London-based start-up Compass Pathways is funding new research into psilocybin, the active ingredient in ‘magic mushrooms’. The company is co-founded by husband and wife partners George Goldsmith and Ekaterina Malievskaia. Goldsmith is a software engineer who specialised in solutions for collaborative teamwork and Malievskaia a doctor and heads the company’s research and development.
The pair hope to demonstrate that psilocybin has the potential to be a ‘breakthrough therapy’ for drug-resistant forms of depression as well as enhancing cognitive function more generally. Addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder are other conditions that are thought may benefit from psilocybin treatment.
Compass commissioned a study into psilocybin which has been carried out by King’s College London. The results will be published later this year but the company has already received ‘breakthrough therapy designation’ by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That means that that Compass Pathway’s psilocybin-based treatment will be fast-tracked through the drug development process, suggesting enough initial evidence to provide a compelling case.
Compass has already filed for patents and is backed by a raft of high profile entrepreneurs including Peter Theil, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal and Michael Novogratz, another billionaire who made the majority of his fortune through cryptocurrencies.
Magic mushrooms have been illegal in most of the Western world since U.S. President Nixon outlawed the fungi as having ‘no medical use’. Over the years there have been some small scale clinical trials that suggested Nixon may have been wrong but nothing on the level of the research commissioned by Compass.
Magic mushrooms have been used in spiritual rituals for thousands of years. The focus has been on the hallucinogenic and psychedelic properties that also made them popular with experimenters over the years and led to their association with the hippy movement of the 1960s. But the same psychedelic properties may also, properly controlled and administered, make them a promising treatment for mental health conditions.
Compass Pathways have now reached an agreement with a British manufacturer that will create synthetic psilocybin in significant quantities to be used in drugs undergoing clinical trials and eventual commercial production.
Magic mushrooms are the latest illegal drug that new research suggests may have medical properties. A huge amount of money is currently being invested in clinical research around cannabis-based treatments with a number already approved. LSD, or acid as it is also known, is another psychedelic whose possible potential as a treatment for certain mental health disorders is being investigated.