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For years, research into the therapeutic properties of psychedelic drugs was dismissed or ridiculed as recreational use of the substances was banned in the U.S. But in recent years, the “psychedelic renaissance” phenomenon has shifted attitudes by highlighting the utility of psychedelics in treating neurological conditions. Indeed, analysts predict the psychedelic global market will grow from around $5 billion in 2020 to more than $10 billion by 2027.
Companies such as Atai Life Sciences, Compass Pathways, Filament Health, MindBio Therapeutics, and Enveric Biosciences are venturing beyond the initial phases of their clinical trials. There’s also considerable momentum on the regulation front, as many states are considering bills to expand research or drug access.
“The prospect of these new treatments and a chance to change the lives of sufferers of these debilitating conditions due to our advancing scientific knowledge is what excited us the most about the current momentum in research and studies,” says MindBio Therapeutics Co-Founder Justin Hanka.
A psychedelic revolution
There is compelling evidence that psychedelic drugs operate differently, challenging the traditional approach to mental health and, by extension, the viability of treatments available. The mental health market has been static for years, lacking advances in meaningful treatment methods.
But the latest psychedelic studies focus on long-lasting relief from mental health complications. These medical trials prove that psychedelic-assisted therapy not only eases the symptoms of such disorders but, in some cases, has improved the quality of life altogether.
Meanwhile, psilocybin and LSD have successfully assisted people with substance abuse disorders, end-of-life anxiety, and suicidal tendencies in cancer patients.
Robin Carhart-Harris, the head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London, wrote in The Guardian: “We are on the verge of a paradigm shift in mental healthcare linked to an improved understanding of the origins of depression, and how we can most effectively treat it.”
Investors take notice
Predictably, investor interest in psychedelic treatment has spiked, with high-profile investors endorsing the rapidly developing industry. Enormous capital investment has flowed into the sector, propelling continued clinical breakthroughs and policymakers’ attention.
But the flow of significant capital, often powered by venture capital firms, faces obstacles and risks. The illicit psychedelic after decades of the War on Drugs policy raises questions about how receptive investors, regulators, patients, and the healthcare system will be to this new paradigm in psychiatry.
“A good portion of investors view this emerging space as a cutting-edge field worth paying attention to,” says Ken Belotsky, Partner at Negev Capital, an investment firm focused on companies developing novel psychedelic medications for various mental health issues. “But like with any new emerging opportunity, especially in the field of medicine where there are lengthy clinical trials, comes a tremendous level of unpredictability.”
Belotsky advises investors to identify strategic, creative management teams with a deep understanding of scientific, medical, and regulatory frameworks as those components are indescribable for the path to eventual commercialization.
As interest in the psychedelics market blooms, several drug companies are now employing A.I. technology to explore new psychedelic compounds to treat various mental health conditions and, in the process, highlighting the intersection of technology and the psychedelic industry.
Enveric Biosciences, a US-based biotech company, uses A.I. technology to uncover mental health and oncology therapies. The company works on two fronts in the discovery stage, targeting cancer-related distress and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Psychedelics, in particular, are one class of molecules where it’s so clear that they have very potent effects on the brain,” says CEO Joseph Tucker in the article published in Pharmaceutical Technology.
The psychedelic landscape is also expanding into digital mental health therapy, combining psychedelics with virtual and augmented reality tools directed at patients struggling with mental health conditions. The Miami-based telemedicine startup NUE Life Health aims to create a therapeutic ecosystem of ketamine therapy by utilizing an interactive companion app and virtual aftercare programs to tackle clinical depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
“It will be especially interesting to see which other integrative wellness modalities (yoga, meditation, breath work, acupuncture, etc.) are embraced more fully, wrote Greg Kearns, a healthcare strategist, in a newsletter for the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).
Kearns is optimistic that psychedelic-assisted therapies used in conjunction with preventative health services, “may be what it takes for us to finally transform the U.S. healthcare system from one that is more focused on the treatment of disease, to one that is focused on holistic wellness and the advancement of thriving individuals and communities.”