Campus Life  

New study suggests psychedelic drugs may reduce criminal behaviour

Assoc. Prof. Zach Walsh.

Assoc. Prof. Zach Walsh.

Illicit substances may be effective interventions to crime

Newly published research suggests that common psychedelic drugs—such as magic mushrooms, LSD and mescaline (a substance derived from the peyote cactus)—may reduce criminal offences.

The new study, co-authored by UBC Okanagan’s Associate Professor of Psychology Zach Walsh, found that psychedelic drugs are associated with a decreased likelihood of antisocial criminal behaviour.

“These findings add to a growing body of research suggesting that use of classic psychedelics may have positive effects for reducing antisocial behaviour,” said Walsh. “They certainly highlight the need for further research into the potentially beneficial effects of these stigmatized substances for both individual and public health.”

Lead author, University of Alabama Assoc. Prof. Peter Hendricks, used data obtained from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to explore the connection between the use of classic psychedelic substances and criminal behaviour among more than 480,000 American adult respondents from the past 13 years.

Key findings of the study are that respondents who have used psychedelic drugs had 27 per cent decreased odds of larceny or theft, and 22 per cent decreased odds of arrest for a violent crime in the past year. At the same time, lifetime use of other illicit substances was generally associated with increased odds of criminal behaviour.

Hendricks says that psilocybin and related compounds could revolutionize the mental health field.

“The development of innovative and effective interventions to prevent criminal behaviour is an obvious priority,” Hendricks adds. “Our findings suggest the protective effects of classic psychedelic use are attributable to genuine reductions in antisocial behaviour rather than reflecting improved evasion of arrest. Simply put, the positive effects associated with classic psychedelic use appear to be reliable. Given the costs of criminal behaviour, the potential represented by this treatment paradigm is significant.”

Walsh points out that research on the benefits of psychedelic drugs started decades ago, primarily to treat mental illness. However, it was stopped due to the reclassification of the drugs to controlled substances in the mid-1970s. Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in psychedelic medicine.

“More research is needed to figure out what factors underlie these effects,” Walsh says. “But the experiences of unity, positivity and transcendence that characterize the psychedelic experience may have lasting benefits that translate into real-world consequences.”

The research was recently published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.


Applied research on the college agenda for businesses and non-profits

Okanagan College Media Release

Whether it’s exploring ways to speed up and stabilize online connections for gamers or designing better outdoor playgrounds for children, applied research at Okanagan College takes many shapes.

On Oct. 27, Vernon-area companies, non-profit organizations and individuals have opportunities to learn more about how applied research and connections with Okanagan College can help them.

“There are many examples of how the College’s professors and researchers have helped companies, industries and non-profit organizations advance their agendas, whether it is product development, innovation, or solving business problems,” explains Jane Lister, Okanagan College’s Regional Dean for the North Okanagan. “The sessions planned (there are two) for the 27th will help shed light on how the College can help make that happen and where there might be support for such initiatives.”

Dr. Andrew Hay, the College’s Vice President Education, and Dr. Beverlie Dietze, the College’s Director of Learning and Applied Research will lead the sessions, and a collection of researchers and other College Deans will be on hand.

The first free session is focused on business, manufacturing, agriculture, and technology, and runs from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Friday at the Vernon Campus in room E102. The second session runs from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the same room and is also free.

Interested in attending? RSVP to Joan Smeyers at [email protected].

To see examples of the types of projects Okanagan College researchers have engaged in visit okanagan.bc.ca/researchstories.


UBC launches program to advance chronic disease research

Community-based prevention and management are key goals

The UBC Faculty of Medicine Southern Medical Program is launching a new research program aimed at progressing the research front when it comes to the prevention and management of chronic diseases.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, three in five Canadians over the age of 20 live with a chronic illness and four in five are at risk. In Canada, 67 per cent of all deaths each year are caused by four major chronic conditions: cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and chronic respiratory disease.

Based at UBC Okanagan, the newly-introduced Chronic Disease Prevention Program (CDPP) will harness the strengths of researchers from both Okanagan and Vancouver campuses and Interior Health (IH) to support new discoveries and knowledge translation in this ever-pressing domain. Kathleen Martin Ginis, a professor with UBC Faculty of Medicine and UBC Okanagan Faculty of Health and Social Development, is the founding CDPP director.

“Our end goal is to foster research excellence that’s responsive to the healthcare needs of our region’s communities both urban and rural, and advances the international research field,” says Martin Ginis.

