2/24/21

2020 was a year unlike any other. Covid exacerbated the mental health crisis as social isolation, anxiety, health care provider burnout, and a host of other individual and society-level challenges impacted our world. 

Before reflecting on the past year, there is an important upcoming event you may want to join. Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) is officially launching the Center for the Neuroscience of Psychedelics where I’m honored to serve as Chair of the Advisory Council. The launch on March 9 includes a conversation with Michael Pollan and the Center’s leadership from 4-5:30 pm ET.  Invitation is attached or please register here to attend or receive a link to the recording after the event. 

2020 saw significant progress in advancing psychedelic-assisted therapy for mental health. Some highlights include:

  • MAPS Capstone Challenge raised $30 million to complete FDA Phase III Trials for MDMA-assisted therapy as a treatment for PTSD. Psychedelic Science Funders Collaborative (PSFC), where I’m honored to be on the Steering Committee, led the campaign. MAPS released the FDA’s Interim Analysis validating the efficacy and impact of this work.

  • Over $650 million of commercial capital was raised in this sector in 2020 alone. Compass Pathways became the first public company on a US stock exchange with a current market cap of ~$2 billion. Atai raised $125 million in new funding and companies going public on Canadian exchanges include MindMed, Numinus and Field Trip Health. These treatments are attracting significant mainstream attention and funding.

  • Many new academic research centers opened their doors or announced intentions to work in this space, including UC Berkeley with Michael Pollan’s Public Dialog program, Mt Sinai where Dr. Rachel Yehuda is working with the Veterans Administration, Yale, NYU, and more.

  • On the policy front, referendum initiatives decriminalized psychedelics in several jurisdictions around the US, and Oregon’s passage of Ballot Measure 109 initiated the creation of the first state-wide regulatory framework for psilocybin therapy at clinics and retreat centers, which will be a closely-watched part of this ecosystem.

  • There were significant research results including Johns Hopkins study finding psilocybin to be highly effective in tackling major depressive disorder being the most talked about JAMA Psychiatry article of 2020!

  • The California Institute for Integral Studies (CIIS) also expanded their Certificate in Psychedelic Therapies and Research to Boston.

The YPO Psychedelic Medicine for Mental Health Group continues to host events with leaders in this area. To see recordings of those programs and other events I’ve spoken at or moderated, click here. Our next event will be with JR Rahn, Founder and CEO of Mindmed, on April 6, from 11:00AM ET – 12:00PM ET. You can register for that here.

I’m excited by the progress being made at the Center for the Neuroscience of Psychedelics (CNP) at MGH. CNP is interweaving psychiatry, cognitive neuroscience, neuroimaging and chemical neurobiology to better examine the function and therapeutic potential of psychedelic medicines and therapies and is led by my good friend, Dr. Jerrold Rosenbaum, Emeritus Chair of Psychiatry at MGH. Studies include examining psilocybin’s effect on rumination as a trans-diagnostic trait in patients with treatment-resistant depression as well as mindfulness-based MDMA therapy for veterans suffering from PTSD, which has the potential to dramatically impact cost and care delivery.  Several webinars hosted by the Center’s leadership are available for viewing here. Please let me know if you’d like to learn more. 

I am deeply grateful to be working closely with Sherry Rais and Alex Simon. Sherry is also the Executive Director of the Boston Psychedelic Research Group (founded and led by Anne St. Goar), Chief of Staff for Enthea (expediting health plan coverage for psychedelic healthcare) and Grants Manager for CIIS. Alex is on the Steering Committee and led a Landscape Analysis for PSFC, which included interviewing over 60 leaders to create a comprehensive overview of research, care delivery and policy in the psychedelics space. 

I’m also becoming passionate about regenerative agriculture which has the potential to address climate change by sequestering carbon, creating healthier food for human consumption and providing better livelihoods for farmers. In addition to trying to help on a larger scale, we are buying a farm to use as a test bed for our own learnings and “get our hands dirty”.

It would be wonderful to hear updates from you. Please let me know if you have any questions or if there is anything I can do to help.

Wishing you a great 2021!