New Research Finds Promise in Psychiatric Use Of Psilocybin; North American Companies Explore Full Potential

A new study led by the Imperial College London’s Centre for Psychedelic Research has yielded promising results for the use of psilocybin in psychiatric therapy.

Psilocybin, the psychoactive compound of magic mushrooms – was pitted up against popular SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) escitalopram. Results were measured through scoring tallied after surveying participants on their sleep, energy, appetite, mood and suicidal ideations.

The largely-negatively focused questionnaire attained similar results for both the SSRI and the psilocybin group – an already promising result. However, some markers that were not originally part of the study showed far superior results in the psilocybin group. Namely, measures of work and social functioning, mental well-being and the ability to feel happy.

This is one of the first studies to benchmark psychedelics and a traditional depression treatment. The previously mentioned markers are of major significance, as one of the more usual unwanted side effects of SSRIs is emotional blunting – the inability to experience positive or negative experiences. Meanwhile, psilocybin seems to work on the brain receptors responsible for rearranging our worldview.

Study author Dr. Carhart-Harris said that after psychedelic therapy, subjects reported feeling "recalibrated, reset like they haven't for years" and "enjoying life".

"They get more at the root cause of suffering [rather than] plastering over or muting their symptoms," he added.

The report comes during the thick of the most widespread mental health crisis of our generation – the covid-19 pandemic has skyrocketed psychological and psychiatric health issues across the globe, and the difficult-to-ignore barriers to entry of long durations, hard to control dosages, and unpredictability of traditional psychedelics remain as hurdles most patients are unwilling to tolerate.

However, the advent of the North American psilocybin boom has paved the way for local companies to tackle those issues and work on modified compounds that target specific brain receptors, while overcoming common issues with traceability, predictability, and duration. Two of the teams leading the charge with potentially ground-breaking compounds designed by all-star scientific teams are Compass Pathways plc and Bright Minds Biosciences.

Displays of chemistry

COMPASS Pathways plc (NASDAQ: CMPS) is a mental health care company operating out of both the United Kingdom and the United States, and a major player in the psychedelic therapy space. Their flagship product is COMP360, a Phase IIb crystallized psilocybin formulation. Trials for its use in treatment-resistant depression are ongoing.

CMPS had a successful IPO back in September 2020, and their Q4 numbers reflect the growing investor enthusiasm around psychedelic therapies. They also recently secured two new patents, now totaling four in their possession.

Bright Minds Biosciences Inc. (CSE: DRUG) is an earlier-stage Vancouver-based biotechnology company dedicated to the development of 5-HT (serotonin) compounds. Their array of therapeutic products includes treatments for pediatric pharmacoresistant epilepsy, cluster headaches, migraines, fibromyalgia, chemotherapy-induced neuropathies, neuropsychiatry-major depressive disorders and impulse control disorders.

Their portfolio of new chemical entities, or NCEs, is aimed to treat a wide gamut of health issues such as pain indications, seizures, and neuropsychiatric disorders. The team’s world-class members average 25 years of experience in psychedelic-specific drug development – each one assigned to fulfill a specialized role within the structure. This allowed Bright Minds to create a pipeline of best-in-class 5-HT (serotonin) compounds with improved effects, better safety profiles and reduced unwanted side effects.

The plan is starting to hatch: the company recently released study results showing a one of their compounds attained a 50% decrease in opioid self administration in a predictive rodent model.

A Bright Future

Compass recently acquired two patents for their proprietary compounds: one for the rights to crystalline psilocybin formulations and methods using those formulations for the treatment of major depressive disorder, and another for oral dosage forms of crystalline psilocybin and methods of treating major depressive disorder. With this, they total 4 patents in their possession.

George Goldsmith, co-founder and CEO, commented on the milestones: “These patents are a critical milestone in our efforts to establish a new evidence-based option to help patients with depression in the US. Through these grants, the USPTO has recognized our innovations. These decisions enable us to continue to do the highest quality clinical research and bring potentially life-changing care to patients who might benefit from this therapy."

CMPS’ patent requests have also stirred controversy, as there have been claims of them attempting to claim patents on soft furniture, accompanying music and basic bedside therapist accompaniment.

In Bright Mind’s case, their efforts are now producing tangible results: in a recent press release, the company revealed the conclusions of an opioid (fentanyl) self-administration rodent model conducted at the Center for Addiction Research, University of Texas Medical Branch. The rodent group treated with DRUG’s proprietary 5-HT2C agonists showed dose-dependent reduction in fentanyl intake of up to 50% - with behavioral changes recorded being minimal to nil.

The opioid crisis raging through North America since 2019 has rapidly accelerated since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. 2020 recorded the greatest number of drug overdoses in a one-year span in history. With no sign of the pandemic slowing down soon, the results shine a light of hope in a dark moment for mental health worldwide.

Ian McDonald, DRUG CEO, stated in the same PR: “We are pleased to advance this important investigational work with the potential to expand therapeutic options for OUD (opioid use disorder) that improve treatment response and adherence – all with the goal to ultimately save lives.”

Speaking for the Center for Addiction Research, University of Texas Medical Branch, Dr. Kathryn A. Cunningham commented on the study: “The Bright Minds approach builds on an innovative new medication candidate as a promising means to reduce craving and promote abstinence in patients with opioid use disorder.”

As for finances, the company recently closed a CA$ 25.9 million unit offering for research and development. Long-term, the company’s thesis poses that their risk profile is diminished since it’s expected to have partnered up with a big pharma partner by the time clinical trials, and their considerable costs, are due.

A psychedelic light in the dark

Safer, cleaner and more predictable serotonin compounds could mark the beginning of a new era in cognitive and physical care. Opioid abuse, anxiety, and depression are only some of the already pervasive issues that were and continue to be fueled by the stress that the pandemic and its by-products cause.

As more research is aggressively pursued in the psychedelic sector, these early signs of promise could be the sign of an impending shakeup of the $2.5 trillion mental health market. Currently sitting at CA$ 5.90 vs. CMPS’ almost US$ 38, investors could find DRUG to be a value play in the sector worth exploring.

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