When David Nikzad first moved to Hawaii in the early 2000s as a proud and confident member of the cannabis industry, he met a shaman who changed his trajectory forever. “Go back to the land,” said the shaman, “We are all children of the land.”
And that is exactly what David Nikzad did.
Using the land of the Hawaiian Islands as his plant-medicine laboratory, Nikzad went on a journey of discovery by spending time with plant-healers, shamans, plant growers, and people in Hawaii who had been using the medicines of the earth through hundreds of years of tradition. “On the Hawaiian Islands, people make ‘brews’ from the almost 2000 botanicals that can be found in the region,” he describes.
During this journey of discovery, Nikzad found psilocybin, beginning on the path that would eventually lead to him becoming founder of Orthogonal Thinker, a biotech holdings company that now has a goal to bring psilocybin to the world, one microdose at a time.
The Growing Interests in Psilocybin
Psilocybin can be found in over 100 mushroom species, but is most commonly found in Psilocybe cubensis, or what has become widely known as “magic mushrooms”. When psilocybin is ingested, it’s broken down to produce psilocin, which is responsible for the psychoactive effects. Psilocin is also the precursor molecule of psilocybin.
The psychedelics movement is moving forward, albeit slowly, with emergent research supporting the therapeutic properties of psilocybin and psilocin, especially among treatment-resistant depression and other mental health issues.
At present, it is illegal to sell products with psilocybin or psilocin, but just this past year, Denver, Colorado, and Oakland, California decriminalized the possession of products containing these compounds. “I believe that people will have access to these medicines by 2020,” says Nikzad, “There are emergent initiatives going on behind the scenes. This is a global movement.”
The Story Behind Orthogonal Thinker
“I grew up being told I had every mental disorder possible,” said Nikzad when Green Market Report asked him to describe his journey into Orthogonal Thinker. “About 11 years ago, I found myself somewhat depressed with the business world and I began understanding that everything about making money was wrong. Through that process, we started working on a personal fund that was focused on investing in a frequency of energy, which always came down to the founder.”
When he made the move to Hawaii and began meeting with shamans and what he calls “master formulators” of plant medicines, this is when he discovered psilocybin. With his personal investment fund that he’d developed with his business partner, he focused on “incubating plant-medicine companies that used whole-plant products to heal people”.
“In our 10-year journey, we’ve discerned and identified a ‘nano-super compound’, psilocybin. This is something that can be taken in a microdose, and through Orthological Thinker, we created a product where the effects are not overwhelming, and that is clean. It’s a product that everyone can take.”
Taking a Giant Leap Forward
Orthogonal Thinker announced last month that it raised $2.5 million in capital. This funding completes approximately $4 million in seed capital raised to date, with more funding coming in.
Orthogonal will use this financing to support the distribution and development of new products across its family of companies, including subsidiaries EI.ventures and Maui Raw. EI.ventures is a formulations company that holds the intellectual property rights for plant-based psychoactive compounds. Maui Raw is a clean-food CPG company committed to delivering non-GMO raw food products. Over the last 10 years, Orthogonal has acquired and developed products supporting new food, technology, and scientific advancements in plant medicine to elevate and empower humanity.
The choice of partnerships demonstrates that Nikzad is just as empowered by non-psychoactive plant-based compounds for their nutritional properties, as he is the psychoactive ones for their effects. “Nutritional alkaloids need to effortlessly get into our daily diet,” he says. Orthogonal Thinker’s co-founder Michelle Valentin is a food scientist with a background in clean-label foods, taking the approach of food being medicine.
“Our products are 99% clean label,” says Nikzad, “We look at everything as a delivery system.” Valentin believes that gut health is at the core of food science, with the gut bacteria rebooting in our systems every 9 hours. The products, which are delivered in water-soluble pouches, have been formulated with gut bacteria to promote this process.
Brining ohana to the Vision
Orthogonal Thinker’s goal is to make plant-based products that “aid in mental thought and intellectual expansion” accessible to everyone, with a business model that supports providing a three-milligram microdose of the product Psilly for $1. This model is based on the Hawaiian word ohana which to Nikzad means family and friends and never leaving anyone behind.
“We know this product is very inexpensive to make the way we make it,” says Nikzad, “We understand that with clinical trials and production at a medical-grade, we would still make money, and people would have access.”
This selfless quality is what makes Orthogonal Thinker stand out. The company is dedicated to open-source IP sharing to ensure that the benefits of psilocin are widespread. “We are in the process of patenting everything we are working on to distribute everything we have to the world,” says Nikzad, “We partner with the best of the best to share IP and information.” Nikzad notes that he has received vast interest from other countries in his work.
The team that Nikzad has built is critical not only to the financing of the project but also to advancing the movement of psychedelics across the U.S. and the world. “There is an overflow of people who want to work with us. It’s been very humbling,” says Nikzad of the group of investors that includes cryptocurrency investors, venture capitalists, pro athletes, and even one Olympic athlete. “All our investors have a story too,” he adds.
“Our team is made up of people who have been in the FDA space for 30 years, doctors, chemists, lawyers, and people who once had ‘human jobs’ and are now living their dharma, their purpose in life,” Nikzad adds that it’s important to him that everyone who invests in or works for Orthogonal Thinker has a relationship with plant-medicine and their products.
“A New Standard of Pharma”
When Green Market Report asked Nikzad whether the cannabis movement has set the stage for the success of the psychedelics movement, he said, “In some regards, cannabis has been a gateway, but has taught us what not to do, and where to shift. We focus on compliance and medical efficacy.”
Nikzad describes what Orthogonal Thinker is doing as the “new standard of pharma”, seeing a future where physicians will be confident in prescribing products like Psilly to their patients. “These are beautiful medicines that are plant-based,” he says, “These are not synthetic products or ‘designer drugs’ this is all about plant medicine nutraceuticals where you’re getting the benefits of whole plant alkaloids.”
A daily microdoser himself, Nikzad believes wholeheartedly in the benefits of psilocin for health and wellbeing, “This product is in my bloodstream and it makes me operate from a place of empathy, with an open heart and mind.”: a lot more of what the world could use these days.