Oregon State University’s Global Hemp Innovation Center has received a $1 million gift to explore hemp genomics, research that can grow understanding of how hemp may be used in health and nutrition products, textiles and construction materials.
The gift to the OSU Foundation was provided by Oregon CBD, a hemp seed research and development company.
The Global Hemp Innovation Center was launched in June by OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences and is the largest, most comprehensive hemp research center in the nation. Led by Jay Noller, the center is based in the College of Agricultural Sciences, with faculty from multiple disciplines and colleges across OSU, and has a global reach that includes partnerships in four countries.
“We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and interest in our work,” said Jay Noller, an OSU professor and internationally recognized hemp expert.
Noller said that while some private sector genomic studies of hemp have taken place, very little information is available publicly for research.
“There is a tremendous amount of possibility with hemp, and understanding the genetics is key,” said Seth Crawford, who with his brother Eric, co-own and manage Oregon CBD. “Philosophically, we believe the public land grant university needs to be the epicenter of that research so that all can benefit from the findings.
“We believe OSU is the right place to lead this research,” Crawford said.
Oregon CBD is a family-owned business with longtime ties to OSU that go back several generations. Seth and Eric Crawford both have several degrees from the university and prior to starting the family business Seth taught in the School of Public Policy for 13 years and contributed in 2015 to some of the Oregon Health Authority’s early cannabis policies.
“This also provides us the added satisfaction of giving back to the university that has been a part of our family since my grandfather Loren Gardner graduated in 1954,” Seth Crawford said.
The gift is the first major private donation the center has received since its launch, and is unique in that it allows scientists to publicly share data and collaborate with others engaged in the study of hemp.
“This investment accelerates our leadership and establishes OSU at the forefront in genomic research in hemp,” said Alan Sams, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences.
Noller said genomic research tools will allow better understanding of the DNA present within different hemp varieties. He said this information will provide insights for developing specific hemp varieties for uses ranging from health and nutrition products, to the manufacture of textiles, and use in construction materials. The research also may lead to stronger, more disease resistant, higher yielding plants, and provide understanding of the genes that influence the production of chemical compounds in the plant. With this knowledge, Noller said growers might be able to better predict the levels of hemp essential oil components that are synthesized in different plant varieties.
Kelly Vining, an assistant professor and researcher in OSU’s Department of Horticulture, will lead the university’s hemp genomic research.
“Looking at the most intimate secrets of life in plants is powerful,” Vining said. “With hemp, the prospects are additionally exciting because it not only holds such interesting promise, but it is just a gnarly plant genome – the bioinformatics are challenging. We are now able to explore that promise and challenge, while also being among the first to share our findings with the world.”