Demetrix raises $50 million to brew cannabis

With skyrocketing demand for consumer products and renewed research into its medicinal value, cannabis is having a moment.

The quasi-legalization of marijuana created a gold rush for the industry, and startups like Demetrix are reaping the benefits.

The company, founded by the famed U.C. Berkeley researcher Jay Keasling and helmed by former Amyris executive Jeff Ubersax just raised $50 million in a new round of financing to continue its pursuit of isolating and brewing cannabinoids, the active chemical ingredients in the marijuana plant.

The money came from previous investor Horizons Ventures, the Hong Kong-based firm backed by real estate billionaire Li Ka-shing, and Tuatara Capital, a fund which invests in the legal cannabis industry.

The idea of using yeast to brew cannabinoids isn’t a new one, and there are several companies active in the space. Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a drug based on one of the cannabinoids that’s found in marijuana, interest in the potential to identify and manufacture other pharmaceutically beneficial chemicals from the plant has grown.

Demetrix’s competitive advantage, according to Ubersax, is the company’s access to an exclusive license on Keasling’s research from Berkeley. The technology Keasling developed gives the company a unique ability to isolate and develop new cannabinoids and start screening them for utility.

“We’re providing high-quality, low-cost access to these molecules that have traditionally come from plants,” says Ubersax. 

Demetrix expects the global market for cannabinoids to reach $100 billion by 2029, citing 2016 research from Ackrell Capital.

While it’s currently cheaper to just extract from the plant itself cannabinoids used in existing products, as the body of research grows around applications for the more rare cannabinoids found in smaller percentages in the plant itself, brewing the active chemicals will start to look more and more appealing.

Demetrix says it will use the money from the new financing to scale its operations and commercialize the first of the more than 100 unique cannabinoids it believes can be applied to consumer and medical products.

“Demetrix’s mission is to help the world benefit from nature’s rarest ingredients, and we’re excited to partner with world-class investors like Tuatara Capital and Horizons Ventures to help global pharmaceutical, supplement, and consumer product companies deliver innovative products using cannabinoids,” said Demetrix CEO Jeff Ubersax, in a statement. “We’ve assembled a team of industry veterans, built a scalable technology platform, and are working with global regulatory organizations to quickly commercialize.”

The company has raised $61 million to date.