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Biosynthesis: The Science That May Unlock the Medical Potential of Cannabis

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Attitudes are changing fast on cannabis, and investors are taking note.

With the birth of legal recreational markets in places like California and a growing appreciation for the medical applications of cannabinoids such as CBD, the floodgates are open for companies to pursue new and groundbreaking opportunities in the sector.

Unlike other fields where medical research has been mainstream for many decades, the work behind cannabis – an incredibly complex plant – is only getting started.

Untapped Potential

Today’s infographic comes from InMed Pharmaceuticals and it explains the medical potential behind the 90+ cannabinoids that we have yet to fully understand.

It also details a scientific process known as biosynthesis, which helped revolutionize the production of insulin for diabetics. A process such as this may be a key in unlocking the medical potential of understudied cannabinoids.

Biosynthesis: The Science That May Unlock the Medical Potential of Cannabis

The medical benefits of cannabis are many, and scientific research is being conducted to explore the application of the plant in several disease categories, including multiple sclerosis, seizures, glaucoma, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and migraines.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. To understand the full potential of the cannabis plant, you need to know what cannabinoids are, and how they work.

The Human Endocannabinoid System

Like all mammals, the human body is loaded with natural cannabinoid receptors.

These receptors interact with cannabinoids, which occur naturally in the human body, but also in the cannabis plant.

Type of CannabinoidDescription
EndocannabinoidsMade in the human body
Plant cannabinoidsFound in the cannabis plant
Synthetic cannabinoidsManufactured artificially to mimic natural cannabinoids
Biosynthesized cannabinoidsBiofermentation process using E. Coli-based system, which creates cannabinoids identical to those found in nature

Some cannabinoids you may know include THC and CBD – and they have a wide variety of applications. They also make up the majority of cannabinoids (by volume) that can be easily extracted from the plant.

However, there are actually 90+ other cannabinoids that have potential medical benefits as well, and they make up less than 0.1% of total biomass. Because they are so difficult to isolate, they remain understudied in medicinal science.

A Problem of Volume

With only a tiny portion of the cannabis plant having medicinal value (the cannabinoids), a large degree of biomass must be harvested to extract even small amounts of medicine.

For example, 3 lbs (1.36 kg) of hig-CBD flowers may only yield 50 grams of pharmaceutical-grade compounds.

But this ratio is even more strenuous for the 90+ rare cannabinoids that make up less than 0.1% of the plant. With costs in the millions of dollars-per-gram range, it is extremely cost prohibitive to be researching these cannabinoids in any in-depth capacity.

Biosynthesis for Cannabinoids?

The process of biosynthesis could be a clue to maximizing the potential of these understudied cannabinoids.

In fact, this innovation has already helped democratize access to insulin, which originally was an extremely rare and expensive compound. To get just eight ounces of insulin, over 5,000 pig pancreases had to be harvested and processed. With biosynthesis, that is no longer the case.

Biosynthesis is a process that can occur by genetically modifying an organism to produce a pharmaceutically bioactive compounds that it normally would not make. Biosynthesis could thus be used to produce rare cannabinoids that are biologically identical to those produced by the cannabis plant itself.

Here’s how it works:

1) A biosynthetic cluster is inserted into a DNA vector.
2) DNA is inserted into E. Coli bacteria, where it provides instructions to produce cannabinoid compound(s)
3) The process is conducted at a large scale, resulting in materials that can be further processed into purified cannabinoids

The Potential of Biosynthesis

The world’s largest cannabis biotech company, GW Pharmaceuticals, has signed a contract with British Sugar to grow 18 hectares of cannabis for its CBD epilepsy drug, Epidiolex™.

Equivalent to approximately 23 football fields of greenhouse space, this represents a considerable amount of resources and investment needed to grow enough crops to treat 40,000 children with the disease.

If biosynthesis can produce similar quantities of cannabinoids from a much smaller space, it would be disruptive to the industry. Further, it may also make getting other understudied cannabinoids more economic – helping to possibly unleash the full medicinal potential of the cannabis plant.