The first step, she explains, is to recruit an interdisciplinary team of clinical and implementation scientists and community health researchers who will work under the CDPP umbrella. Martin Ginis also plans to establish new partnerships with health professionals and community-health organizations throughout the IH region.

“Our collective efforts will focus on new investigations in the areas of physical activity and nutrition/healthy eating, and diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neurotrauma and neurodegenerative diseases, and implementing those research findings into the community,” she adds.

To bolster the program’s development, Martin Ginis will serve as the inaugural Reichwald Family UBC Southern Medical Program Chair in Preventive Medicine. Established by the Reichwald family, the endowed chair will accelerate the development of an academic research program that advances our understanding of chronic disease and establishes new community-based prevention programs.

“The growing prevalence of chronic diseases within our region’s health populations has brought prevention and management to the front lines of healthcare delivery,” says Dr. Allan Jones, regional associate dean, Interior, UBC Faculty of Medicine. “We are deeply committed to contributing to this research arena and directly benefiting the communities where our students, faculty, and researchers train and serve.”

UBC Professor Kathleen Martin Ginis.

UBC Professor Kathleen Martin Ginis.

About Kathleen Martin Ginis

Kathleen Martin Ginis is a professor with UBC Faculty of Medicine Department of Medicine, Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the UBC Okanagan Faculty of Health and Social Development, School of Health and Exercise Sciences. She is the founding director of the Southern Medical Program’s Chronic Disease Prevention Program and inaugural Reichwald Family UBC Southern Medical Program Chair in Preventive Medicine.

Martin Ginis is the founding director of Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Action Canada, a national alliance of community-based organizations and university-based researchers working together to advance physical activity participation in people with spinal cord injury. She is also the principal investigator of the Canadian Disability Participation Project and an ICORD (International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries) principal investigator. Her research studies are some of the first to outline the psychosocial benefits and strategies for increasing physical activity in adults with spinal cord injury.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.


Families invited to experience outdoor play

The first of two free outdoor play workshops will kick off in Peachland this Saturday, offering children and their families the chance to express their creativity and engage their sense of wonder.Beverlie Dietze - web

Children will have the opportunity to discover and explore playing with loose parts – a trending concept in the world of unstructured outdoor play. Families are invited to join in the fun at the Peachland Heritage Park and Pavilion on Beach Avenue on Saturday Oct. 14, and again on Saturday Oct. 28, from 10 – 11:30 a.m.

And the unique play experiences aren’t just an incentive for families to spend a fun morning at the park – feedback from participants will inform a research project guiding the creation of a new play space unlike any other in the region.

“Research tells us that when children visit traditional play spaces, they spend about six minutes on the play equipment,” says Dr. Beverlie Dietze, Director of Learning and Applied Research at Okanagan College. “They spend more time playing with the gravel and the items that are underneath the play apparatus.

“With a natural play space, children will spend as much time as you allow them. There are options for them to pick up rocks and look at the bugs underneath. They can challenge themselves to balance on a tree stump or walk the length of a log. The play opportunities are absolutely open and expansive. When you add in man-made materials that we call loose-parts then all of those pieces require the child to do something, to actively engage in the play.”

Those types of play opportunities are precisely the kind Dietze hopes to gain feedback on through the workshops as part of a $91,000 research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and neighbourhood developer New Monaco. The goal is to support New Monaco in creating unique naturalized play spaces that fit children’s zest for curiosity, learning, and development. Using a research tool developed by Dietze, data on how children use the loose parts in their outdoor play will be compiled and relayed to the developer and landscape architects at Outland Design Landscape Architecture. The architects and Dietze hope to bring an entirely new kind of play space to the Okanagan.

A potential spot for the unique park has been identified within the New Monaco master planned community currently being developed in Peachland.

“Our vision for the community is to be the healthiest place to live in Canada.” explains Mark Holland, Partner, New Monaco. “We’re very excited to be actively involved in this applied research project with the ultimate goal of understanding how we can create a new type of play space that is innovative, supports healthy lifestyles for children and their families, and goes beyond what people expect to find in a traditional playground.

“New Monaco is committed to working with Peachland to attract more families to this great community and make it the best place to grow up in the Okanagan.”

But before it can ever be built, Dietze’s findings will first need to be translated into a design that can be brought to life in the New Monaco neighborhood. Enter Fiona Barton, Principal of Outland Design.

“Our company is focused on re-thinking the way in which play spaces are designed and support optimal child development. It’s hard to imagine how the next generation will become stewards of the natural landscape if they haven’t actually spent time in it,” says Barton, who worked with Dietze in 2016 to train her staff in the principles of early learning and outdoor play spaces.

