UC Berkeley's Psychedelic Science Center; COMPASS Pathways Road Show; News, Headlines, and Events
Psychedelic Business News Roundup
In Partnership with Lucid News
UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics
“To the psychologist, the religious propensities of man must be at least as interesting as any other of the facts pertaining to his mental constitution”
The Trip Report mostly focuses on 'practical matters' like drug development, the delivery of mental and behavioral health, clinical trials, the FDA gauntlet, psychedelic manufacturing, synthesis, extraction, legalization, decriminalization, etc.
We haven't touched on the more esoteric/religious/spiritual qualities of psychedelics and the significance of the mystical experience, awe, and mediation/prayer.
But the inherent tension between a science-based medical system predicated on objectivity, exactitude, rationality, and the conscious experience built on a religious scaffolding of metaphor/narrative/belief/knowledge of one's mortality is where things get interesting.
So it is wildly exciting to see a major university initiate a psychedelic research center that includes spiritual and theological investigations alongside scientific pursuits:
“The UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics (BCSP) will explore psychedelics as tools for understanding the brain and mind, enhancing well-being, and deepening spirituality. In collaboration with faculty from UCSF and the Graduate Theological Union…”
The fascination that many of us have with psychedelic medicine is how stakeholders in healthcare (insurance, hospitals, healthcare administration, etc.) will grapple with and interpret therapeutic agents that potentiate a religious experience in the treatment of mental health conditions.
Part of the challenge is that words fail when it comes to subjective experience— the conditions we are talking about, depression, PTSD, Anxiety, addiction, fail to capture the enormity of the experience. Historically, spiritual or religious practices and frameworks have been anchors for the psyche. This is less so today, and people are increasingly finding religion elsewhere.
How does medical science, healthcare systems, and providers integrate such a fundamentally different framework into modern practice?
This appears to be an essential question to the team assembling the Berkley center:
…the center plans to collaborate with the Graduate Theological Union, an independent consortium of religious schools and theological institutes based in Berkeley and the larger San Francisco Bay Area, in the development of an immersive learning program on psychedelics and spirituality.
I cannot wait to see what comes of this.
Two other notable aspects of this project include therapist training (in conjunction with the Theological Union) and a journalism/public education component headed up by non-other than Michael Pollan:
“The UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics will host a public-facing website, overseen by Michael Pollan, with the goal of fostering a more well-informed and nuanced understanding of psychedelics. The website will host a broad palette of tools to help educate the public about pathbreaking psychedelic research.”
These qualities make this a unique project in the psychedelic space and perhaps the ability to make more profound questions of consciousness and meaning approachable in conventional healthcare.
In a related matter, Rolland Griffiths presented at Harvard Divinity school's "Entheogens and the Future of Religion" this week:
What a time to be alive.
COMPASS Pathways IPO RoadShow
COMPASS Pathway's CEO George Goldsmith, President Lars Wilde, and CFO Piers Morgan presented COMPASS Pathways to investors over the last week in preparation for the much anticipated IPO.
The IPO is expected to raise about $100 million at a $570 million valuation.
Proceeds of the offering will be used to continue the Phase II trial of COMP360 for Treatment-Resistant Depression, evaluate additional indications, develop the digital component of the treatment, and establish Centers of Excellence.
COMPASS is positioning itself to investors as a mental health company building the future of psychiatry rather than a psychedelic company, an important distinction considering the additional layers of infrastructure they are building.
Beyond the COMP360 research program, the COMPASS project includes therapist training, a digital platform, strategic partnerships with payers and health systems, and the generation of real-world data to support value-based coverage.
Key to this infrastructure is the digital platform that supports preparation, integration, and follow up care, including a technology called 'Digital Phenotyping,' which collects passive data to anticipate and predict the need for follow up treatment.
COMPASS's strategy for scaling the delivery of psychedelic-assisted therapy and collecting real-world evidence in support of insurance coverage hinges on the digital platform.
The interface between psychedelic medicine and digital technology has been a running theme of The Trip Report as a significant bottleneck to affordable access is the time required of therapists. COMPASS is developing a protocol that leverages group administration and technology to chip away at this problem.
The other problem they are hoping to solve for is insurance reimbursement. Digitally gathering 'real-world' data appears to be central to the argument for this unique approach, a topic we plan to dive into in upcoming dispatches.
News, Headlines, and Events
“Usona’s new psilocybin synthesis technique is freely available for use by laboratories following cGMP or Current Good Manufacturing Practices set by the FDA. The nonprofit says that making this discovery publicly available is part of its Open Science commitment to advance scientific knowledge in the field. Usona is currently providing cGMP psilocybin to qualified researchers, at no cost, through its Investigational Drug Supply Program.”
Psychology Today: How Psychedelics Are Entering the Mainstream
“As more people receive various forms of psychedelic-assisted therapy, those at the forefront of the treatment hope that healthcare providers will soon start to understand its value and eventually refer people for the treatment. Ultimately, they hope to see psychedelic-assisted therapy become a gold-standard treatment option, and for it to be covered by insurance companies.”
“During the drug administration stage, each of the four patients will receive the drug simultaneously. They will then undergo the therapy session in separate rooms, each monitored one-on-one by a single therapist, while the study’s lead therapist will oversee all four from an observation room created for this purpose.”
Thanks for reading. See you next time.