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The Portland company changing up the cannabis testing game

Written by Loren DeVito, PhD

If you have the pleasure of living in a state where recreational cannabis is legalized, you are likely quite familiar with the wide array of cannabis cultivars available at the local dispensary. In fact, it seems like new cultivars are popping up each day, claiming to help invigorate, calm, stimulate, focus, or relax. Behind these multitude of effects is the cannabis genotype – the differences in DNA that tailor each cultivar type to its phenotype.1

This high level of customization is due in part to a revolution in the cannabis industry paired with an advanced understanding of cannabis genetics and access to modern technology like CRISPR.2 But, as many cannabis users know, there is no certainty regarding a brand’s claim without thorough testing and verification – meaning that the OG Kush you bought up in a Sacramento dispensary is not going to be exactly like the one you got in Los Angeles.3Or Pittsburgh. And that’s where cannabis genetic testing comes in.

The concept of cannabis genetic testing is certainly not new. In fact, there are many testing labs across the US. However, a laboratory based in Portland, Oregon has taken a step beyond traditional testing to better support the cannabis breeding industry – and consumers – at large.

Phylos Bioscience, led by geneticists and data scientists, offers several testing services for cannabis companies, including a plant sex test and a genetic identity test. The company also offers a cannabis genetic certification – think of it as the 23 and Me of the cannabis world.

Verifying the genetic identity of a plant can help companies authenticate their cultivars and protect their intellectual property. And genetic certification helps consumers know exactly what they are purchasing and how it was tested and verified.

But Phylos doesn’t stop at testing. Once they’ve analyzed a genetic sample, the information is added to their “Galaxy,” an interactive 3D visualization of all of the tested cannabis cultivars in their database. Each dot within the Galaxy represents a cultivar, and dots that are closer to each other are genetically similar. Companies can view where their cultivar lies in relation to other known cultivars and provide this information to their customers.

In an interview with Cannabis Business Times, Phylos Co-founder and CEO, Mowgli Holmes, PhD, communicated the importance of genetics testing for the consumer: “The…benefit is that you know what you’re getting and can always get it again…if [you] find something that works, [you] need to be able to get it.”

Phylos also participates in the Open Cannabis Project, an initiative that hopes to encourage researchers to contribute their data in an open access format to advance the understanding of cannabis genetics.Mowgli is also a founding board member of the Cannabis Safety Initiative and Chair of the Oregon State Cannabis Research Task Force. Commitment and innovation from companies like Phylos will gather more information on cannabis genetics, helping consumers have greater confidence in what they are using by verifying the consistency of their purchases.


  1. Andre, C.M., et al., “Cannabis Sativa: The Plant Of The Thousand and One Molecules”,Frontiers in Plant Science, 2016, Volume 7, pg. 1-17. (impact factor: 4.298; cited by: 122)
  1. Bomgardner, M.M., “CRISPR: A New Toolbox For Better Crops”, Chemical & Engineering News, 2017, Volume 95, pg. 1-6. (impact factor: 1.126; cited by: 3)
  1. Schwabe, A., McGlaughlin, M.E., “Genetic Tools Weed Out Misconceptions Of Strain Reliability In Cannabis Sativa: Implications For A Budding Industry,” bioRxiv, 2018, pg. 1-41. (impact factor: N/A; cited by: N/A)

About the author

Loren DeVito, PhD

Loren DeVito, PhD is a neuroscientist and science writer with expertise in cannabis science and medicine. She is committed to communicating evidence-based information about cannabis and its healing properties. Learn more about her work at

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