“We look forward to embracing the challenge of applying natural outdoor play principles from the research work and incorporating those into a municipally managed, public park system that is beneficial to families in the Okanagan.”

Dietze hopes the project will serve as a model for public parks and play spaces in other areas.

“It would be wonderful to see what we learn with this project in the Okanagan inspire and help others create innovative play spaces across the country and around the world.”

Joining Dietze and Barton at the workshops will be a team of early childhood education students and educators to support children in playing with loose parts. The outdoor play opportunities are free but families are encouraged to register in advance by emailing [email protected].



Don’t dispense with cannabis dispensaries, caution UBC researchers

Psychology professor Zach Walsh recently published a study examining the roles independent marijuana dispensaries play in cannabis access.

Psychology professor Zach Walsh recently published a study examining the roles independent marijuana dispensaries play in cannabis access.

Recent publication states ‘store-front’ system has elements that work well

UBC researchers are cautioning policy makers not to alter a cannabis distribution system that – while not legal yet—works well.

PhD candidate Rielle Capler

PhD candidate Rielle Capler

Associate professor Zach Walsh, who teaches psychology at UBC’s Okanagan campus, and PhD candidate Rielle Capler, say store-front dispensaries—often under fire by law enforcement and city governments—are a tried and true method of selling cannabis. The pair recently published a study on medicinal cannabis dispensaries and determined customers prefer the independent storefront as opposed to growing their own, or getting it from a dealer.

In Canada, dispensaries are not an authorized source for cannabis, although many operate as ‘compassion clubs’ selling cannabis for medical—not recreational—purposes. Their research suggests that when recreational marijuana use becomes legal in 2018, the current system of dispensaries should remain.

“Dispensaries do serve a role in our society, especially for some people with chronic illnesses who use cannabis for medicinal purposes,” says Walsh. “There is a self-regulatory model that already exists and improvements can be made in a legalized environment.”

The study is one of the first to specifically look at the experience of dispensary users. It compared their experiences to those who purchase cannabis through other sources including self-production, and illegal sources, such as friends or street dealers.

“Our study shows there are people who have preferences for dispensaries especially compared to other illegal sources,” says Capler. “Our study also provides insight into some of the aspects of dispensaries that the government may want to emulate in the legal framework for both medical and recreational use.”

Recently, the Ontario government announced that once restrictions come off next year, it will sell marijuana in dedicated stores run by the province's liquor control board.

While operating under the shadows of provincial laws and city bylaws, dispensaries have thrived in neighbourhoods across Canada. Capler calls the current method a ‘natural experiment’ that’s been underway for decades and says law makers should this keep in mind when addressing regulation policies.

“Dispensaries are not new and they provide a proven, valuable service,” she says. “While some are thought of as a nuisance, in reality many of these dispensaries are small, independent, long-standing businesses who serve a dedicated clientele.”

For their research, more than 440 people who use cannabis for therapeutic purposes were asked to compare different methods of purchasing cannabis on a number of factors such as quality of product, safety, availability, efficiency and feeling respected. Study participants rated dispensaries highly across most categories with the only prominent negative being that the cost of dispensary product is often higher than from a street dealer.

“Clearly dispensaries are already playing a big role in cannabis access in Canada,” Capler adds. “The provincial and municipal governments will have to either look at including them in a legal framework—or drawing on what’s working in dispensaries as they build a new model. We want to think this paper may, in some way, guide policy to create a system that works.”

Their research, supported by a grant from the UBC Institute for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention, was recently published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.




UVic professor sheds light on Indigenous Peoples’ land management practices

Okanagan College Media Release

Nancy Turner Oct 2017Indigenous Peoples of British Columbia have historically been described as hunter-gatherers, but according to ethnobiologist Dr. Nancy Turner, this label scarcely acknowledges the sophisticated techniques and approaches First Nations have developed and applied over millennia to sustain and enhance their plant resources and habitats.

Turner, who is a Trudeau Fellow and Emeritus Professor in Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria, will share insight into these management practices in a public talk at Okanagan College as part of the Science in Society Speaker Series. 

The presentation will take place at the College’s Vernon campus in the lecture theatre on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. and is called Looking after the Plants, Looking after the Land: Environmental Management by Indigenous Peoples of British Columbia.

