Burnaby's Anandia Labs utilizes students in Canada’s top cannabis testing lab

3 min read
May 16, 2019

Anandia Labs was established to provide the science, technical innovations and services that underpin the global cannabis industry. Voted the Top Testing Lab at the 2017 Canadian Cannabis Awards, Anandia provides the full suite of testing services required by Health Canada for licensed production of cannabis, and also develops and offers a number of other tools that may be used by clients for breeding and product development. Anandia is focused exclusively on cannabis, with the aim of bringing the best of modern science to the cannabis industry for the benefit of cultivators and consumers.

In 2018, Anandia was acquired by Aurora Cannabis for $115M, which was a landmark deal not just for cannabis science, but for Canadian plant science companies as a whole. Also in 2018, Anandia took advantage of Innovate BC’s Tech Co-op Grant program to add talent to their Vancouver-based team. Through the program, they received $5,400 to hire two co-op students. Learn more about Anandia Labs' experience with the program from Erin Gilchrist, Ph.D. and their Senior Scientist of Molecular Diagnostics.

Q: What did these co-op students do?

Erin: Kartik, from the University of British Columbia, characterized plants that have varied chemical and physiological differences. He planted seeds of different genotypes and observed their differences in chemical phenotype as they grew to maturity. He also identified genetic differences in these plants to see if they correlate with phenotypic traits. The project that Kartik worked on will support Anandia and Aurora’s long-term cannabis breeding and trait development programs.

The second co-op student, May, also from UBC, helped Anandia’s Analytical Chemistry R&D team develop and validate two new assays. The first was a pesticide test developed in response to new Health Canada regulations, and the second identifies the presence of a potent mycotoxin, ochratoxin A, that can be harmful if consumed. Both assays have been validated and are now offered to Anandia’s clients as part of its routine testing services.

Q: What made the Tech Co-op Grant program stand out from other options?

Erin: It was flexible in that it did not require that the company to pursue a specific research objective, or that the students were in a particular program or field of study. In an industry that is just getting established, this allowed us to hire students who could contribute directly to Anandia’s strategic goals and to cannabis plant science knowledge.

Q: What are some updates or successes you can share since Anandia participated in the Tech Co-op Grant program? How did the program help or contribute to your success?

Erin: One of the students has just graduated from UBC and is now working in our laboratory full-time as an analytical chemistry technician. During her term at Anandia, funded in part by the Tech Co-op Grant program, she acquired skills that will make her an asset in any chemistry laboratory, but which are particularly valuable for us in this industry where the science is still being developed. She will be involved in the refinement of chemistry testing services that Anandia currently offers, and in the development of new services.

The other Tech Co-op student has gained an interest in plant research and is working for a second summer, this time with our Plant Tissue Culture group, assisting in the implementation of a genetics archiving service to provide long-term storage of plants with unique traits that are of value to producers.

Q: What's the main reason you would recommend the Tech Co-op Grant Program?

Erin: The funding from these grants benefits both the company and the students participating in them, because companies can hire students that are a good fit for them, and students acquire skills that they would not be able to obtain elsewhere.

Q: What are some milestones you’re most looking forward to in the year ahead?

Erin: Anandia’s mission is to be the gold standard in cannabis testing, providing trusted data and knowledge to cultivators, processors, and consumers. We have significant expansion plans over the next year. We recently announced the acquisition of a new lab in Mississauga and we will be offering full services out of that location within the next 6 months.

As part of our strategic objectives, Anandia will be adapting our testing services to a wide range of new edible, concentrate and topical products that are expected to launch into the market by October 2019.  Support from programs like Innovate BC's Tech Co-op Grant program and the Innovator Skills Initiative Grant program may contribute valuable resources to the successful achievement of our goals.

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