God, is that you?
Plus the first Psychedelic Big Pharma Partnership and other developments
In today’s brief round-up, we’re taking a quick look at two recent business developments and considering a more esoteric side of the psychedelic field.
Terran Bioscience’s Partnership with Pharma giant Sanofi
Remote Ketamine Provider, Nue Life, raises $23 million
The 60th anniversary of the Good Friday Experiment
Terran Biosciencs x Sanofi
It appears we have the first partnership between a classic “Big Pharma” company and upstart psychedelic-focused biotech.
There’s a sense that validation of the ‘psychedelics as pharmaceutical’ thesis will come when a Merck or a Pfizer acquires a MindMed or Compass.
But in this case, we have the opposite. Terran Biosciences is licensing late-stage assets from Sanofi.
“Terran Biosciences, Inc. ("Terran"), a biotech platform company dedicated to the development of transformational therapeutics for neurological and psychiatric diseases, has entered into an agreement with Sanofi S.A. ("Sanofi") for worldwide exclusive rights to develop and commercialize two late-stage CNS pipeline assets.
These therapeutics generated 4 Investigational New Drug (IND) applications and over 104 clinical studies involving more than 15,000 subjects across a number of CNS indications.
Terran plans to quickly advance the development of these assets for neurological and psychiatric indications, which include several novel applications where there is a large unmet medical need.
Also noteworthy is Terran’s acquisition of the patent portfolio from Blumentech S.L., the Spanish holding company founded by the late Jordi Riba, a Spanish Psychopharmacologist who conducted pioneering research on Ayahuasca, DMT, and other compounds.
From the Terran press release last week:
“Widely admired for his trailblazing work in the space, Dr. Riba was the first to conduct a placebo-controlled study of ayahuasca in 1999, and published extensively on the ability of the molecule DMT to induce neurogenesis. His findings demonstrated novel ways to maintain the therapeutic and neurogenic benefit of psychedelic compounds while also reducing potential side effects and increasing the potential for use across a much wider population of patients.
During his time as a senior researcher at the Sant Pau Biomedical Research Institute in Barcelona, Dr. Riba founded Blumentech in 2017 as a spinout to advance his research and further explore these new possibilities and applications for psychedelics.”
Nue Life Raises $23 Million Series A
Nue Life, the DTC ketamine provider, announced new funding this week:
“Mental wellness startup Nue Life Health has raised $23 million to scale its telehealth platform for ketamine therapy, the company said Tuesday.
The startup provides what it calls an “integrated theurapeutic ecosystem,” including ketamine therapies and virtual aftercare programs post-treatment available through Nue Life's app.”
The company also announced the appointment of two advisors worth mentioning.
Dr. Phil Wolfson, founder of the Ketamine Research Foundation, a long-time Ketamine therapy practitioner and author of the ketamine papers, and Andrey Ostrovsky, MD, the former Chief Medical Officer of the US Medicaid program.
The Good Friday Experiment, 60 Years Later
Walter Pahnke, a physician, and Harvard Divinity School student, designed the trial with the help of his advisors, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass).
The study was randomized, double blinded2 with a Niacin control, and administered in a chapel on the Boston University campus during a Good Friday sermon delivered by Howard Thurman, an African American pastor, civil rights leader, and mentor to Marin Luther King Jr.
The opening line of Pahnke’s dissertation describes the study as
“an empirical study designed to investigate the similarities and differences between experiences described by mystics and those induced by psychedelics (or mind-manifesting) drugs such as d-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin and mescaline”
Rick Doblin conducted follow-up interviews with participants 25 years after the study. This paper cites the original study’s methodological problems and quotes several participants. One of whom noted:
“When you get a clear vision of what [death] is and have sort of been there, and have left the self, left the body, you know, self leaving the body, or soul leaving the body, or whatever you want to call it, you would also know that marching in the Civil Rights Movement or against the Vietnam War in Washington [is less fearful].... In a sense [it takes away the fear of dying]... because you've already been there. You know what it's about. When people approaching death have an out-of-body experience... [you] say, "I know what you're talking about. I've been there. Been there and come back. And it's not terrifying, it doesn't hurt....”
I understand that a write-up of a Johns Hopkins and NYU study of psilocybin administration to religious professionals is forthcoming, which would be a significant cultural inflection point for the role of psychedelics in religious, spiritual settings—perhaps even on par with the Good Friday Experiment.
This leads us to the concept of Psychedelic Chaplaincy.
Therapeutic and medical use has gotten the lion’s share of the media coverage, investment dollars, and research focus. But the ceremonial, religious, and spiritual contexts account for most ritualized psychedelic use both today and throughout history. And despite the introduction of psychedelics into healthcare and sanctioned research settings, I have to think that ceremonial, religious, and spiritual settings will continue to make up the majority of organized psychedelic use.
In these contexts, we have guides, shamans, and sitters. And we can add Chaplains to the list.
“The term “chaplain” is sometimes used interchangeably with the term “spiritual care provider” or “spiritual care practitioner.” Similar to therapists, professional chaplains or spiritual care providers within the US generally need to undertake a master’s degree in theological education, a full-time year of supervised clinical training, and sometimes even ordination, to gain board certification.”
Given the above description, it makes complete sense that this mode of support is applicable in psychedelic settings.
The article highlights Rachel Peterson, a visiting fellow at Harvard Divinity School’s Center for the Study of World Religion. She was also a participant in a trial of psilocybin for depression at Johns Hopkins, about which she notes:
“I was a patient in a clinical trial for depression at Johns Hopkins, and I had what I feel comfortable describing as a conversion experience,” Petersen shares. “I was very confused because I thought psychedelics were just supposed to cure my depression, but I found myself having a completely different outlook on reality.”
A Chaplain, working with a religious and spiritual framework, could be the mode of support that many people need. Furthermore, it would be an incredible study to compare the outcomes and differences between psychedelic-assisted therapy and psychedelic-assisted chaplaincy.
“We argue that shortcomings arise because the measurement of depression rests on shaky methodological and theoretical foundations. Moving forward, we need to break with the field’s tradition, which has, for decades, divorced theories about depression from how we measure it.”
Author Eiko Fried summarized the paper in this Twitter thread.
From Time Magazine: Psilocybin Could be a Therapeutic Breakthrough For Addiction
“In particular, experts increasingly see the chemical as a potentially effective, low-risk tool to help patients break their dependencies on other substances. Given that more than 100,000 people died after overdosing on opioids and other drugs in the U.S. last year, it’s an understatement to say it’s urgent to find new, effective treatments for substance use disorder.”
From the Open Foundation: How AI and Language Can Help Predict Psychedelic Treatment Outcomes
“So what if language could be used as a biomarker for psychosis or affective disorders? More importantly, what if language could be used as a predictor of treatment outcome? It turns out these tools have already begun to be leveraged in psychedelic research.”
““It’s a whole new frightening possibility of elder abuse,” Donovan Maust, a geriatric psychiatrist and health services researcher at the Michigan Medicine Department of Psychiatry, said about the risks faced by older people treated with psychede”
“The protest will take place on May 9 and will be led by psychedelic palliative care activists and advocates for veterans health.
The mobilization will protest the DEA’s decision to block the use of psilocybin, an experimental medicine guaranteed by the federal “Right to Try” law, for the treatment of terminally ill cancer patients.”
That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading!