Is psilocybin to psychedelic medicine what CBD is to medical marijuana?
Psilocybin (4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine) and psilocin are chemical compounds that come from certain types of dried or fresh hallucinogenic mushrooms found in various parts of the world. There are over 180 different species of mushrooms that contain psilocybin.
As psychedelic medicines begin to become decriminalized, psilocybin seems to be leading the way in this category, which also typically includes Ketamine, MDMA and LSD. Ketamine is an anesthetic that has been approved for use in drug-resistant depression patients. It is classified as a Schedule 3 drug. MDMA is a Schedule 1 drug and is also undergoing research as a treatment for PTSD and depression. LSD is also a Schedule 1 drug and is gaining popularity for small dosage applications to treat depression.
Psilocybin's natural origins make it more desirable versus the chemical psychedelic compounds. It also sounds much less threatening. A cute little mushroom seems less scary that tripping on LSD or taking a hit of ecstasy (MDMA). Even though Ketamine is already being used in clinics to treat patients, the broader market hears the word and thinks of animal tranquilizers and club kids using Special K. However, nature isn't a standardized world and that's where an emerging industry is, dare we say it, growing like mushrooms.
Legal Picture Changing
The legal landscape for psilocybin is rapidly changing. Several municipalities in the United States have decriminalized it including Denver Colo., Oakland and Santa Cruz, Calif. The latest to join this small group is Ann Arbor, Mich.
In Canada, the Canadian Minister of Health has granted a few terminally ill patients legal access to psilocybin to ease their end of life anxiety. So, the legality of these products is moving quickly. That has caused what had been a relatively small group of companies working with psilocybin to become a fast-growing sector of alternative plant medicine brands.
Numinus Wellness Inc. (LKYSF) (TSXV: NUMI) reported this week that it has begun cultivating Psilocybe mushrooms, for the purpose of psilocybin production, at its 7,000 square-foot Health Canada licensed facility. The company wants to be the first to market for product development when it comes to psychedelic-assisted therapy. Its license covers the production and extraction of psilocybin from mushrooms and it hopes to develop standardized methods for extractions.
In addition, the company hopes to explore product formulations of naturally occurring psilocybin and investigate naturally occurring psilocybin's efficacy as an alternative supply to synthetic psilocybin that is currently being used in research.
Ultimately, Numiness wants to use its own products in its own clinics for psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy, as well as other company's clinics.
Mind Medicine (MMEDF) also known as MindMed recently applied for an uplisting from the OTC Markets Group to the Nasdaq. The company has been conducting R&D work on psilocybin in collaboration with the University Hospital Basel's Liechti Lab in a study to better understand and compare the altered states of consciousness induced by psilocybin and LSD.
As part of its agreement with the University Hospital Basel, MindMed has noted that it will retain an exclusive license to all IP and any patents generated from data or findings in the study and related work on psilocybin, such as pharmacokinetic data and information on the metabolism. The company said it expects the study to be finished in the second quarter of 2021.
MindMed President Dr. Miri Halperin Wernli said, "Both LSD and psilocybin are thought to induce hallucinations mainly through the stimulation of the 5-HT2A receptor. However, it is known that there are differences in the receptor activation profiles between the two substances and these differences may induce different subjective effects. Therefore, with this study we will try to understand and compare the altered states of consciousness induced by the two substances and identify potential medicines for patients."
Even big pharma executives are jumping into the industry. Toronto-based mushroom life sciences company Cybin is a private company that recently named Doug Drysdale as its new CEO. Cybin is currently working on sublingual psilocybin strips and has attracted a number of former big names in Big Pharma who see this as the future of mental healthcare.
Drysdale's journey includes stints at Actavis, Pernix Therapeutics, Tedor Pharma, and Alvogen. Cybin's Chief Medical Officer Jukka Karjalainen also has 25+ years of experience in the pharma sector including Bioavail and Eli Lilly (LLY) .
The FDA has designated psilocybin as a "breakthrough therapy" for treatment-resistant depression. Additional indications are being studied by researchers at NYU and John Hopkins (among other universities) for PTSD, eating disorders, smoking cessation and treatment of substance use disorder.
Investors still need to be cautious on companies that are targeting psilocybin products. There are some businesses that are playing up the hype of mushrooms with little to back up their claims.
Also, some companies are claiming to work with mushrooms, but it isn't the psychedelic kind. While that isn't to say there aren't benefits to supplemental products like Lions Mane, it isn't the same as a company focused on psilocybin mushroom products.
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