Turner will explain how Indigenous plant managers bring their personal knowledge, techniques and practices passed down through generations, to cultivate wild species. These include influencing ecological succession, creating and extending particular habitats, pruning and coppicing trees and shrubs, enriching soils, distributing seeds, and transplanting species from one locale to another.

“Indigenous Peoples also embrace their own associated cultural institutions, means of monitoring and maintaining productivity, and ways of passing on knowledge to others, including future generations,” says Turner. “Their lessons and approaches are often taught through experiential learning, storytelling, ceremony, and art.” 

Turner’s research integrates the fields of botany and ecology with anthropology, geography and linguistics, among others. She is interested in the traditional knowledge systems and traditional land and resource management systems of Indigenous Peoples, particularly in western Canada.

She has worked with First Nations elders and cultural specialists in northwestern North America for more than 40 years, collaborating with Indigenous communities to help document, retain and promote their traditional knowledge of plants and habitats, including Indigenous foods, materials and medicines, as well as language and vocabulary relating to plants and environments.

Turner has authored, co-authored or co-edited more than 20 books and 150 book chapters and peer-reviewed papers, and numerous other publications, both popular and academic. She has also been recognized with a number of awards, including the Member of the Order of Canada.

Admission to the lecture is $7 in advance or $10 at the door. For advanced tickets call the Okanagan Science Centre at (250) 545-3644. Eventbrite tickets are available online.

To subscribe or obtain more information visit okanagansisss.wordpress.com

This lecture is jointly presented by Okanagan College and the Okanagan Science Centre. The Science in Society Speaker Series is sponsored by the Vernon Atrium Hotel and Conference Centre, Starbucks Coffee, Save on Foods, and the Vernon Morning Star.


Ketone nutritional supplements: Good or bad for athletic performance?

Jonathan Little is an assistant professor in UBC Okanagan’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences.

Jonathan Little is an assistant professor in UBC Okanagan’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences.

Popular new ketone salts enhance fat burning but impair high-intensity exercise performance

In the quest to improve physical performance, many athletes are turning to untested nutritional supplements. But in the case of one recently available and popular class of supplements—ketone salts—research from UBC’s Okanagan campus suggests it may inhibit, rather than improve, athletic performance during high-intensity exercise.

“Ketone salts are relatively new to the market and there’s not much research on their impact on performance,” says the study’s co-author Jonathan Little, assistant professor in UBC Okanagan’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences. “We know from one previously published study that ketone supplements may improve long-duration endurance performance but we’re interested what happens during short-duration and high-intensity workouts, like running a 10k or cycling up a hill.”

“It turns out that ketone salt supplements actually impair high-intensity exercise performance."

Ketone salts work by artificially elevating blood ketone levels, similar to what happens naturally during periods of starvation, and forces the body to rely on burning fat as a fuel, explains Little. Burning fat is a more effective long-term fuel but is more complex to process and isn’t as readily accessible for quick bursts of muscle activity as is a fuel like glucose.

“Elevated blood ketones seem to inhibit the body’s use of glycogen, the stored form of glucose, and favours burning fat instead,” adds Little. “That means that the body’s quick-burning fuel cannot be accessed during high-intensity bursts of activity and athletic performance is dropping off as a result.”

In his study, Little recruited ten healthy adult males with similar athletic abilities and body mass indices. After a period of fasting, they were asked to consume either beta-hydroxybutyrate ketone salts or a flavour-matched placebo, in a randomized order, and then engage in a cycling time trial. Power output on the day participants consumed ketone salts was seven per cent lower than on the day when they consumed the placebo.

“Often these supplements are marketed as a means of improving athletic performance but in this case, the research tells a very different story,” says Little. “On top of that, the long-term impacts of artificially increasing blood ketone levels—essentially tricking the body into thinking it is in a state of starvation—is completely unknown.”

“I hope this helps athletes navigate the science of supplements rather than relying on label marketing alone.”

Little’s research was recently published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism and supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada Engage Grant.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.

UBC researchers take the ‘stink’ out of wastewater treatment

Cigdem Eskicioglu is a professor of engineering at UBC’s Okanagan Campus.

Cigdem Eskicioglu is a professor of engineering at UBC’s Okanagan Campus.

Smelly sludge improves with the right timing of common additives

A foul smell and safety concerns can leave many residents turning their nose at the idea of a wastewater treatment plant in their neighbourhood.

But researchers from UBC’s Okanagan campus have developed a new way of making wastewater treatment dramatically safer and better smelling by using common and inexpensive chemicals.