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Energy

Mainstream EV Adoption: 5 Speedbumps to Overcome

The pace of mainstream EV adoption has been slow, but is expected to accelerate as automakers overcome these five critical challenges.

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Mainstream EV Adoption: 5 Speedbumps to Overcome

Many would agree that a global shift to electric vehicles (EV) is an important step in achieving a carbon-free future. However, for various reasons, EVs have so far struggled to break into the mainstream, accounting for just 2.5% of global auto sales in 2019.

To understand why, this infographic from Castrol identifies the five critical challenges that EVs will need to overcome. All findings are based on a 2020 survey of 10,000 consumers, fleet managers, and industry specialists across eight significant EV markets.

The Five Challenges to EV Adoption

Cars have relied on the internal combustion engine (ICE) since the early 1900s, and as a result, the ownership experience of an EV can be much more nuanced. This results in the five critical challenges we examine below.

Challenge #1: Price

The top challenge is price, with 63% of consumers believing that EVs are beyond their current budget. Though many cheaper EV models are being introduced, ICE vehicles still have the upper hand in terms of initial affordability. Note the emphasis on “initial”, because over the long term, EVs may actually be cheaper to maintain.

Taking into account all of the running and maintenance costs of [an EV], we have already reached relative cost parity in terms of ownership.

—President, EV consultancy, U.S.

For starters, an EV drivetrain has significantly fewer moving parts than an ICE equivalent, which could result in lower repair costs. Government subsidies and the cost of electricity are other aspects to consider.

So what is the tipping price that would convince most consumers to buy an EV? According to Castrol, it differs around the world.

CountryEV Adoption Tipping Price ($)
🇯🇵 Japan$42,864
🇨🇳 China $41,910
🇩🇪 Germany$38,023
🇳🇴 Norway$36,737
🇺🇸 U.S.$35,765
🇫🇷 France$31,820
🇮🇳 India$30,572
🇬🇧 UK$29,883
Global Average$35,947

Many budget-conscious buyers also rely on the used market, in which EVs have little presence. The rapid speed of innovation is another concern, with 57% of survey respondents citing possible depreciation as a factor that prevented them from buying an EV.

Challenge #2: Charge Time

Most ICE vehicles can be refueled in a matter of minutes, but there is much more uncertainty when it comes to charging an EV.

Using a standard home charger, it takes 10-20 hours to charge a typical EV to 80%. Even with an upgraded fast charger (3-22kW power), this could still take up to 4 hours. The good news? Next-gen charging systems capable of fully charging an EV in 20 minutes are slowly becoming available around the world.

Similar to the EV adoption tipping price, Castrol has also identified a charge time tipping point—the charge time required for mainstream EV adoption.

CountryCharge Time Tipping Point (minutes)
🇮🇳 India35
🇨🇳 China34
🇺🇸 U.S.30
🇬🇧 UK30
🇳🇴 Norway29
🇩🇪 Germany29
🇯🇵 Japan29
🇫🇷 France27
Global Average31

If the industry can achieve an average 31 minute charge time, EVs could reach $224 billion in annual revenues across these eight markets alone.

Challenge #3: Range

Over 70% of consumers rank the total range of an EV as being important to them. However, today’s affordable EV models (below the average tipping price of $35,947) all have ranges that fall under 200 miles.

Traditional gas-powered vehicles, on the other hand, typically have a range between 310-620 miles. While Tesla offers several models boasting a 300+ mile range, their purchase prices are well above the average tipping price.

For the majority of consumers to consider an EV, the following range requirements will need to be met by vehicle manufacturers.

CountryRange Tipping Point (miles)
🇺🇸 U.S.321
🇳🇴 Norway315
🇨🇳 China300
🇩🇪 Germany293
🇫🇷 France289
🇯🇵 Japan283
🇬🇧 UK283
🇮🇳 India249
Global Average291

Fleet managers, those who oversee vehicles for services such as deliveries, reported a higher average EV tipping range of 341 miles.

