CALGARY -- A Calgary company preparing to sell a lab-made version of the active compounds in cannabis rang the bell at the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

Willow Biosciences entered the market after developing pharmaceutical-grade cannabinoids using yeast, thanks to a partnership with researchers from the University of Calgary.

The idea is to attract customers in the growing medical cannabis market.

“We accessed a significant amount of capital last year. Now we’re listed on the big board in the TSX,” said Trevor Peters, CEO of Willow Biosciences.

“It’s a proud moment for us.”

He added “the genesis of what Willow is has come out of the U of C.”

The company’s top scientist is a leading expert on opium poppies due to his 25 years of research at U of C, where he also works as a professor of biochemistry.

“It’s simply taking our existing know-how and applying it to different systems,” said Peter Facchini, chief scientific officer at Willow Biosciences. "Our current choice is cannabinoids and we’re making great progress on that.”

Facchini said his team has been researching cannabinoids for Willow for about a year.

Growing cannabis plants and then extracting the compounds is more labour-intensive, requires much more space, and takes much longer than fermenting yeast to create the synthetically-derived version.

“Five days instead of four-to-six months for a crop,” explained Peters.

“The same quality and consistency that we can produce today in plants is small scale, but it allows for that in a larger environment.”

Willow’s goal is to sell to pharmaceutical companies which need the product in bulk for products such as cannabinoid-infused beverages or topical oils and creams.

“We are partnering with larger manufacturing organizations that allow us to move from that laboratory environment into larger-scale manufacturing," said Peters.

Facchini says business opportunities like these are important to help grow Calgary’s biotech industry.

“As soon as there’s a company available like Willow Biosciences, then there are career opportunities for world-class PhD scientists,” he said.

“That’s going to create economic opportunities and employment opportunities for the city.”

He said Willow employs 15 scientists, most of them former researchers at U of C, and plans to hire more.

“We certainly are among the best in the world to decode the DNA of plants," he said.