Brett Greene is a recognized leader in the Psychedelic Industry as the co-founder of Psymposia and Adelia Therapeutics. He has been a research administrator for the Center for Drug Discovery, one of the top Cannabinoid and Serotonin research centers in the world, for over a decade. In that role he co-managed $80M in federal funding overseeing a a number of cannabinoid and serotonin research projects. Most recently, he has stepped up to role of Chief Innovations Officer at Cybin, an innovative company in the Psychedelic Medicine world that is taking big steps toward identifying a new class of psychedelic medicines, treatment regimens, and identifying the science behind how psychedelics affect the human mind.
You have a deep history with psychedelics and exploring their therapeutic potential. What first got you excited about psychedelics?
I always had an interest in altered states of consciousness. At 7 or 8, I would spin around, doing my best to be aware in that mind-state. Climbing the tallest trees while my parents looked on nervously, the view from the top would take me out of myself enough to see a bigger picture. I realized early that the power and beauty of that view from the top was directly proportional to the fear and physical difficulty one had to conquer to get there. My interest in psychedelics was a natural evolution from this early willingness to endure some hardship for greater insight.
What hooked me, and drove me here, was the science, the medicine "work", and the vision of a world where psychedelic medicines were available. An equally large part of what excited me was the people I befriended in the psychedelic community. We had a common outlook as people whose lives had been profoundly benefited by psychedelic medicines, to the point where we risked our reputations and freedom by speaking about our experiences. But now what excites me about psychedelics is their potential to treat millions of people, saving and improving the quality of lives around the globe
What led you to founding Adelia Therapeutics and what is Adelia focused on building?
I was a research administrator for the Center for Drug Discovery (CDD) at Northeastern University, a world-renowned cannabinoid research facility under Dr. Alexandros Makriyannis. The CDD also houses a leading serotonin lab under Dr. Ray Booth. I worked there for 12.5 years. 6 years in, I co-founded a psychedelic media company, Psymposia, to help spread awareness for psychedelic science around the world. I met my partners through either the CDD or the psychedelic community. The founding of Adelia brought together these two previously compartmentalized worlds together of academic drug discovery and psychedelic science advocacy.
Adelia is focused on developing novel medications based on tryptamines and phenethylamines, combined with proprietary formulation, delivery and therapeutic technologies, to address the significant unmet needs associated with treatment resistant, CNS disorders.
When it comes to drug discovery around psychedelics, what is something you think most people do not yet realize?
Despite the increasingly popular view that psychedelics are medicines, they are not yet medicines in the eyes of the regulators. There remains so much work to meet the FDA's standards, and not every psychedelic will make it to the finish line of FDA approval.
You have enormous experience researching cannabinoids and serotonin. How has that informed your approach to psychedelic medicines and their medical potential?
I must correct you and say that I am very much an armchair researcher. I took terrific advantage of my position at the Center to learn as much as I could from the world class scientists around me. At the same time, you don’t want me on a bench in a lab. What I was able to do, throughout my time in academia, was ask very smart people lots and lots of questions and integrate what they told me into a fairly broad familiarity with psychedelic and cannabinoid science. It’s been said a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, but in my case it allows me freedom to have wild ideas that the brilliant people around can validate or shoot down.
Can you share your perspective on how big of an impact you believe psychedelics will have on our culture and healthcare?
Psychedelics have already made an enormous impact on culture. Their influence in art, science and technology has been an open secret for decades. The difference between now and, say, the 80’s and 90’s, is that the positive news greatly outweighs the negative. Negative propaganda about psychedelics these days is almost hard to come by. Many have worked tirelessly and on a purely volunteer basis for decades to bring us to this point where they have been normalized and destigmatized as much as they have. Positive data from top academic institutions is simply too hard to ignore, especially in the age of social media, and cannabis legalization has further paved the way in changing perceptions around substances that, according to their FDA statuses, have “no medical value”.
As far as culture is concerned, my hope is that the exponential increases in interest and access to these substances will make for a more compassionate, ethical and eco-friendly world; at the same time, psychedelics are not panaceas for making stable, rationale and mentally healthy human beings, and have plenty bad spokespeople! We must work to minimize the risks and maximize the benefits of these medicines. What we don’t want is the enthusiasm for the potential of psychedelic medicine to blind us to the challenges ahead. Acknowledging the risks and challenges of psychedelics from this early outset preempts the inevitable backlashes that will arise with adverse events in the future.
In terms of their impact on healthcare, psychedelic medicines hold tremendous promise for addressing the serious unmet needs of millions of people suffering from treatment resistant disorders. The emergence of psychedelics in healthcare is also converging with a revolution in digital health technologies, artificial intelligence and data analytics, and precision medicine. I think the model of psychedelic therapy may also point to a paradigm shift in terms of how we address illness, away from symptoms management toward addressing underlying causes which are psychophysical in nature.
From a science perspective, how did you choose to approach developing next generation psychedelics and what were some of the things you thought were essential to explore?
When designing any product intended for a given market, you want to find and solve problems. Some areas where psychedelics can be improved, from a pharmaceutical perspective, include how well they’re absorbed by the body, how stable they are, improved and predictable durations of action, and how they can better address indications than the competition.
How soon do you expect to be in clinical trials and what will they be focused around?
We are fast at work in addressing these questions. I’ll leave it to future press releases to answer them definitively, as that’s safer for everybody.
You have recently become a part of Cybin. Why were they the right company for Adelia and what unique advantages do you see Cybin having as a biotechnology company focused on psychedelic medicines?
From our very first meeting with Cybin’s president and co-founder Eric So, we’ve recognized him and Cybin at large as a kindred spirit. Cybin has the resources, receptivity and drive to complement and support our scientific endeavors and further innovation in the space. Together, Adelia and Cybin have distinct advantages of having decades of drug development and contributions to psychedelic science, and key insights into problems worth solving and solutions worth implementing.
Who is someone you think is doing important work in the world of psychedelics that more people should be aware of?
I’ll list three, because it’s too hard to choose one: Bryan Roth, Matthew Johnson and Robin Carhart-Harris. I predict Dr. Roth will win a Nobel Prize someday for his work on elucidating mechanisms of action of psychedelics. Matthew Johnson, of Johns Hopkins, is doing incredible work on the clinical psychology front and as a leader in terms of advocating for a truly scientific approach to the work, in contrast to some therapists who impose philosophical and spiritual beliefs on patients. Robin Carhart-Harris and team at Imperial College London are trailblazers in unlocking the neuroscience of psychedelics, and continue to build on seminal contributions they’ve made already to advance our understanding of the role of the default mode network in the psychedelic experience.