Cigdem Eskicioglu, an associate professor with UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering, says many wastewater treatment facilities use anaerobic digestion – microorganisms fermenting organic waste – as an effective way to recover energy and nutrients from wastewater residual sludge. However, the process also produces toxic, corrosive and extremely odourous sulfuric gases, like hydrogen sulfide, which prevented many communities from adopting the technology.

“There are strong arguments for wastewater treatment facilities to use anaerobic digestion, but the equipment required to control odour and to make the biogas safe have been an expensive barrier,” says Eskicioglu, co-author on the study. “We’ve discovered a formula that seems to solve that problem.”

Eskicioglu, postdoctoral research fellow Deniz Akgul, and PhD student Timothy Abbott tested novel combinations and doses of common commercial chemicals, called metal salts, during the fermentation process to see if the offensive smells could be controlled. The results were dramatic.

“Not only were we able to reduce the production of sulfuric gases by 93 per cent, to the point that they became nearly imperceptible, but we unexpectedly discovered that pathogenic fecal coliforms in the digested sludge were reduced by 83 per cent,” says Abbott. “Digestion performance and biogas production remained completely intact and the leftover material was much safer for eventual use in applications such as agricultural fertilizers.”

The researchers also discovered that adding metal salts significantly improved their ability to remove water from the digested sludge, which is a necessary step for final disposal.

While metal salts have long been used in wastewater treatment to control smell, it’s their unique doses and point of addition during the fermentation process that seems to be particularly effective in controlling odour and pathogens, according to Abbott. He also points out that the cost of adopting their technique is minimal.

“We estimate that a medium-sized treatment facility, like the one in Kelowna, would need to spend only $10,000 annually on chemicals,” he explains. “With such a low-cost and effective means of controlling sulfuric gases and pathogens, wastewater managers could realize all the benefits of anaerobic digestion without the considerable costs of installing and maintaining traditional biogas sulfur scrubbing equipment.”

“This could be a real game changer.”

The study was published in Science of The Total Environment with financial support from the Natural Science and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC) and from the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK).

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.

UBC researcher creates cheap, compact and convenient microscope

UBC assistant professor Keekyoung Kim in his lab.

UBC assistant professor Keekyoung Kim in his lab.

From $100,000 to $100, UBC Okanagan engineer makes microscopic imaging accessible

For slightly more than $100, a researcher at UBC’s Okanagan campus has created a compact, portable and high-performance microscope that enables wireless real-time imaging.

It’s the perfect tool for biomedical engineering research, says Keekyoung Kim, an assistant professor of engineering.

Kim’s research group was looking for a way to monitor live cells and microsystem devices over an extended period of time. Such microscope systems exist but cost in excess of $100,000, making them inaccessible for many researchers. Kim says his team was inspired by today’s rapidly-changing technology.

“We looked at other mini-microscope systems using smartphones and webcams, and thought if we can incorporate the electronics of a security camera, we might be able to build one ourselves with the capability of wireless monitoring,” says Kim.

His group paired an inexpensive embedded circuit board called a Raspberry Pi—a single-board computer about the size of a credit card—with a five-megapixel camera and a USB Wi-Fi adapter. The system is able to capture and transmit pictures and videos for upwards of 50 continuous hours and can be used in remote places when there is no electricity.

“While there are many DIY smartphone-based mini-microscopes, they are difficult to use in many laboratory or field conditions and cannot be used for longer than 24 hours,” says Kim. “What makes our microscope novel is that we can do continuous wireless monitoring and storing of videos for more than two full days with a high frame rate and at high quality.”

With the benefit from high-quality images, the post-image processing is able to automatically analyze the data they collect to determine useful information, such as the coverage rate of cells and the generation frequency, diameter, and thread length of droplets.

“Successful applications demonstrate that the mini-microscope system has a great potential in many biological and biomedical applications,” he adds. “We certainly see the demand for more portable and affordable systems.”

The wireless mini microscope system can shoot with a high resolution at 90-frames per second. Kim says it is already making an impact on the work being done at the Integrated Bio-Micro/Nanotechnology Laboratory at the Okanagan campus.

The paper outlining the mini-microscope system was published in the IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering. The research was supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada grant.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.

UBC and TRU team up to explore useful bio-products found in cannabis

Cannabis flower. Credit: Antoine Collet/Flickr

Cannabis flower. Credit: Antoine Collet/Flickr

Partnership with licenced industry grower expands research potential

Researchers at UBC Okanagan and Thompson Rivers University have teamed up with an industry partner to investigate the many useful products that can be made from cannabis.

