The 15th annual Horizons psychedelic conference is happening in New York City this week. This five-day event covers science, investing, and culture within the psychedelic medicine industry.
Horizons PBC (public benefit corporation) says its mission is to help the public understand the world of psychedelics. The group offers digital forums, classes, and films to examine the role of psychedelic drugs and plant medicines in science, culture, and spirituality.
The conference starts on Wednesday with classes and workshops, with Thursday focused on investing. Friday targets research, while Saturday delves into medicines, and Sunday closes out with a dive into the cultural and spiritual aspects of psychedelics.
With so much happening, Green Market Report spoke with Kevin Baltick, founder and director of Horizons PBC, so that we could tell you where to focus your time in a can’t miss psychedelics conference.
- Patents are a big – and often controversial – topic within the psychedelic community. Many believe a plant should not be patented, but drug companies often patent variations on a plant compound. A Thursday panel hosted by Bloomberg journalist Tiffany Kary will tackle the topic with pharmaceutical patent attorney Jack Griem and entrepreneur Carey Turnbull, who has set up a number of projects designed to protect certain compounds. It’s a complicated subject in which money is needed for studies and for treatments to be successful. Patents help bring in the needed funds, but the industry also wants to protect these plants from bad actors who are strictly in it for the money. Sure to be a lively discussion on whether patents protect plants or profits.
- Finding the bridge between values and profits is exactly what will be discussed in Thursday’s session with Shelby Clark, the venture capital investor and partner at Lionheart Ventures. Clark invests in and supports companies that expand human consciousness, with a specific focus on mental health and psychedelic therapies. This session will explore values-oriented approaches and for-profit businesses that are currently funded and doing well. Jonathan Sabbagh and Myriam Barthes from Journey Clinical have a vision for the future where people delivering care can own their own businesses versus corporate clinic companies. Jeeshan Chowdhury, CEO of Journey Colab, brings psychedelic care to addiction through a unique stakeholder model that shares ownership with Indigenous communities.
- The use of psychedelics to treat alcohol use disorder or alcoholism is getting lots of attention, so Horizons invited Michael Bogenschutz, MD, professor of psychiatry at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine, to discuss the topic on Friday. Bogenschutz recently completed a placebo-controlled trial investigating the persisting effects of psilocybin vs. active placebo drinking behavior, craving, and other psychological outcomes in AUD. He is also the principal investigator (PI) of a multisite phase 2b trial of psilocybin for AUD that will launch in early 2023 and the site PI for a three-site NIDA-funded trial of psilocybin in the treatment of tobacco use disorder. His clinical research includes work with MDMA, cannabidiol, and topiramate. Alcohol use disorder could be the condition that helps psychedelics break into mainstream medicine.
- There are numerous conditions for which psychedelics are being looked at as a treatment alternative. Another panel Friday exploring some potential uses features:
- Chris Pittenger, professor of psychiatry at Yale, who is looking at obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Sandeep Nayak, Johns Hopkins, who is researching mood disorders as well as substance disorders.
- Emmanuelle Schindler, a neurologist at Yale, who has been looking at cluster headache research, which is unique in that it seems to produce a cessation of cluster headaches in some patients, even in doses in which there are no visionary or hallucinatory effects.
- Sunday takes a different and yet still important focus on other aspects of the psychedelic world. Fireside Project has been running a free peer support hotline for people having or who have had difficult psychedelic experiences, despite having very little funding for operations. The project is run by Joshua White and Hanifa Nayo Washington, who will discuss the project and share some data on the program. The day will also have discussions on taking the ayahuasca shaman experience and how it translates to a modern setting, as well as a session on the relationships between indigenous cultures, their psychedelic plant experiences, and how investment attention can help but also warp these communities.
While it didn’t get included in the Top 5 list, an honorable mention goes to Michael Mullette, chief operating officer of MAPS PBC, who will appear on Thursday. MAPS is the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which was founded in 1986. Mullette is an experienced drug development and commercialization expert and most recently served as the vice president and managing director of North America for Moderna (Nasdaq: MRNA), where he oversaw the commercialization of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine during the height of the pandemic. He will talk about being on the front line of a pandemic and rolling out a drug to the company and the world. Mullette left Moderna for MAPS, and that says a lot.
This conference has helped the public understand the world of psychedelics, and instead of just cheerleading the industry, it really explores the not-so-positive challenges and issues. It’s refreshing to attend a conference that, while highlighting successes, can also analyze what hasn’t worked and how to fix it. Horizons is one of the best psychedelic conferences in the industry.