Published on
June 5, 2022 by Joseph Levy

Strain Genie - Providing Personalized Insights About the Medicinal Cannabis That’s Right for You

Strain Genie - Providing Personalized Insights About the Medicinal Cannabis That’s Right for You

There aren’t a lot of companies in the DNA testing market that will assess your genetic predisposal to medicinal cannabis, but Strain Genie is one of them. So we had a conversation with Nicco Reggente, a co-founder of that company, to get his insights about not only his company and what it offers, but where the industry is going.

How does your background in cognitive neuroscience inform your involvement with a company that assesses people’s genetic predisposition to cannabinoids?

When I was doing my Ph.D. at UCLA, I was very focused on using machine learning as a way to disentangle certain disorders. I was also interested in personalized medicine, so I developed methodologies around using neuroimaging data to predict people’s responses to treatment in the future.

I had this insight that you could apply the same methodologies that were so successful for predicting peoples’ treatment efficacy outcomes for cognitive behavioral therapy, and use those to try and predict outcomes with cannabis-based treatment for people with a variety of different conditions.

So the cross-link here is the methodology of using advanced statistics and machine learning to bring about a more surgically targeted path towards personalized wellness.

Do you think most people understand the link between psychology and medicinal cannabis?

I think that people know it anecdotally, and there’s been enough opportunity for people to give first-hand witness to some of the benefits.

However, the issue is that there’ve been prohibitions that have stifled the ability to formally study this in a more clinical setting. There really hasn’t been an opportunity for this in the cannabis realm.

There’s a huge disconnect, because a lot of the studies that look at THC or CBD in isolation tend to not really yield the insights that people have been able to witness anecdotally.

When, where, and why was Strain Genie founded?

We started Strain Genie about three years ago, and we’re incorporated in Delaware and based out of Santa Monica, California.

In my opinion, when you’re doing everything on your own, you’re not likely to find something that delivers the outcome you desire if there’s as big of a search space as there is with medical cannabis.

Interview with Nicco Reggente of Strain Genie

So in order to get what you want, you should take a data-driven approach and leverage things, like statistics and machine learning, to help guide you towards the right products.

This is something you can’t necessarily crowdsource. Because of your individual, genetic differences in your endocannabinoid system, you can’t just rely on reviews from other people. That’s where Strain Genie comes in.

Why are there so few companies doing what Strain Genie does?

It’s hard work. To actually get the type of insights that Strain Genie provides is really difficult.

There’s a big, intellectual moat around what we’re doing, because it requires a ton of research and a pretty advanced understanding of statistics, genetics, cognitive psychology, various disorders, the metabolic pathways in the body, the endocannabinoid system, and of the neuronal signaling necessary for that.

Also, it’s such a novel and new field that people haven’t really been able to see how expansive it can be.

What distinguishes Strain Genie from the competition?

First and foremost, breadth and depth. As for the breadth, we look at over 150 SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphisms), and our look-up table is 450 entries long, because there are three biomarkers on each SNP.

As for the depth, we have a lot of data on product and strain information, and we’ve developed an entire mapping system to get people from symptom to product. So, we have the advantage of being able to take the information in your report, and make it ecologically valid and actionable.

Interview with Nicco Reggente of Strain Genie

Do you think there will be a lot more companies like Strain Genie in the near future?

I think that companies like Strain Genie are a little too ahead of the curve in terms of whether there’s going to be a large wave [of similar companies] once there’s federal legalization.

I personally think so, but I also think that that’s probably a few more years out than even I would speculate, because there are so many other issues that are plaguing the industry right now.

What I really hope for, though, is that there’s a shift towards personalization, which would then be incorporated into preexisting companies. That will, in turn, allow for the birth of new companies.

But I suspect that that’s going to be a little bit slower than anybody thinks, because of all the regulations that have to be overcome first.

Does Strain Genie offer its services in places where medicinal cannabis isn’t legalized?

Strain Genie ships internationally, and we service almost all 50 states [in the U.S.A.]. Information is not illegal and we’re only providing people with information, not products.

Does Strain Genie provide other health-related insights aside from how one’s DNA predisposes them to cannabinoids?

Oh yeah! I like to break down our report into two main groups. The first has to do with warnings that are directly related to your cannabis consumption — things like whether or not you’re an ultra-slow metabolizer of THC, or whether you have a predisposition for cannabis-induced psychosis.

We also have seventeen medical categories that have up to a dozen traits within each category, so we’re able to provide health-related insights for the consumer as well, e.g. eye health (age-related macular degeneration vs. glaucoma). These are insights that can help inform your cannabis consumption.

Interview with Nicco Reggente of Strain Genie

Are the reports presented in a way that’s easy for a layperson to understand?

To be honest, we try our best. Communication of dense material is difficult in general.

As you’re looking through the report, you can see things that have increased risk based on your genetic predisposition, and what that means as a function of that. And then at the end, we provide you with a summary report.

I think that people will definitely be able to read the report, understand it, get more details, and be able to act on those details when they so desire.

But what we’re working on now, and what I’m very excited about, is bringing all the information out of a report into a dynamic, web-based portal that’s similar to 23andMe’s.

So you’ll be presented with the information in a more graphical format, you won’t be overwhelmed by the breadth of information available to you, and you’ll be able to take action on everything.

That is our service. We want to help you connect the dots and build bridges to put something in your hands that works.

Do people generally understand the connection between DNA and medicinal cannabis as much as they should?

I personally don’t think that it’s as widely understood as it could be, and that’s predominantly due to legislation.

There has been a good amount of research related to the genetic underpinnings of the endocannabinoid system, but it’s usually more so from a basic perspective. There’s not necessarily research that looks at genetic predispositions to responses to cannabis.

What should be done to increase awareness of cannabinoid DNA testing?

It starts at the funding and legality level. We need to be able to identify genetic biomarkers that can account for the variance across individuals in their response to cannabis, because then we can increase the efficacy rates — just like what people are now finally doing with pharmacogenetics.

So I think we need a combination of putting an emphasis on the people that make funding decisions, and then (in public media) to piggyback off the success stories of pharmacogenetics, saying, “Hey, let’s not take 50 years to do this for cannabis.”

About Author
Joseph Levy
Joseph Levy
Writer

Joseph Levy is a transplant from New York and currently living in Cyprus. After receiving his law degree and acquiring eight years of experience in the civil side of American law, he moved to the Mediterranean and shifted his focus from being an attorney to his first love: content writing. Joseph prioritizes not only honest accuracy, but also providing an informative and interesting perspective on whatever he puts his name to.

Joseph Levy is a transplant from New York and currently living in Cyprus. After receiving his law degree and acquiring eight years of experience in the civil side of American law, he moved to the Mediterranean and shifted his focus from being an attorney to his first love: content writing. Joseph prioritizes not only honest accuracy, but also providing an informative and interesting perspective on whatever he puts his name to.