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The Extraordinary Future Conference – running September 22-23, 2019 at the Vancouver Convention Center – helps investors find profitable positions in cutting edge science and tech companies.
“Zen” Ken Kuiper earns his moniker with every room he walks into. Standing what can only be estimated at 6’13”, he cranes his neck to pass through doorways built for mere mortals, at least that’s how it seems from the ground.
“It’s just genes,” he says, every word an earthy boom, when asked if his steady diet of mushrooms caused him to sprout up this way.
Kuiper is the CEO of One Up Pure Energy, a company which packages mushrooms like reishi and lion’s mane as dietary supplements. One Up will soon have all its shares acquired by Absolem Health.
Although the company is currently focused on dietary supplements–the company has two non-psychedelic mushrooms imported from China which have been approved by Health Canada–psilocybin, a psychedelic compound found in ‘magic mushrooms’ looms heavily over our discussion.
One Up’s announcement dovetails with Cambridge House International’s XFutures event in Vancouver from September 22 to 23, where companies aiming to capitalize on the growing appetite for former fringe medicines gather to discuss the sector’s potential.
And a shift in policy, at least at the municipal level, is an encouraging sign: The City of Vancouver, alongside Oakland and Denver, recently announced they wouldn’t be pursuing criminal charges against people who possess magic mushrooms, perhaps a sign of shifting attitudes towards psychedelics in the wake of cannabis.
That’s why Kuiper says he wants to be an emissary for mushrooms. He learned about the health benefits of lion’s mane to maintain focus while learning yoga in Thailand where caffeine was prohibited.
“I came back to Vancouver and after my training and I was thinking ‘hmm, you know I really want to share this with people and I want it to be available for everyone’ so people aren’t dependent on Red Bull and and Mountain Dew.”
From a distance, Zen Ken looks every part the executive: silver hair coiffed, sport coat neatly pressed (two-button). But when he speaks in his easy low-slung drawl, a semi-permanent equatorial smile affixed to his face, the dorm-room shaman he once was peeks through.
But even a yogi has his low points. When talking about the benefits of all types of mushrooms, Kuiper speaks about the recent passing of his father in December and the closure he found through the fungi he now evangelizes for.
The controlled exploration of trauma through psychedelic experiences is a recurring theme in my conversations with operators in the psychedelic medicine space. When discussing the unearthing and treatment of deep hurt, something which cannot always be managed on one’s own, the notion of ‘tripping’ and the conjured associations with lava lamps and shag carpets seems antiquated.
Allied Market Research projects the global antidepressant market to be worth nearly $16B by 2023, but there is mounting research psilocybin can reduce the effects of depression. The compound’s proponents swear by its ability to allow for the processing of trauma, addressing the hurt which causes some mental illness and not simply stimying pain.
Kuiper spoke about recently dosing psilocybin, and how, in a trance-like state, how he was able to express everything left unsaid before his father’s death.
“I felt really bad about you know not reaching out to more and appreciating when he called me with his dad jokes and I said ‘not now, Dad I’m busy.’ But these experiences have really helped me be okay with those things and know that, you know, he’s okay too.”
Levy, co-founder of Field Trip, says Field Trip’s business model is a little different than One Up and Absolem’s: Although Psilocybin is an interest, the company plans to open five flagship clinics across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. for ketamine-assisted psychotherapy.
Ketamine, though not a psychedelic in the same vein as LSD or psilocybin, can have similar effects when used in treating depression, though it’s not as simple as popping a pill.
Field Trip is angling to fill what they see as gaps in patient care. Since psychedelics are need to be taken in conjunction with therapy for full effect, they pose different challenges than administering, say, antibiotics.
“You can’t just go to your GP office. They’re not going to feel comfortable having you sit around in their office for six hours where you go through a psychedelic session.”
“And the same token psychotherapists and psychiatrists who are very qualified to deliver psychedelic assisted psychotherapy typically don’t operate in a manner that supports scale and large numbers of patients. So a whole new clinic model is warranted,” stated Levy.
Other psychedelics are currently of questionable legality, especially in the U.S. Since Ketamine is already being prescribed, Levy and Field Trip have made that the first pillar of their business model.
The company is also setting up the world’s first research and cultivation facility for psilocybin in Jamaica in conjunction with the University of the West Indies.
“The work there is going to focus on cultivation techniques, breeding, strains, genetics, new molecule discovery, creating methods and analytics standards for testing psilocybin producing mushrooms, which is to say in the cannabis industry, if you take your cannabis to a lab there are pretty well established protocols on how to test the cannabis to understand that it’s cannabinoid profile,” Levy said.
“That knowledge doesn’t exist right now for psilocybin producing mushrooms. So there’s work to be done to figure out how to properly test psilocybin producing mushrooms.”
Field Trip is following the Aurora business model, according to Levy: the company aims on being the first vertically integrated psychedelics company in the same way Canadian licensed producers have. Except instead of ‘seed-to sale’ it’s more like ‘champignon-to-shall we talk about your mother?’
Levy says the clinic model is one he’s very familiar with, and it’s been proven: Levy was also the general counsel and CCO of Canadian Cannabis Clinics. Now all that’s left is to prove it with psychedelics.
