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Hello and welcome to the Pulse, the monthly psychedelics industry roundup from Technology Networks and Analytical Cannabis. Here, we’ll highlight some of the most significant psychedelic industry news from the past month, including important announcements, pre-clinical work and the latest from groundbreaking psychedelic clinical trials. Keep on the pulse of psychedelics and more by subscribing to our Breaking Science Newsletter below.
Psychedelic titan Griffiths dies at 77
Renowned psychedelic researcher Roland Griffiths passed away on October 16 at age 77. Griffiths’ groundbreaking work reignited interest in psychedelic studies and led to the establishment of the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. Griffiths had a long career in psychopharmacology before his pivot towards psychedelic study – in particular focusing on the psychoactive properties of caffeine. His later research championed the potential benefits of psilocybin, the active compound in magic mushrooms, for treating various conditions, including depression and substance use disorders. Griffiths published over 400 articles over the course of his career. He was a dedicated Siddha Yoga practitioner, a routine that ultimately led to his interest in the altered states of consciousness produced by psychedelics. His commitment to meditative contemplation remained through his diagnosis of end-stage colon cancer in November 2021. “For me, the psychological off-ramp from potential emotional misery has been the cultivation of gratitude for the precious gift of life itself, of being conscious, awake to the mystery of this present moment,” Griffiths said last year.
Power of placebo revealed by new trial
Virtually all psychedelic clinical trials operate under a nonsensical conceit: the studies are ostensibly “blinded”, so participants don’t know whether they get a drug or placebo treatment, but how can you stay blinded to treatment when psychedelic hallucinations kick in? A new study published in Nature Mental Health has attempted to properly blind participants by dosing them with ketamine while they were under general anesthetic. The results have significant implications for how we consider blinding, expectancy and the power of placebo in psychedelic trials – read more below:
- Toronto-based Cybin Inc., a biopharma specializing in psychedelic-based treatments, has agreed to acquire Small Pharma Inc., another leader in short-duration psychedelic therapies. Small Pharma shareholders will receive 0.2409 shares of Cybin for every share of Small Pharma they own. The combined company aims to revolutionize mental healthcare with the largest dataset on short-duration psychedelic molecules like DMT. The merger will create an entity with 158 pending patent applications and 28 granted patents.
- In more business news that heralds Big Pharma’s arrival into the psychedelic space, Japanese pharmaceutical giant Otsuka Pharmaceutical has acquired Mindset Pharma. This acquisition, worth roughly $60 million in cash, comes after an 18-month partnership between the two companies. In 2022, Otsuka provided $5 million to support Mindset’s clinical programs. Mindset, backed by the psychedelics investment fund Negev Capital, specializes in developing psychedelics for neuropsychiatric and neurological conditions. In November 2022, Mindset gained approval for a Phase 2 trial for MSP-1014, a psilocybin-like compound for major depressive disorder.
- Addiction-focused drug developer Awakn Life Sciences Corp. has submitted a clinical trial application for its Phase 3 trial of AWKN-P001, a treatment for severe alcohol use disorder (SAUD). AWKN-P001 is a combined therapeutic featuring racemic ketamine administered intravenously. Awakn was buoyed by Phase 2 results that showed an 86% abstinence rate six months post-treatment. The upcoming trial will feature 280 participants across 10 UK NHS sites.
- Filament Health Corp., a natural psychedelic drug development company, has received approval from Health Canada’s approval for a Phase 2 clinical trial at the University of British Columbia (UBC) to study PEX010, a proprietary botanical psilocybin candidate for opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment. The current treatment standard for OUD – opioid agonist therapy (OAT) – has limited long-term adherence.