Dubbed the Cannabis Bio-products Toolbox, the collaborative research project will explore the vast range of bioproducts that can be made from the plant—these include pharmaceuticals, nutritional products, and industrial fibre.

“Cannabis is a source of many potentially valuable products,” says UBC Okanagan biology professor Michael Deyholos. “But because of its prohibition over the past decades, development of new products from cannabis has lagged behind other crops.”

Deyholos, whose research explores the potential of flax and hemp, says on the medicinal side of cannabis there are dozens of compounds in the plant that may have specific health benefits. The researchers want to breed strains that are enriched in various combinations of these compounds, tailored to needs of specific patients.

“Besides these pharmaceutical compounds, there are healthful oils and proteins in the seed that we would like to enrich,” he adds. “All of this requires a better understanding of the genes and chemicals already present in different strains of cannabis, and that is what this project is designed to do.”

Deyholos says while cannabis is best known as a source of THC—the principal psychoactive ingredient—the plant produces at least 90 other cannabinoids, many of which have potent biological activities. Some of these compounds are being examined for the treatment of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and other serious health conditions.

“Our team has experience in the characterization of a range of relevant biosynthetic pathways in cannabis stems, flax seeds, and terpenoid-producing tissues of lavender,” he adds.

Deyholos is joined by UBC Okanagan biology professor Soheil Mahmoud—who studies the potential of lavender, UBC chemistry professor Paul Shipley—whose lab examines the chemistry of medicinal plants, and Thompson Rivers University chemistry professor Bruno Cinel —a natural products chemist who specializes in the use of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy for structural determination and chemical analysis. Together with a team of post-doctorate fellows and graduate students, they will work at the laboratories of industrial-based companies Valens AgriTech and Supra THC Services—both of which are fully licensed by Health Canada to conduct research and analysis on cannabis plants and byproducts.

Deyholos notes that neither university has a licence to grow or store cannabis on campus but the industrial partner has facilities and licenses to grow more than 4,000 plants for research purposes.

“The facilities available at Valens Agritech and the analytical capabilities of Supra THC Services are truly state-of-the-art,” he says. “Having access to properly licensed facilities within an industrial setting will enable our talented interns to gain critical skills in a rapidly growing industry.”

Work at the industrial site will be supervised by Rob O’Brien and Yasantha Athukorala.

“It is an honour to be associated with such a collection of accomplished scientists,” says Valens AgriTech President and Chief Science Officer O’Brien. “The research derived from this funding will provide insights into the complexity of gene expression in cannabis and will help produce new varieties that can have a greater health impact.”

The Cannabis Bio-products Toolbox was awarded a three-year $330,000 Mitacs research grant.

About Valens AgriTech, Supra THC Services and Valens GroWorks Corp.

Valens GroWorks Corp. is a CSE-listed company (VGW:CSE) with an aggressive buildout strategy in progress. The Company seeks to capture a broad spectrum of medical cannabis users and adult recreational users once legalized, as well as clinical trial and R&D clients, in pursuit of its ambitious seed-to-sale and farm-to-pharma objectives.

The Company has two wholly-owned subsidiaries based in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia: 1) Valens Agritech Ltd. (“VAL”) which holds a Health Canada Dealer’s License, enabling cultivation and R&D and 2) Supra THC Services Inc., a Health Canada licensed cannabis testing lab providing sector-leading analytical and proprietary services to Licensed Producers and ACMPR patients.  Supra has collaborated with Thermo Fisher Scientific (Mississauga) Inc. to develop a “Centre of Excellence in Plant-Based Medicine Analytics” centred in Kelowna, British Columbia.

For more information, visit:

About Thompson Rivers University

Thompson Rivers University is committed to participating in community partnerships that drive the knowledge and innovation economy in British Columbia’s Southern Interior.

Named after the view from its main Kamloops campus overlooking the junction of the North and South Thompson rivers, TRU is proud to support the nearly 26,000 students on its campuses in Kamloops and Williams Lake, and in online programming through TRU Open Learning.

With a 45-year history of excellence in education in the BC Interior, TRU prides itself on providing students with access to a research-informed education, and providing our communities with access to the benefits of scholarly, research, and creative activities that solve community problems and enrich community life.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is a globally recognized research-intensive institution whose Okanagan campus was established in 2005.

The Okanagan campus emphasizes smaller class sizes, experiential learning, and research activity for students, combining a world-class UBC degree with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community.

As part of North America’s most international university, the campus is home to 9,000 students representing 98 countries.

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