Psychedelic research company MindMed kicked off trading on Canadian stock exchange NEO this week, becoming one of the first of its kind to go public.
"We are the first publicly listed psychedelics company in the world. And I think what's really important about it is we take a clinical development approach through the FDA pathway. And this ultimately is the way forward for deploying and commercializing psychedelics," MindMed co-CEO and co-founder JR Rahn told Cheddar.
In advance of the reverse takeover transaction that took it public, MindMed raised $24.5 million from a variety of investors including Bail Capital, Cannell Capital, and Grey House, with participation from the founder of Toms Shoes Blake Mycoskie, and others. Shark Tank's Kevin O'Leary invested previously.
Almost 50 years after President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act into law, psychedelic drugs are having a political and scientific renaissance in the U.S. Activists are pushing forward state-level and hyper-local decriminalization efforts. And research is well underway at top institutions all across the U.S., like at New York University and Johns Hopkins University, which received $17 million last year to launch a psychedelic research center. Promising research on drugs like psilocybin and LSD, which could be used for everything from fighting addiction to alleviating depression, has fueled interest and investment in the space. MindMed is one of many startups to take on the daunting task of bringing psychedelic-based drugs to market, focusing on 18-MC, which may allow for therapeutic uses without the hallucinogenic effect, for opioid addiction and microdosing LSD for adult ADHD.
"There's a lot of people going after psilocybin at the moment in terms of conducting clinical trials both in the academic realm, but also in the commercial realm and the nonprofit world. And we saw other forms of psychedelics that had such great therapeutic potential outcomes that it was thought a wiser way to go," Rahn said.
Ibogaine, a psychedelic drug derived from an African shrub, has shown promise as a treatment ー but a risky one ー for opioid addiction. 18-MC, a derivative of ibogaine, has fewer risks — plus, it's neither hallucinogenic nor scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act. It will likely be a long and expensive road before the Food and Drug Administration grants approval of a psychedelic-derived drug, but Rahn is hopeful the FDA may expedite trials on 18-MC since it shows promise for alleviating the opioid epidemic sweeping America.
The nature of the psychedelics space invites constant comparison to cannabis. But Rahn, like many others working in the field now, said the future of psychedelic drugs will be much different.
"What we are doing is federally legal and these are going to be medicines. We have no interest in recreational psychedelics," Rahn said. "This is a major message we are sending to the market. I don't think the cannabis folks really took this rigorous science and clinical trial approach."