George Mashour, M.D., Ph.D., recently began serving as an advisor to Tryp Therapeutics to provide guidance on the company's upcoming clinical studies. Dr. Mashour serves as Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology, Scientific Director of the Center for Consciousness Science, and as the Robert B. Sweet Professor of Anesthesiology at the University of Michigan Medical School. Dr. Mashour is an internationally recognized expert on the neurobiology of consciousness and general anesthesia. He has authored more than 200 publications and has been the lead editor of five textbooks on anesthesiology and neuroscience. He currently serves as the principal investigator of several major NIH grants in the field of neuroscience, academic anesthesiology, and translational science.
What made you personally excited about psychedelics?
As an anesthesiologist and neuroscientist, I am excited about the development of transformative therapeutics for several disease entities. Psychedelic agents have significant potential to address many unmet needs for patients who continue to suffer from chronic illness.
What do you see as the potential impact psychedelics will have on healthcare as a whole and what kind of therapeutic potential do they have?
I anticipate the disruption of multiple disease spaces, many of which relate to neurologic and psychiatric disorders. As one salient example, the management of chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia could be transformed by psychedelics. Improving the treatment paradigm for patients is of paramount importance considering that many patients with chronic pain do not have effective options.
Can you share a bit about the collaboration between the University of Michigan and Tryp and what you will be focused on?
The collaboration will be focused on Tryp’s proprietary psilocybin-based drug product, TRP-8803, and its effects on chronic pain. Our work with TRP-8803 is part of a series of bridging studies for the novel formulation and method of delivery to help advance the product into eventual Phase 2b clinical trials for chronic pain indications. We will be collecting data on various pain indices, insular glutamate/GABA, PK analysis, and other measures.
What makes you excited about partnering with TRYP on their clinical study design for TRP-8803?
As a neuroscientist who focuses on consciousness, the potential for psychedelic drugs to create a positive impact has long been recognized but only now is being seriously pursued. This is exciting. As an anesthesiologist, our field struggles to provide effective care for patients with chronic pain. Many pain indications that are believed to originate in the central nervous system have been difficult to treat or have been treated with opioids, which have concerning side effects and are more appropriate for acute pain. The application of psychedelic-based drug products has significant potential to address the fundamental issues with this class of disorders.
How has your experience in neurobiology of consciousness and general anesthesia influenced your research with psychedelics? Do you see psychedelics being a transformation therapeutic for these health challenges?
My research in neurobiology has been dedicated to understanding the network-level properties that generate conscious experience. Psychedelics are incredibly powerful tools to probe those conscious processes. Furthermore, chronic pain itself is, in my opinion, a disorder of consciousness—psychedelics have the potential to disrupt network patterns that are thought to generate that pain experience. As such, they can be transformative in this space.
How do you believe that the recreational history of psychedelic compounds corresponds with their medical potential?
I think it is important to realize that we still have much to learn about the medical benefits of a psychedelic compound such as psilocybin. While these compounds have been primarily experienced through recreational use, I expect that we will see some very promising results as we couple the administration of these compounds with professional psychotherapy in a controlled setting.
What do you believe is the most important thing for people to understand about the future of psychedelics as medicine?
Psilocybin-based therapies and psychedelics in general have the potential to address a diverse set of disease processes that our current clinical practice cannot address due to clinical efficacy, side effects, or addictive properties. We are fortunate that research on psychedelics is now legitimized and supported by 21st century science as well as regulatory or funding agencies. The future is very bright.