Dr. Ivan Casselman | Chief Psychedelic Officer, Havn Life Sciences

February 16, 2021
Spotlight

Dr. Ivan Casselman has extensive nutraceutical formulation experience, with several products available in legal cannabis markets in North America. He is an ethnobotanist, analytical phytochemists, and plant geneticists, with over 15 years’ experience working in the cannabis industry. His experience in the development of herbal formulations, authentication, and quality control gives him unique insight into the development of cannabis infused products across a wide variety of commercial applications.

Over the last decade, Dr. Casselman has been involved in the start-up, growth and expansion of several plant medicine and retail companies throughout Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Responsibilities included franchise expansion, sales operations, and implementation of a scalable corporate strategy.

Most recently, he has joined Havn Life Sciences as their Chief Psychedelic Officer.
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What got you personally excited about psychedelics?

Psychedelics can be an important technology, one that has the potential to radically alter the way we think and help us solve the big problems that face our society. There is anecdotal evidence and a growing body of research that indicates a relationship between psychedelics and mental health. Psychedelics make us think in a different way. By changing our frame and developing new neural pathways, I believe that we can iterate information and create novel solutions to today's problems.

How does your background in ethnobotany and plant genetics prepare you for your work at Havn Life?

My interest in psychedelics began when I was very young and stemmed from my love of botany. Ethnobotany has always been a core discipline in psychedelic research—understanding how people use plants, particularly psychedelic plants, is very important as we explore how people will use psychedelics as medicine. After decades of studying the relationship between humans and psychedelics, it brings me great joy to be at the frontier of this industry. As the Chief Psychedelic Officer of Havn Life, I get to not only look at growing and extracting psychedelics, but also study their applications and develop innovative processes to support the growth of this industry as well as our company.

What are some of the therapeutic uses you see coming from psychedelics?

Right now, there is growing evidence that psilocybe mushrooms work for the treatment of various medical and mental health indications. But, where can patients access quality controlled, standard, safe medicine? Currently there are no options, which is where Havn Life comes in. We are working hard to ensure that patients can access regulated, safe medicine that is naturally-derived. Essentially, we are trying to build a supply chain for natural psychedelic medicines.

We are also developing a study that looks at the relationship between psychedelics and the immune system to determine if a single dose of psilocybin extract can impact the body’s inflammatory response.

What are the benefits of using Natural vs. Synthetic psilocybin and how do you see this affecting future studies and formulation development?

Psilocybin is the main psychoactive ingredient in medicinal mushrooms, but it’s important to keep in mind that it is not the only one. Psychedelic mushrooms have hundreds of compounds that all interact to produce the experience associated with psychedelic mushrooms. Yet, most modern research uses psilocybin as an extract or that is synthetically produced. This is why at Havn Life we believe it is important to not only create naturally-derived psilocybin, but to identify and separate each compound within the mushroom so that we can research their respective properties and understand how to assemble them as medicinal products that will help humans thrive.

What is Havn Life developing  and researching when it comes to Microdosing and what’s your background in that subject?

Microdosing could be a very important technological development in psychedelic medicine. Havn Life is very interested in this technology, as we see it as a huge area of growth in psychedelic medicine. In December, we announced our partnership with a veterans’ organization, Heroic Hearts, where we will be supplying low-dosage (microdose) psychedelics for their future clinical trials on PTSD in veterans. This is an opportunity to observe, from a clinical perspective, how subpercetual dosing of psychedelics can impact brain health and potentially impact how we treat mental health disorders.

What is the biggest misconception you hear about Psychedelics?

There is typically not just one misconception. We have to remember that our society has been saturated with “war on drugs” propaganda since the 1930's. This has seriously skewed how several generations characterize psychedelics, typically in a negative context. Even with overwhelming research we now have, the conversation about psychedelic medicine is still restricted by the propaganda that has been entrenched over the last century.

That is one of the key reasons we launched an education portal on our website. We want to be a source for people to learn and better understand psychedelics and other plant medicines from a reliable source that looks at research and shares a diversity of perspectives on the journey through psychedelic experiences and mental health.

More and more people from all walks of life are reporting that psychedelics have helped them in a wide range of ways. I am cautiously optimistic that as the conversation progresses, governments will begin to make rational, data based policies to allow access to this medicine.

What do you believe is the most important thing for people to understand about the future of psychedelics as medicine?

Psychedelic medicine is a tool that could help us solve some of the major problems our society faces. Humans have been using psychedelic medicine for centuries. Bringing these medicines out of the shadows and into public view will allow us the opportunity to do something unique and change the face of medicine.

In Canada, we are already taking steps to provide access to psilocybe spp mushrooms for “end of life” patients. This is an important first step. In the next 4 years or so, I would like to see the Canadian government establish broad, regulated access to this medicine.

Yet, currently, no mechanism exists for patients or researchers to access legal, naturally-derived psilocybin. At Havn Life we want to grow psilocybin mushrooms and build a supply chain for researchers, so they will have access to the hundreds of compounds found in psychedelic mushrooms. This is the path towards harnessing their capabilities and building the medicine of the future.  
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