“If cannabis has been significant, psilocybin will have much more of a therapeutic impact,” said Toronto-based cannabis-turned-psychedelics entrepreneur Ronan Levy, when Green Market Report caught up with him to talk about the future of research on psychedelics.
Field Trip Ventures, the world’s first integrated company in legal psychedelics and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, announced last month that it has developed a strategic partnership with the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Mona, Jamaica to create the world’s first legal research and cultivation facility dedicated to psilocybin-producing mushrooms.
One of five co-founders, Ronan Levy, who has found significant success in the cannabis industry, predicts that what will be uncovered about psychedelics at the UWI research facility will be a “paradigm shift in the treatment of mental health.”
What’s Going Down in Jamaica
The partnership will involve Field Trip Natural Products Limited (Field Trip’s Jamaican subsidiary) constructing, funding, and operating a state-of-the-art research and cultivation facility on UWI’s Mona campus. UWI will lease to Field Trip Ventures the land for building the facility, while Field Trip Ventures will provide leading biology, mycology and chemistry researchers to assist Field Trip’s research and cultivation efforts.
Jamaica is an ideal location in which to study the effects of psychedelics, specifically psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”). In Jamaica, psilocybin has never been made illegal, and it remains legal to sell, possess, transport and cultivate. “The legal status of psilocybin in Jamaica enables broader clinical research,” says Levy. Most important is the ability to “get approvals to work with organic psilocybin”.
Most of the research on psilocybin until now, Levy notes, has been limited to synthetic molecules due to the legal status of psilocybin across the world. Working with organic molecules derived from psilocybin in Jamaica will allow research to be uncovered on how psilocybin, and its precursor molecule psilocin, actually affect humans, especially in light of recent movements towards decriminalization and legalization of psilocybin in Colorado and California.
The government in Jamaica is supportive of this partnership, as the Minister of Health, Christopher Tufton, is a vocal advocate for this research, and puts the mental health of the people of his country as his primary objective.
A Best in Class Partnership
UWI has long been known within academic communities as a forward-thinking research and education center. The focus of the UWI Facility will be broad-ranging, from genetics, breeding and cultivation work on the 180+ plus species of psilocybin-producing mushrooms, to developing methods and analysis for extractions and formulations, to identification of novel molecules for drug development purposes. Research at the Facility will be led by Rupika Delgoda, Professor of Biochemical Pharmacology & Pharmacognosy and Director of the Natural Products Institute at UWI, who holds a doctorate from Oxford University (UK) in Pharmacology. “It was an immediate synergy,” said Levy, noting that the partnership brought together “a well-equipped team of scientists” to provide a turnkey solution to legal psychedelics research through the research facility.
Levy notes that the facility will also focus on other molecules with therapeutic interest and values for psychedelics assisted psychotherapy, with best in class practices to enhance the psychotherapy process, and in essence to “suspend the ego”, as Levy describes it. The facility will start looking at ketamine as well while also integrating practices like meditation and breathwork into the psychotherapy sessions.
A Look at the Growing Psychedelics Movement
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely heard that more people are beginning to turn to psychedelics, and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, to manage mental health. Psychedelic assisted psychotherapy, or PAP, involves the professionally supervised use of ketamine, MDMA, psilocybin, LSD and ibogaine as part of psychotherapy programs. Clinical results so far are showing safety and efficacy, even for “treatment-resistant” conditions, which is why firms like Field Trip Ventures, and Orthogonal Thinker, who we covered earlier this season, are working so hard to spring the psychedelics movement forward.
Earlier this fall it was announced that John’s Hopkin’s opened the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. Researchers intend to focus on how psychedelics affect behavior, mood, cognition, brain function, and biological markers of health. Upcoming studies will determine the effectiveness of psilocybin as a new therapy for opioid addiction, Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (formerly known as chronic Lyme disease), anorexia nervosa and alcohol use in people with major depression.
Field Trip intends to build on the existing and current work that is happening within the psychedelics and psilocybin movement. “Although psilocybin, as a molecule, has been well-studied, there is great opportunity to create impact by developing a better understanding of the fungi that produce psilocybin and other tryptamines. This is why we are so pleased to be partnering with UWI, a leading global academic institution, in building this facility in Jamaica,” said Mujeeb Jafferi, Field Trip’s President.
Standing on the Shoulders of Cannabis
Working in cannabis, and building a number of successful companies and partnerships, is what Ronan Levy sees as his biggest strength of what he and many of his partners bring to the Field Trip and psychedelics table.
“I wanted to ensure that I was able to provide a thoughtful and prudent approach to cannabis medicine,” said Levy of his first successful companies Canadian Cannabis Clinics and CanvasRX (co-founded with Field Trip co-founders Joseph del Moral, Hannan Fleiman, and Dr. Ryan Yermus), which have served over 100,000 Canadians in the medical cannabis system. After CanvasRX was sold to Aurora Cannabis Inc (NYSE: ACB) in 2016, Levy served as Senior Vice President, Business and Corporate Affairs for Aurora. Holding a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Commerce degree, Levy saw a natural next step in getting back to entrepreneurship with the psychedelics movement starting to take off.
Much like the cannabis industry’s maturity, Levy sees the same maturity happening within psychedelics in the way that we’ve been able to classify components of the cannabis plant. Because of what the cannabis industry has done for understanding psychoactive compounds, psychedelics have an excellent benchmark to start off, with Levy noting now “the caliber is higher than cannabis was five years ago.”
Levy is taking his experience in what he refers to as “stigmatized medicine” into this paradigm shift that could have a significant impact on health care in the future.
Because the status of psilocybin still remains illegal across the world, it’s difficult to determine the potential market worth of legal psychedelics. Psychedelic Science Review noted that “any drug with the potential to address a $48 billion cost to employers due to treatment-resistant depression and $249 billion alcohol-associated cost to society, also has the potential to make a momentous impact in the marketplace.”
“We’re getting excitement from conventional pharmaceuticals and Big Pharma,” says Levy.
Green Market Report continues to keep a keen eye on the developing psychedelics industry and looks forward to covering important movements in this promising movement.