With an increasing number of anti-depressant users around the world, Field Trip aims to take a chunk out of Big Pharma’s market share. But psychadellic-derived medicines have broader applications than simply addressing anxiety and depression.
Ibogaine and the opioid crisis
Shayne Nyquvest–icon to some, infamous to others but known to all in the Vancouver capital markets scene–has a way of talking through you.
With the hoarseness of a grenadier, one gets the feeling Nyquvest doesn’t suffer fools gladly. But instead of discussing gold or another cannabis deal, Nyquvest surprisingly talks about ibogaine, a psychoactive compound used for trials of manhood in Africa, and what it’s done for him.
“I didn’t even want a cigarette afterwards,” he said.
Nyquvest is the chairman and director of Universal Ibogaine.The company is in the process of a reverse-takeover and is aiming to solve the latest epidemic ravaging Canada and the U.S. with an unlikely ally: the iboga shrub.
In 2015, the U.S. Council of Economic Advisors estimates the economic cost of the opioid crisis was $504B, or 2.8 percent of the U.S.’ GDP that year. Ibogaine is shown to have anti-addictive properties in animal studies and, although there is a lack of research on humans, the drug shows promise.
Ibogaine is not currently legal in the U.S., but is in “75 percent of planet Earth,” according to Nyquvest. Because patenting a plant is impossible, Universal Ibogaine is going to license out their safety protocol and medical procedures.
Roughly 15% of the population is ineligible for ibogaine treatment, Nyquvest says, as it can cause cardiac arrhythmias and it doesn’t mix well with insulin users. But he says that, when combined with psychotherapy, out of the 3,700 treatments his company has run out of a clinic in Mexico there has been a 95% success rate in getting patients through painless detox process in 18 hours.
“Right now there’s one hundred and thirty body bags a day in North America and everything I see is harm reduction…you take a heroin addict you give them Suboxone. Suboxone just paid a billion and a half dollar fine and said, ‘Oops sorry we made a mistake. It is more addictive than heroin.’ Methadone turns your bones to glass in five years. It’s not a good viable alternative.”
To explain the process, Nyquvest asks me to imagine the neural pleasure sensors of the brain as a wire.
“Years of abuse or addiction, the insulation wears off the wire… that’s addiction. So ibogaine is like a sticky Prozac that re-adheres to those neuro sensors in the brain. Reinsulates the wire, if you will. And takes you back to a pre-addictive state. It’s almost like a reset on a computer,” he says, allowing for a three to five month period without cravings, enough time to get through post acute withdrawal syndrome which can be lethal.
The hallucinogenic side of the drug also has benefits. Nyquvest said his own trip allowed him to confront traumatic events in his life he wasn’t able to accept until now.
“I grew up in the wrong side of the tracks in Winnipeg and yes I you know I had some interesting events growing up as a child and two of the events I was very well aware of. There was a third event that came to the surface that you know. My ability to sit and read a book for an extended period of time was extended after that.”
“I come from Silicon Valley,” says JR Rahn, co-founder of Canada-based MindMed. “I was helping people get cheaper phones and building out a massive transport network for Uber. At a certain point I realized, many of the technologies I was working on were going to put a lot of people out of work, and that mental health and addiction were going to skyrocket.”
MindMed is currently preparing to conduct a phase-II FDA trial for 18-MC, a compound it owns the rights to which aims to carry the same benefits of ibogaine without the trip. The company believes going the traditional pharmaceutical route is the fastest way to get their product out to the mainstream.
Years of drug abuse can lower the baseline level of dopamine, a ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter, in the brain, causing a whole host of side-effects and making the need for the next high all the more desperate.
“What we hope to prove with 18-MC is that we can bring the baseline dopamine level up again and modulate it so you don’t crave the high anymore, Rahn says.”
When asked if stripping the ‘high’ from ibogaine could have the same effect as isolating THC from other cannabinoids, removing other potential benefits, Rahn says the research doesn’t back that theory up.
“What we hope to prove with 18-MC is that we can bring the baseline dopamine level up again and modulate it so you don’t crave the high anymore. Its really a paradigm shift in treating addiction.”
Linton said Mind Medicine has been working on a derivative of psychedelic substances that can provide therapeutic benefits but without causing a high, in the hopes of getting approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
When asked what was next for MindMed, Rahn said his company wasn’t interested in the recreational psychedelics model.
Unlike cannabis which had an enormous recreational market but little clinical research, Rahn says he sees a recreational psychedelic market 10 to 15 years down the line, maybe.
Until then, his company is focused on getting products to market at speed, and the entire realm of psychedelics was fair game: “We’re going to be creating new forms of psychedelic medicines. Nobody else out there is thinking about that or taking that approach.”
On Sunday at 2:30, at The Extraordinary Future Conference , equity.guru’s Chris Parry sits on a panel called, “Are you buying eSports stocks right now? along with Genevieve Roch-Decter, the founder & CEO of Grit Capital a capital market advisory firm started in 2016.
Consumer advisory warning: eSports and psilocybin mushrooms may not mix.