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Psychedelic Bulletin: CA Decrim. Bill Passes Key Committee; MindMed Publishes MDMA Dosing Study; atai Acquires DTx Company

Senator Scott Wiener’s Bill 519, which would decriminalise most psychedelics in the Golden State, passed a key committee this week in a 4-1 vote. Wiener described the Bill as steeped in a “health-minded approach,” situating the proposed legislation within a broader project of dismantling the War on Drugs.

Psychedelic researchers and companies are increasingly demonstrating interest in pharmacogenetics: the study of how a person’s genes may influence their response to drugs (see Drew, 2016). MindMed’s MDMA dosing study suggests that the drug metabolising enzyme CYP2D6 may modulate the subjective effects of MDMA, with lower levels of the enzyme resulting in higher MDMA plasma concentrations and thus greater subjective effects. Entheon Biomedical subsidiary Halugen, meanwhile, is seeking to directly commercialise such correlations via a psychedelics genetic test – something of a nascent pick-and-shovel play. 

Mainstream media coverage was forthcoming this week, with NPR, Time Magazine, and The Washington Post all covering psychedelics. As always, you can find pertinent news pieces and editorials in our Weekend Reading section at the tail of this bulletin.

Psychedelic Sector News

Easy Dose It: Mindmed Study May Allow for Greater MDMA Dose Optimisation

Using data from 194 MDMA administrations across 10 studies, MindMed – by way of their partnership with the Liechti Lab, where the underlying studies took place – explained that personalizing MDMA dosing “may help optimize the acute MDMA experience including more positive subjective effects… and reducing adverse effects.”

You can find the full paper here: Studerus, E., Vizeli, P., Harder, S., Ley, L., & Liechti, M. E. (2021)

Predictors that feed-in to dose calculation and optimisation include “body weight, sex, age, genetics, personality trait measures, and mood.” The study also found that genetic testing for the CYP2D6 enzyme appears to be useful in dosing: those with low levels of CYP2D6 activity may experience greater subjective MDMA effects due to higher MDMA plasma concentrations, and as such a small reduction in dosing may be advisable.

As mentioned at the top of this bulletin, companies and researchers are showing increasing interest in understanding pharmacogenetics in the context of psychedelics. Entheon Biomedical’s subsidiary Halugen, for example, recently launched a psychedelics genetic test kit. One of the insights it claims to provide is a prediction of one’s ketamine metabolism, by way of checking for a variant of the CYP2B6 gene.

atai Acquires Majority Stake in Brain-Computer Interface Digital Therapeutics Company

atai Life Sciences has acquired a majority state in Psyber, which describes itself on LinkedIn (in lieu of a website or other substantive, publicly-available information) as “a globally-based startup focused on the development of brain-computer interface-enabled (BCI) digital therapeutics for treating mental health issues.”

The announcement and associated trial were covered in the Daily Mail, a popular British newspaper, with the (somewhat sensationalist) title Approval granted for clinical trials of an AI THERAPIST working alongside psychedelic drugs to treat depression and addiction. We shared this article on Twitter and received many concerned responses, with a number of individuals describing the proposals as “dystopian.” What’s your take? Feel free to weigh-in over on Twitter, and/or join our newsletter to participate in weekly polls on topics like this.

One thing seems certain: the role of digital therapeutics (and adjunct technologies like AI) in the scaling and roll-out of psychedelic-assisted therapies is only going to be explored further. 

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Weekend Reading

California Bill to Decriminalise Psychedelics Passes Key Committee

California’s Senate Bill 519, introduced by SF’s Scott Wiener, passed the Public Safety Committee in a 4-1 vote earlier this week.

Speaking to the Committee, Senator Scott Wiener explained: “By decriminalizing we’re not inviting people to use. We’re taking, instead of a criminal approach to drug use, a health-minded approach.” Alluding to a broader mission of reversing the War on Drugs, Wiener went on to claim: “SB 519 is a step toward dismantling the failed and racist War on Drugs, because locking people up for drug use doesn’t work.”

Next, the Bill faces the Senate Health Committee.

Read more in coverage from Courthouse News, California Globe, or Fox 40 (for a less optimistic view).

NPR Short Wave Covers the Resurgence of Psychedelic Psychiatry

In this 12-minute audio segment, NPR neuroscience correspondent Jon Hamilton explains how psychedelics are helping researchers “understand what causes mental illness and find new ways to treat it.”

Listen to the segment here.

Time Magazine: Inside Ibogaine

The April 12th, 2021 issue of TIME includes an article titled Inside Ibogaine, One of the Most Promising and Perilous Psychedelics for Addiction, in which Mandy Oaklander speaks to a number of individuals whose battles with addiction have been helped via ibogaine journeys. The measured article addresses safety concerns with Ibogaine and goes on to explain how 18-MC may be a similarly efficacious, but safer, alternative – replete with comment from MidnMed’s J.R. Rahn, who discusses the company’s Phase 1 trial on this very topic.

The article also mentions tabernanthalog, a non-hallucinogenic analogue of ibogaine that also appears to be efficacious yet safer. This is a compound under development by Delix Therapeutics and was published in Nature last December.

The Washington Post Covers Psilocybin’s Potential in Treating Cluster Headaches

Nothing helped for the first 20 years, until the day the strait-laced, middle-aged construction contractor tried psilocybin — the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms” — an illegal drug he had previously thought “was just for people who fried their brains.” Ever since, Wold, now 65, has relied on periodic low doses of “’shrooms” to keep his excruciating headaches at bay

Read the full article here.

Happy 35th Anniversary to MAPS!

Yesterday, MAPS celebrated its 35th anniversary. It’s important for those of us who arrived to this space during this time of ‘renaissance’ to acknowledge and support the tireless work of organisations like MAPS, which was founded on April 8th, 1986.

Please consider making a donation to celebrate this milestone.

Stay Informed in 2021

We can only expect the rate of change and development in the psychedelic space to continue accelerating in 2021. Stay informed via our various platforms and channels…

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