Mid-year Momentum Firing up a Psychedelics Rush

Psychedelics are finally, carefully, hitting its stride this year. Even with a dour stock market beating it up, mid-year indicators of a jazzed-up emerging psychedelics industry that is finding its way are everywhere.

As psychedelics news continues to grab headlines in mainstream publications from the New Yorker to the Wall Street Journal, the industry has become part of a slowly building mission creep into the consciousness of all healthcare solutions seekers, offering the potential of real, life-changing healthcare for unmet medical challenges in mental health treatment. 

And that’s a great place to be today, where the pandemic has triggered a 25 percent increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Healthcare is Fastest Growing Industry

Plus, five out of the 20 industries projected to grow the fastest from 2019 to 2029 are in healthcare, the fastest growing industry in the economy, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Investment advisors say that three of the five emerging industries today to invest in are artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and big data analytics. Psychedelics research is active in all three.

For instance, there is now machine learning working in psychedelics research, where artificial intelligence and data analytics, combined with machine learning, are used together to find out more about the various effects of a psychedelic substance.

Machine learning was applied to a database of testimonials to help uncover how drug-induced changes in subjective awareness were mechanistically rooted in the human brain, according to a study published in March 2022 by a team of researchers from the Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital and Department of Biomedical Engineering of McGill University; the Broad Institute at Harvard/MIT; SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University; and Mila – Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute. 

The study showed how drug-induced changes in subjective awareness are anatomically rooted in specific neurotransmitter receptor systems. The research team created a 3D map of the brain receptors and the subjective experiences linked to them across the whole brain. 

It was the largest ever psychedelics study that maps changes of conscious awareness to neurotransmitter systems.

Big data analytics is being used, updated and gathered up from these and other studies and clinical trials to help researchers analyze what they can and should pursue as they uncover more of the mysteries of psychedelics for mental health treatment. 

In short, even though a seasoned investor looks at the psychedelics industry as too volatile to jump into, too risky to invest in, the industry is looking stronger as of mid-2022 than it has ever been. And it’s beginning to make mainstream medical history.

Psychedelic R&D

Take the case of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) one of the leading companies in psychedelics research and industry development, and one of the organizations that is rapidly closing in on FDA approval for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) assisted therapy, hoping for a drug therapy to be ready in 2024 or, more likely, 2025, according to Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of MAPS.

MAPS completed their first phase 3 study in May, 2021, and has completed enrollment of the second phase three study. The first study was a multicenter, randomized, controlled trial that found that MDMA significantly reduced symptoms in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

On December 16, the highly respected Science magazine designated MAPS’ MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD among its Top Ten Scientific Breakthroughs of the Year in 2021. The trauma-focused therapy was recognized in the magazine alongside major findings in computational biochemistry, planetary science, particle physics, and health sciences. 

Ironically, Science magazine is the same publication that, in 2002, published a peer-reviewed article claiming that MDMA could lead to Parkinson’s disease (retracted as erroneous). “We’re the leading edge of psychedelic medicine going through regulated trials,” Doblin said at the 2022 Psych Symposium recently. “And so our study was great. But it also is indicative of a whole new era of research.”

He said that MAPS is working on introducing psychedelics into the prison system, which he said is a trauma-producing system that doesn’t really foster a reduction of recidivism. “So we’d like to bring psychedelic psychotherapy into that system, as well as legalizing these substances so that they’re not producing a lot of people going into prison,” he said. “It’s a top priority of ours. It’s also something that when we think about mainstreaming psychedelics when we talk about bringing it to the police, to the first responder, to the firefighters, to the emergency medical service to the prison guards, it breaks down (the stigma) created by the drug war.”

There has been a steady rollout of other firsts so far this year from key industry players. On May 11, MindMed (NASDAQ: MNMD) presented results of their phase 2 trial with LSD for anxiety from a historic research study. On the same day, Cybin released data on their pilot study of the Kernel Flow device, a wearable helmet that can measure brain activity during a psychedelic experience. Kernel Flow successfully measured the neuro-effect of ketamine over 11 days and confirmed changes in functional connectivity that are consistent with current scientific research.

Numinus Wellness, a bioscience company that has developed standardized analytical methods for psilocybin, ketamine, LSD, MDMA, mescaline, and other related substances, is opening five to ten more labs in 2022. The company gets two-thirds of its revenue from their clinical labs division, Numinus Health, according to Numinus CEO Payton Nyquvest, and has seen a significant uptick in lab business.

Another psychedelics company seriously energized this year is Atai Life Sciences. Calling 2021 a “transformative year” for them, Greg Weaver, CFO of Atai Life Sciences noted that the company had raised $410 million in June and now had $362 million in cash to help with the research programs of 14 drug developments. 

This year, companies in the Atai pipeline will be working on preclinical trial developments; a handful of phase 1 trials; a trial they expect to go to Phase 2 in 2022; and a Phase 3 trial with their strategic partner Compass Pathways, which they also hope to commence sometime this year. “This exciting momentum continues in 2022, and our cash runway of approximately 2 years enables us to work towards our goal of achieving clinically meaningful and sustained behavioral change in mental health patients,” Florian Brand, CEO and co-founder of Atai Life Sciences said in a press release.

Expect more announcements this year, heralding more medical firsts, as the industry realists basically put their heads down and attempt to deliver on promises that sprang from vague hypotheses just a few years ago. 

They are all searching to deliver wellness on the real final frontier—inner space—and the whole world’s watching and waiting.

Dave Hodes

David Hodes is a business journalist based in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. He has contributed feature articles to several cannabis and psychedelics publications, as well as general business/lifestyle publications, on a variety of topics. Hodes was selected as 2018 Journalist of the Year by Americans for Safe Access. He is a member of the National Press Club, and the deputy booking agent for the National Press Club Headliners Committee.


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