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Psychedelic start-ups are changing the face of mainstream medicine

In Canada, there is a growing push for the medical use of psychedelics to treat a variety of mental health conditions

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Canaccord Genuity estimates the total market size for all indications under investigation to be as much as US$100 billion

Psychedelics are jumping out of 1960s imagery and into 21st century as bona fide treatment options.

The emerging field of psychedelic medicine is becoming more and more mainstream, with drugs such as ecstasy and magic mushrooms becoming part of the pharmaceutical lexicon.

“Psychedelics weren’t born of the counterculture. They were killed by it,” says a report by investment bank Canaccord Genuity, authored by Tania Gonsalves and Scott McFarland, which provides some of the first in-depth analysis of the sector.

The pair noted that the proliferation of recreational use spurred government intervention and by the early 1970s psilocybin, LSD, ibogaine, mescaline, peyote, MDA and DMT were all illegal.

“The industry won’t make that mistake again,” the Canaccord analysts point out.

In Canada, there is a growing push for the medical use of psychedelics. The University of Toronto Mississauga has launched a Centre for Psychedelic Studies and will host the world’s first clinical trials on micro-dosing psilocybin, and more research is planned at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health. Still, psilocybin remains classified as a controlled substance according to Health Canada.

Against this backdrop, a flourishing new sub-sector of the life sciences industry is emerging.

While there are many parallels with the development of the cannabis industry, the trailblazers in the field of psychedelics are keen to stress the differences, particularly with reference to the recreational element of the former.

It is not hard to see the draw for psychedelics for people suffering from depression or addiction. Traditional forms of treatment – antidepressants, psychotherapy, and on the extreme end of the spectrum, brain stimulation therapy – can prove ineffective, leaving them with few options to combat their disease.

Canaccord estimates the total market size for all indications under investigation to be as much as US$100 billion. That undoubtedly should pique the interest of Big Pharma, but it’s the smaller, more innovative firms and the not-for-profit organizations that are initially setting the pace.

Vancouver-based Champignon Brands Inc (CSE:SHRM) (OTCMKTS:SHRMFF) is planning to open at least five ketamine clinics in North America by the end of 2020. It recently closed the acquisition of AltMed Capital Corp, a Canadian ketamine clinic operator with strong research and development projects.

Empower Clinics Inc (CSE:CBDT) (OTCQB:EPWCF), the CBD product producer and wellness clinic operator, is also leveraging its existing clinic network, which boasts some 165,000 patients and a robust team of physicians, to focus on psilocybin research and psychedelics therapy in the treatment of mental health issues. 

Understandably, small companies are eager to secure first-mover advantage in the space.

Canada’s Mota Ventures Corp (CSE:MOTA) (OTCMKTS:PEMTF) just inked a deal to acquire German psychedelic medicine company Verrian Ontario Ltd, which treats patients suffering from addition through micro-dosing.

Mota's CEO Ryan Hoggan said in a recent statement that the “massive” shift towards psychedelic-derived medicines is “no longer in doubt.”

In February, Revive Therapeutics Ltd (CVE:RVV) (OTCMKTS:RVVTF) acquired Psilocin Pharma Corp, securing the Toronto-based company the platform, relationships, and expertise to develop psilocybin-based products.

Taking the active ingredients of psychedelics and clinically proving their efficacy offers hope for those with post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism, anxiety, deep-seated depression and addiction.

“Psychedelics have shown promising efficacy across a broad range of both mental and substance abuse disorders,” the analysts at Canaccord said in their research note. “Together, the targeted indications affect over one-billion people globally.”

Your need-to-know guide to psychedelics:

Psilocybin

Found in over 200 species of mushrooms.

Potential uses: Depression, anxiety, addiction, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), anorexia, obesity, cluster headaches, Alzheimer’s disease.

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)

Chemically combined lysergic acid and diethylamide.

Potential uses: Cluster headaches, depression, anxiety, pain syndromes, alcoholism, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)

Ibogaine

Found in the root bark of a West African shrub.

Potential uses: Alcoholism, addiction and smoking cessation.

Methylenedioxymethamphetamine

A popular club drug that’s sold in pills (ecstasy) or as a powder (MDMA)

Potential uses: PTSD, anxiety and alcoholism.

Ketamine

Used for starting and maintaining anesthesia

Potential uses: Treatment-resistant depression PTSD, anxiety, alcoholism, pain syndromes and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Canadian companies to watch:

Anahit (Private): Looking to acquire and/or build growing and cultivation facilities. The emphasis is on craft growing psilocybin.

Bright Minds (Private): Working to improve current psychedelic drugs via molecule alterations.

Champignon Brands (CSE:SHRM): Focused on using psilocybin to treat mental health disorders.

Cybin Therapeutics (Private): Mushrooms-focused life sciences company.

Entheon Biomedical (Private): DMT-based drug development for substance abuse disorders.

Empower Clinics (CSE:CBDT): US-focused wellness clinic operator getting into psychedelic treatment.

Field Trip Health (Private): Personalized therapeutic psychedelics.

Mindset Pharma (Private): Patentable psychedelic compounds for the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Mota Ventures (CSE:MOTA): An ecommerce retailer of CBD products in Europe and the US that recently entered the psychedelics market.

Numinus Wellness (Private): Mental illness and addiction.

Revive Therapeutics (CSE:RVV): A life sciences company focused on the research and development of therapeutics for rare disorders and infectious diseases.

ThinkMyco (Private): Mushroom production technology.

Universal Ibogaine (Private): Ibogaine treatment clinics.

Contact Angela at angela@proactiveinvestors.com

Follow her on Twitter @AHarmantas

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