Yesterday, Dr. Evan Wood was appointed as Chief Medical Officer of Numinus (TSXV:NUMI). Dr. Wood has an extensive bibliography of published research and has held a suite of positions across a variety of institutions, with a focus on substance use and addiction.
We spoke with Dr. Wood about his plans for Numinus, and his broader opinions on psychedelics and society.
PA: You assumed the position of Chief Medical Officer at Numinus yesterday: what are your immediate plans?
EW: Since psychedelics are currently illegal, we are watching closely ongoing phase 3 studies and planning our own research with a view to conducting research and utilizing research to plan for when policies are reformed to make these available as legal medications.
PA: Looking at your bibliography, your research output is prolific with over 600 published works. Your primary focus and experience is in the realm of substance use and addiction. Should we infer that these themes will be the most immediate focus of Numinus’ R&D pipeline?
EW: Mental health and addiction are intimately intertwined. The unifying theme of my past research is that society would be better off treating substance use as a public health and safety issue and that we should be looking at how to best manage harms and potential benefits of substances in an evidence-based way.
PA: You now have the task of building out a medical and therapeutic team. What will that team look like?
EW: We’ll be looking to bring in people that have great research, policy and ultimately clinical skills but also those that share the values of putting the public interest first and foremost.
Regulation and Licenses
PA: As CMO, you will be tasked with managing regulatory matters. We understand that the Company holds (via Salvation Botanicals) some licencing from Health Canada, could you clarify the extent of this licencing?
EW: The company holds a controlled drugs and substances dealer’s licence issued by the Office of Controlled Substances under Health Canada. It allows for the purchase, sale, transportation and testing of several psychedelic substances inclusive of psilocybin, psilocin, MDMA, DMT and mescaline.
PA: In Numinus’ communications it is made clear that the Company is seeking to amend this licence to include R&D, import/export and packaging/labelling. What is the timeline and precedent for this?
EW: Applications for each of these additional capabilities will be done in phases based on the timing of certain dependencies. Numinus has already applied for the addition of some of these activities within the scope of a research project, including the ability to import and export these substances. Within the next year, we’ll be looking to expand our research and testing capabilities to enable the support of clinical trials, and ultimately, packaging/labelling will enable us to be a global distributor of psychedelics drugs.
PA: In the latest Investor Presentation, a “standard processing/extraction licence” from Health Canada is slated for Q4 2020. Could you contextualise this licence versus the above? How central is it to Numinus’ plans?
EW: The standard processing/extraction licence from Health Canada refers to cannabis production as per the Cannabis Act 2018. Revenue generated from cannabis production and from cannabis testing will fund our psychedelics therapy R&D efforts and expansion.
PA: According to Company releases, 2020 expansion plans are at the Canada level. Other companies in the space have begun to expand into the US (via clinic acquisitions, for example). Can we expect to see Numinus making similar moves in the near future?
EW: It is too early to provide information on that.
PA: On a related note, is there congruence between the licences sought via Health Canada and those required in the United States, or are the prerequisites drastically different?
EW: These are separate regulatory frameworks. Health Canada would be the body in Canada and the FDA in the U.S. Separate paths that can be walked once the evidence-based research is in hand.
Psychedelics and Society
PA: We have been thinking about whether the benefits of psychedelics will become available to all people, not just those with institutionally recognised illnesses or clinical need. Given your extensive work on substance use, could you personally weigh in on that conversation?
EW: Humans have been using substances since the beginning and there is a need for improved strategies to optimize wellness for all of society. Initial work being done in this space is looking at those with serious addiction or mental health conditions but if research confirms wellness or human performance benefits, we’d hope to see those be available to all who might safely benefit.
PA: You played a significant role in Insite, the first legal supervised drug injection site in North America. Do you think a similar model could be applied to psychedelics?
EW: That was an example of research informing policy so there are some parallels. However, Insite was open in a more politically hostile climate that I do not believe the psychedelic world will face.
PA: COVID-19 has slowed some efforts calling for the legalisation of psychedelics, but catalysed interest in alternative mental health treatments. How might the pandemic affect Numinus’ plans?
EW: I think a number of groups have identified that mental health and addiction concerns are likely to be exacerbated by COVID-19. Right now, we need to do everything we can to address the crisis but at this stage of the pandemic there are so many other more time sensitive things that we need to do to support vulnerable populations that should probably be the focus.
PA: Let’s end on a positive note. What are you most excited about for Numinus’ future?
EW: If you look at the decades and decades of research and work with psychedelics, there has been essentially zero change for your average person out in the community who might benefit. I’m most excited that there are companies coming forward that are on a mission to change this.
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