Steve Cohen Donates $5M for MDMA's Push to Go Mainstream

This story was republished with permission from Crain’s New York.

A significant player in the psychedelics industry has received a $5 million infusion from hedge-fund billionaire and New York Mets owner Steve Cohen and his wife, deepening the couple’s efforts to bring mind-altering therapies into the mainstream.

The Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation is donating the funds to MAPS, or the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelics Studies, a nonprofit that has pushed for more research on psychedelic drugs since 1986. The organization is engaged in a financially-intensive push to get the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve MDMA, also known as ecstasy or molly, for use against post-traumatic stress disorder.

MAPS’ public-benefit-corporation subsidiary plans to submit a new-drug application to the FDA later this year, the foundation said in a statement Wednesday. If the agency approves an MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD, MAPS and the foundation will create a patient-assistance fund to ease access to the treatment for needy individuals, backed in part by revenue generated by the public-benefit corporation.

If the FDA doesn’t approve MDMA, the $5 million will serve as a simple grant in support of MAPS’ work.

Alexandra Cohen, the president of the foundation, said in the statement that millions of Americans, including veterans and first responders, suffer from PTSD. “Psychedelic compounds represent a new opportunity to address these often treatment-resistant conditions and bring hope to patients,” she said.

The Cohens’ foundation describes itself as one of the largest private backers of U.S. psychedelic projects, having pledged a total of $60 million in delivered and promised grants—including an earlier $5 million to MAPS. The Cohens have mostly declined to discuss their support of psychedelic research in detail, but the foundation’s website outlines an array of ailments that could benefit from such therapies, including depression, anxiety, addiction and Alzheimer’s disease.

The Cohens aren’t alone in ramping up their support of psychedelics. Blake Mycoskie, founder of the Toms shoe brand, on Wednesday pledged $100 million toward psychedelic research and access. “I don’t see a chance in my lifetime to be part of something else that could end so much human suffering,” Mycoskie said on a stage at the MAPS Psychedelic Science conference in Denver.

Steve Cohen, 67, came to fame as the leader of hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors, which paid a record $1.8 billion fine in 2013 to settle a seven-year federal insider-trading probe. The legal battle partly inspired the Showtime series Billions. Cohen, who was never personally charged or sued, remains in the hedge-fund business at the renamed Point72 Asset Management. He bought full control of the Mets baseball franchise in 2020 after years as a minority owner.

MAPS is widely seen as a bellwether for the psychedelics industry. Not only could it be the first organization to bring a longstanding underground drug to the market through an official regulatory path, its not-for-profit ethos is seen as important by many in the psychedelics field, who believe strongly in broad accessibility for such drugs.

“We hope that foundations and philanthropists will consider similar innovative ways to fund MAPS’ critical work today and endow equitable access to these therapies in the future,” MAPS said in an emailed statement.

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