Challenge #4: Charging Infrastructure

Charging infrastructure is the fourth most critical challenge, with 64% of consumers saying they would consider an EV if charging was convenient.

Similar to charge times, there is much uncertainty surrounding infrastructure. For example, 65% of consumers living in urban areas have a charging point within 5 miles of their home, compared to just 26% for those in rural areas.

Significant investment in public charging infrastructure will be necessary to avoid bottlenecks as more people adopt EVs. China is a leader in this regard, with billions spent on EV infrastructure projects. The result is a network of over one million charging stations, providing 82% of Chinese consumers with convenient access.

Challenge #5: Vehicle Choice

The least important challenge is increasing the variety of EV models available. This issue is unlikely to persist for long, as industry experts believe 488 unique models will exist by 2025.

Despite variety being less influential than charge times or range, designing models that appeal to various consumer niches will likely help to accelerate EV adoption. Market research will be required, however, because attitudes towards EVs vary by country.

CountryConsumers Who Believe EVs Are More Fashionable Than ICE Vehicles (%)
🇮🇳 India70%
🇨🇳 China68%
🇫🇷 France46%
🇩🇪 Germany40%
🇺🇸 UK40%
🇯🇵 Japan39%
🇺🇸 U.S.33%
🇳🇴 Norway 31%
Global Average48%

A majority of Chinese and Indian consumers view EVs more favorably than traditional ICE vehicles. This could be the result of a lower familiarity with cars in general—in 2000, for example, China had just four million cars spread across its population of over one billion.

EVs are the least alluring in the U.S. and Norway, which coincidentally have the highest GDP per capita among the eight countries surveyed. These consumers may be accustomed to a higher standard of quality as a result of their greater relative wealth.

So When Do EVs Become Mainstream?

As prices fall and capabilities improve, Castrol predicts a majority of consumers will consider buying an EV by 2024. Global mainstream adoption could take slightly longer, arriving in 2030.

Caution should be exhibited, as these estimates rely on the five critical challenges being solved in the short-term future. This hinges on a number of factors, including technological change, infrastructure investment, and a shift in consumer attitudes.

New challenges could also arise further down the road. EVs require a significant amount of minerals such as copper and lithium, and a global increase in production could put strain on the planet’s limited supply.

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Mapped: The Top Podcasts on Spotify Across Countries

Podcasting is now a billion dollar industry, attracting big names and audiences to match. Here’s a global look at the top podcasts on Spotify.

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The Top Spotify Podcast Across Countries

We are amidst the breakout era of podcasts. Since the beginning of the smartphone revolution, the digital audio format has picked up serious traction with audiences all over. In the U.S. alone, it’s estimated that there will be 132 million podcast listeners by 2022.

Today, there are 850,000 active podcasts available in 100 languages, with over 30 million episodes to tap into—perfect if you have an afternoon to yourself.

Worldwide Podcast Chart-Toppers

The data in this infographic comes from Spotify, the top global streaming service in the industry by paid users. How do the top podcasts fare on a per country basis?

CountryTop PodcastHonorable Mention (Second Highest)
CanadaThe Joe Rogan ExperienceCall Her Daddy
FranceChoses a SavoirMythes et Legendes
UKThe Michelle Obama PodcastThe Joe Rogan Experience
GermanyGemischtes HackFest & Flauschig
ItalyBlu Notte - Fisteri ItalianiMushio Selvaggio
U.S.The Michelle Obama PodcastCall Her Daddy
Japankemioの耳そうじクラブHapa英会話 Podcast
AustraliaFrom The NewsroomThe Joe Rogan Experience
IndiaThe Michelle Obama PodcastPurijagannadh
IrelandThe Joe Rogan ExperienceThe 2 Johnnies Podcast
MexicoLeyendas LegendariasLa Cotorrisa
New ZealandThe Joe Rogan ExperienceCall Her Daddy
ArgentinaConcha PodcastEntiende Tu Mente
AustriaVerbrechenFest & Flauschig
BrazilNerdCastCafé da Manha
ChileTomas Va A MorirMatriarcalmente Hablando
ColombiaDianaUribe.fmDani 3Palacios Podcast
DenmarkMorkelandHer Gar Det Godt
FinlandPOKSJaliila
IndonesiaRintik SeduPODKESMAS
NorwayFriminutt med Herman og MikkelG-punktet
PhilippinesSleeping Pill with InkaAdulting With Joyce Pring
PolandKryminatoriumJa I moje przyjaciółki idiotki
SpainNadie Sabe NadaEntiende Tu Mente
SwedenP3 DokumentarSommar & Vinter i P1
NetherlandsZelfspodcastMan man man, de podcast

