery. 

Professor Neil Garg is the Chair of the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and the inaugural holder of the Kenneth N. Trueblood Endowed Chair in Chemistry & Biochemistry. He is known for his innovative teaching techniques, transformative chemical educational initiatives, and his cutting-edge research program, which is directed toward the development of synthetic strategies and methods that enable the synthesis of complex bioactive molecules.  

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry,