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Psyence Group: pioneering use of psilocybins for mental trauma treatment


Psyence Group (CSE:PSYG / OTCQB:PSYGF) is a Canadian-listed biotech company specialising in psychadelics for the treatment of psychological trauma, especially in the area of palliative care. It built and operates one of the first federally licensed commercial psilocybin mushroom cultivation and production facilities in southern Africa.

We caught up with the management team while they were in London. They were keen to stress the benefits of psilocybin mushrooms, which have largely been outlawed in the developed world once they became recreational drugs in the 1970s. However, they also have important benefits for the treatment of extremely severe mental health issues.

Psilocybin is a naturally occurring active ingredient within over 200 species of mushrooms, colloquially called magic mushrooms. It has a similar chemical structural backbone to LSD. It alters mood, perception and cognition. Early testing with terminal cancer patients in 2011 demonstrated a significant reduction in trait anxiety which persisted for months after the experience, as well as a measurable improvement in mood. This offered medical science a potential tool to treat severe anxiety over a lengthy period of time.

Heavyweight scientific team

The company has a heavyweight scientific team that is wedded to the future growth prospections of psilocybins. This includes  Dr Dingle Spence, a recognised authority in palliative care, and a scientific advisory board that is led by Psyence CEO Dr Neil Maresky, who was previously the VP for Scientific Affairs at AstraZeneca Canada.

Dr Maresky told us that mental health is swiftly becoming the next big pandemic worldwide and that the pressure is on major drugs companies to find solutions. Coming as he does from AstraZeneca, he has a good grasp of the rapidly developing demand for mental health treatments. “The vast majority of products used in this space are synthetically made,” he explained. “Very few companies are looking at treatments for palliative care, for people who have less than 24 months to live. This sort of product would be prescribed in conjunction with psychotherapy.”

He said that medical regulators are now more open to the use of organic products being used in this area, and important work is now being done to build a pathway through to full approval.  “We are talking to the Canadian regulator and the FDA, and we will be the first mover here.” He said he expected the product could receive full approval by 2025, and as the first product to market, it would enjoy commercial protection benefits.

First class modular manufacturing facility

Psyence has a first-class manufacturing facility which received ISO certification from the British Standards Institute (BSI) in February. This should help it to secure the strategic partnerships it requires with drug companies.  Indeed, it now has a partnership in place with CRO Clerkenwell Health to deliver a clinical trial on its products with patients suffering the mental effects of a terminal cancer diagnosis.

The trials will be focusing on the use of psilocybin to treat adjustment disorder – the emotional or behavioural reaction to a stressful event, in this case terminal diagnosis. Dr Maresky said the organic element of the drug is important as some jurisdictions are now banning the use of synthetic molecules (Oregon has said it will ban the sale of synthetic cannabinoids at the retail level next month and a similar ban is under review in the UK). The focus for this product is very much advanced neuroscience, and management says there are no plans for recreational approval.

Demand for the mushrooms that Psyence is growing in southern Africa appears to be picking up. It has received a Canadian import permit to allow it to ship product to Psilo Scientific for analysis and extraction, and also to Portugal for the Cooperativa de Ensino Superior Politécnico e Universitário to conduct similar research.

The company is also developing a non-psilocybin product for the over-the-counter market which contains functional mushroom nutraceuticals called Goodmind. It was launched in South Africa for online sale last year via Psyence’s JV partner Goodleaf. A water soluble version is also being sold for use in coffee and other beverages in the Vida e Caffè chain in South Africa.

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This article does not constitute investment advice. Make sure you do your own research or consult a professional advisor.

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