Many of the top shows around the world follow a familiar interview or conversational format, but there are trends that deviate from that formula. In particular, there are a number of podcasts focused on health and wellness as well as current events.

The early beginnings of podcasting were dominated by upstart content creators, but as the market has matured, big media outlets and A-list personalities have been vying for listeners’ attention in an increasingly crowded field. As it stands now, two podcasts from America carry a large presence in foreign markets, and the two big personalities—Michelle Obama and Joe Rogan—stand a notch above the rest.

The Rogan-Obama tug of war in the podcast realm has had its back and forths. Obama pulled ahead in many countries in August, but in September the pendulum swung in favor of Rogan.

Follow The Money

In 2015, ad revenue in the podcast industry was a minuscule $69 million across the board. It’s expected to reach over $1 billion by 2021, and to grow further from there.

podcast industry revenue

The podcast boom is powered by younger generations, and both millennials and Gen Z represent a sizable portion of the total podcast audience globally. In particular, demographic listenership numbers experience a big drop after the 35-54 age bracket.

podcast audience by age group

Flexibility and variety are key features that are helping fuel the growth of the medium. One can keep up with serious world affairs or listen to Call Her Daddy—a podcast on sex and relationships by Barstool Sports, another podcast that frequently tops the charts.

Top Podcast Publishers by U.S. Audience

When it comes to key participants in the industry, National Public Radio (NPR) sits on the top spot with over 26 million unique monthly audience members. In close second, iHeartRadio holds a whopping 494 shows.

Podcast PublisherU.S. Unique Monthly AudienceGlobal Downloads & StreamsActive Shows
NPR26,933,000219,716,00049
iHeartRadio26,182,000234,417,000494
New York Times13,102,000145,961,00015
Barstool Sports10,228,00067,569,00043
PRX9,035,00082,245,00087
Wondery8,794,00057,261,00098
ESPN/ABC8,472,00066,685,00096
NBC News6,751,00044,219,00026
Cumulus Media/Westwood One6,473,00040,912,000115
Warner Media6,350,00033,503,000113
This American Life/Serial5,924,00022,722,0002
Kast Media5,319,00030,353,00046
Daily Wire5,212,000
43,342,0005
WNYC Studios5,209,00035,381,00052
All Things Comedy4,890,00028,770,00058
TED3,739,00051,696,00010
American Public Media3,362,00017,997,00050
Fox News Radio2,518,00013,633,00034
Slate1,951,00013,812,00097
WBUR1,105,0006,758,00018

If you’re bullish on podcasts, many in the top 20 are publicly traded entities who either stand alone, or are part of a larger corporation. Notable stocks include the New York Times, ESPN as part of Disney, and Warner Media as part of AT&T.

Spotify Today and Tomorrow

Spotify’s direct listing IPO was initially met with a lack of confidence, due to Big Tech’s entry in the space, as well as the profitability and monetization concerns that typically plague the music industry as a whole. However, the company has done well in abating those concerns, especially if you consider Spotify’s stock price, which has doubled in the last year. An impressive 21% of Spotify’s monthly active users engage with podcast content.

In addition, a wealth of personalities have entered the podcasting space. These big names suggest that the competition is dialing up.

In recent months, an exclusive deal between Spotify and Joe Rogan, valued at over $100 million took the podcasting world by storm. This is quite a monumental step for the podcast timeline, and one that suggests more deals could follow as Spotify looks to lock people into their platform with exclusivity deals.

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