Plenty of companies test your genes for the purpose of health and wellness. However, very few offer insights about your genetic predisposal to medicinal cannabis. So we spoke to Ry Wagner, co-founder of GreenWay DNA, one of the few outlets offering such data, about the company, what it provides, and the trends in the industry.
How would you sum up GreenWay DNA’s mission?
We’re here to help individuals find their path to wellness.
What drove you to co-found GreenWay DNA?
It’s always been in my own DNA and my own background. But the emergence of cannabis in the US over the last few years as a potential mechanism by which to bring relief to individuals who are suffering through various conditions, became personal for me when I had a family member who had cancer radiation therapy and surgery related to it, and experienced a lot of discomfort. Medicinal marijuana was allowed, but she didn’t know how to start the process. And the more I looked into it, the more I learned that, in this infant industry, there’s a great deal of personal information from a personal genetics perspective to help individuals find the best starting point for their dosage of various medicinal marijuana, or CBD, or THC compounds.
Where, when and why was GreenWay DNA founded?
GreenWay DNA is incorporated in Oregon, and we actually started to work on the company well over two years ago. The foundation for what we did was to work out a methodology for detecting the gene variants within the human endocannabinoid system that affect the functioning of that system, and to develop that methodology at a clinical reporting level.
Does GreenWay DNA present test results in a way that’s easy for a layperson to understand on their own?
Our goal is to make our report both understandable on its own, and also useful for a more detailed, medical practitioner analysis. The report comes in three sections. The first is a very high-level overview with recommendations, and also includes the ability to print out a wallet-sized card with the recommended doses that one could take to a dispensary to be able to look for the products that match your personal dosage recommendations. The next part explains in more detail the background behind what is a genetic variance, the types of variants that we test for, and it summarizes the rationale behind the recommendations that are made in the first section of the report. And then the third part of the report goes to the very specific gene variants you possess, the literature related to those variants, and the function of the genes and the gene variants. This is something that, in combination with the first two parts of the report, a layperson should be able to understand; but it’s definitely something that a medical practitioner should be able to use in making further recommendations for the individual.
Are the health benefits of cannabinoids as widely understood as they should be?
No! I think we’re really at the tip of the iceberg of this, and I think it has been due to the regulatory environment for cannabis, hemp, and marijuana products. It’s an evolution at this point, and as that evolves we’re going to learn more and more. We see a trend taking off and gaining speed, and we believe it will become exponential over the next three to ten years in terms of our understanding of the medical relationship of cannabis to various conditions. But it’s still very much in its infancy.
Does GreenWay offer other insights aside from how one’s genetics predisposes them to cannabinoids?
We don’t offer specific recommendations outside of that; but in the report you’ll find information related to other types of medical conditions. We provide you with that information, because the biology of cannabinoids is very tightly linked to the biology of many other molecules that are very common in our body, or common in what we take as pharmaceuticals. We’re in conversations with several companies and organizations right now that have very broad wellness platforms, and those platforms extend beyond cannabis. These companies see the benefits of using our approach and information, and the data that comes with a personalized genetic analysis to help in their overall wellness platforms.
Does GreenWay DNA offer its services in places that haven’t yet legalized medicinal cannabis?
Yes. Our test is agnostic to the use of cannabis or not. We don’t sell any cannabis products, …so we’re not touching the bud, as it is often referenced. And the types of data that you get from taking our test are very useful. There are benefits to taking the test even if you’re not in a particular situation at this point where medical cannabis can help, because of that additional level of information that we give you in our report.
What distinguishes GreenWay DNA from the competition?
We give you an entire picture of your endocannabinoid system because of the depth at which we’re looking at it; and other companies don’t go to that same level of depth. We’re also differentiated by the methodology we use. No other company provides the clinical level of accuracy that we bring to the recommendations. For each individual gene variant that we test] we generate between thousands independent DNA sequence reads. That gives us a statistical significance and a level of accuracy that allows us to make a clinical level of recommendations.
Why aren’t other companies providing this type of DNA analysis?
The DNA testing market is a big enough sector that the larger companies tend to move more slowly with regard to new sectors and applications of their technology platforms. And they can afford to do that, because it’s easier for them to let other more entrepreneurial pave the way as to what’s acceptable in new markets. So I think there’s a little bit of, “Let’s wait on the sidelines and see.” The other component is that the testing platform that’s being used in these ancestry-based, consumer genomics companies is usually not at the clinical level. And if they really wanted to get to that level, they would have to change their platform, which would slow down some of the things that they’re doing.
Do you think the number of companies offering this type of analysis is likely to grow?
I do, but I think more commonly the type of offerings will be different and won’t meet that standard of clinical level of analysis that GreenWay DNA offers. For example, we know that the major ancestry-based companies analyze less than 20% of the variants that we do as they are not focused on the endocannabinoid system. And so what will happen is that people who use data from those companies will get a very incomplete picture. In fact, they might even get misinformation by only having a part of the picture.
What do you think should be done to raise the awareness of cannabinoid DNA testing?
The conversation really is around education; and perhaps the most important conversation is really about how you get that education into the medical community. If we allow this to go through the normal course of amending the medical student curriculum, it’s going to be about many years before that gets out there. So we’re going to have to find more creative ways; and I think the industry, as a whole, needs to be involved in that. Doing so will help not only the industry, but very importantly help individuals who want to understand and consider how medicinal cannabis products can empower them finding their path to wellness.