2020 has certainly evolved in an unexpected direction and I hope you, your families and communities are faring well. Personally, I’m concerned for the immediate healthcare crisis and economic challenges, as well as the mental health struggles many face as things evolve. I’ve shifted from logging too many miles on planes to logging 10+ miles a day walking up and down the Charles River (If you hear bird songs in the background when we’re talking, now you know why!)
My focus on advancing psychedelic-assisted therapies continues and I’m curious to see how the present situation will affect progress or force adaptation in how efforts move forward. The work being done is fueled by innovative and risk-tolerant capital (philanthropy, early stage, venture capital, etc), and it remains to be seen how the present health and financial uncertainties, as well as the urgency of dealing with COVID-19, will affect these critical investments in mental health. Furthermore, much of the work to research and advance psychedelic-assisted therapies through the FDA/EMA relies on the ability to perform clinical trials and there are issues as to how added costs, social distancing, delays and complications will affect the progress.
The present times are a reminder that work around mental health is more important than ever. My son Alex and I, with the incredible support of Sherry Rais and others, continue to work with leadership at Massachusetts General Hospital to build their Psychedelics Research Center and with the Strategic Planning Committee at the California Institute for Integral Studies, the only accredited academic institution training therapists to perform psychedelic-assisted therapy.
We are also working with MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) which received fantastic news from their FDA Phase 3 trial of MDMA for post-traumatic stress disorder. The Interim Analysis of the first half of that trial demonstrated sufficient efficacy that they will be able to complete the trial without adding additional participants, indicating a very high probability of overall successful outcomes and approval! MAPS is raising $30 million to complete the trial and begin making treatments commercially available. PSFC (Psychedelic Science Funders Collaborative) has partnered with MAPS to achieve this through the Capstone Fund, and we are involved in that effort.
Additionally, in March, the Boston Psychedelic Research Group (BPRG) hosted Harriet De Wit from the University of Chicago, who researches microdosing with LSD, as well as Jonathan Wilson and Eric Smith, who shared stories of what they are doing with the SEAL Future Foundation to help retired Navy SEALs reintegrate back into society. These (and earlier) BPRG meetings are available online here. The next BPRG meeting with Janis Phelps and Bill Richards will be held virtually via Zoom on May 3 at 12pm ET. Also, last week we held a Global Conference Call with Robin Carhart-Harris, with over 300 registrants. You can watch a recording of that call here. The next call will be May 12th at 11am ET with Christian Angermeyer, Founder of ATAI Life Sciences, who is creating a biotech platform to heal mental health disorders and doing important work on several psychedelic treatments.
The beauty of these strange times is that there’s plenty of time to catch up with many of you. Don’t hesitate to reach out!
Below I’ll share some upcoming virtual events (a few of which I’m facilitating or speaking at), as well as recent articles you may find interesting.
If you want to dive more deeply into this topic, feel free to peruse videos and other learning resources at http://www.dicksimon.com/psychedelic-medicines/.
Upcoming (Virtual) Events:
2020 is an exciting time to be working for the advancement of psychedelic-assisted therapies as they move into the mainstream. See below for updates (including the creation of a Psychedelic Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital!) and feel free to reach out with any questions, comments or suggestions.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, I was heartened to experience the tremendous resonance these topics held for participants in an economics conference. We organized a half-dozen panels, forums and other events with a collection of researchers, advocates, and entrepreneurs including Rick Doblin (MAPS), Rachel Yehuda (Mt.Sinai), Khaliya (Falkora) and David Erritzoe (Imperial College).
Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) is launching a world-class Psychedelics Research Center and I’m honored and extremely energized to be leading their Advisory Council. It is critical that rigorous science helps to understand and define psychedelic-assisted therapies, which is why I’m so enthusiastic about the proliferation of research centers emerging in the United States and beyond.
MGH is particularly well-positioned to enter the psychedelics research ecosystem. MGH is Harvard University Medical School’s teaching hospital and generally considered to have the top Psychiatry Department in the US, along with world-class imaging facilities and many other relevant resources and faculty. This center is being led by Dr. Jerrold Rosenbaum, the 19-year Chief of MGH’s Psychiatry Department (and a longtime friend) and has Bruce Rosen, the inventor of the fMRI, as it’s Chief Scientific Officer. We’re currently bringing together a community of researchers, supporters, and other advisors to fuel this center – please be in touch to learn more!
In January the Boston Psychedelic Research Group (BPRG) hosted Robin Carhart-Harris, Director of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College, for a 150+ attendee presentation about his groundbreaking work leveraging neuroimaging to better understand the effects and potential implications of psychedelics. This event was the most recent installment of the network of researchers, therapists, and supporters brought together through the BPRG. We’re helping other cities bring this community model to their local research ecosystem – be in touch if you’d like to get involved!
I’ve also been very involved with Fantastic Fungi, an amazing film that shines a light on the fascinating but largely-overlooked significance of fungi and also serves as an approachable entry point to understanding the promise of psychedelic-assisted therapies. Learn about the screenings near you here and reach out if you’d like to host or sponsor a screening in your area on March 26, when over 500 theaters from around the world will simultaneously screen the film and an exciting panel discussion for Fantastic Fungi Day!
Please see LINKS below to news you may be interested in and let me know if you have any questions or if I can be of help in any way.
There are a few exciting updates about mental health and psychedelic medicines that I wanted to share:
1) I have been organizing an event at Harvard Business School where Rick Doblin and George Goldsmith will both be speaking on May 13 from 5:30-8:00 PM. The event is intended to be for HBSAB and HKSNEAA members but If you are interested in the topic / available and in Boston that day, or know somebody who will be, you/they can register here as a Harvard Kennedy Alumni attendee (HKSNEAA). It will be great to have them both speak about their journeys testing and seeking approval for the use of psychedelic medicines for mental health. Would be great if you could make it and/or if you could help spread the word.
2) Rick Doblin’s organization, MAPS, is looking for a COO. Ideally the candidate would live in California (although location is flexible) and have 5+ years of experience. If you know anyone who may be interested, please share this job posting with them.
3) Business Insider created a list of 100 people who are transforming the world of business and Rick Doblin made it on the list for his work with MAPS! Rick also completed a TED talk last week, which I will be sharing soon.
GREAT things are happening all around in this space and it is a wonderful time to be involved.