Jeff Siegel is a managing partner of the JLS Fund (an early-stage plant medicine venture fund.) and is also the co-founder of Green Chip Stocks, a private investment community focused on socially-responsible investing. He has been a featured guest on Fox, CNBC and Bloomberg Asia, and is a regular on the speaking circuit.
Why has JLS decided to create a Psychedelic industry fund, and why now?
It’s really about timing. Now that we’re seeing psychedelic medicines return to the world of academic research and clinical trials, the need for capital is paramount. And because there’s still a bit of stigma around psychedelics despite numerous breakthrough designations by the FDA and the overwhelmingly positive results of clinical trials at places like Johns Hopkins and the Imperial College at Oxford, it’s not particularly easy for these companies to raise capital from traditional sources.
So we’re looking to fill that need for access to capital, not just because we know this opportunity will help us make a lot of money for our LPs, but also because it’ll allow us to help these companies get these medicines through clinical trials and into the hands of the millions of people who need them.
There is a very real mental health crisis in the US, as well as abroad. And this has only been exacerbated by COVID-19. Much of the psychedelics research we’ve seen over the past few years has been very promising in terms of its effectiveness in treating everything from anxiety and depression to PTSD and addiction. And this research is being backed and conducted by prestigious research universities, while the FDA is fast-tracking some of it in an effort to get better mental health treatments into the market place.
What can you tell us about the fund’s launch date, focus, and potential size?
Our first fund size is $50M. We’re already preparing for fund number two, though. We’ll be doing our first close on the first fund in just a couple weeks, and we’re already prepared to deploy much of that capital into several different companies we’ve already vetted.
Will the fund participate in private placements, or will it only invest in public companies?
We’re focused on private companies right now, although a couple of the companies we invested in last year have since gone public.
How is JLS involved in the recent news that the UFC is exploring psychedelic treatment for PTSD and TBI with John Hopkins University?
We had no involvement in that, other than sharing that news with investors. That being said, I’ve personally been very interested in how psychedelic medicines can potentially treat professional athletes, Particularly professional fighters who tend to suffer from excessive brain trauma.
What I found particularly interesting about the UFC announcement was that this was the first time we’ve ever seen a professional sports organization come out in such a proactive way to support this kind of research. When an organization such as the UFC, which has an incredibly wide reach, puts a spotlight on this research, it’s a very big deal.
What do you hope will come out of this partnership?
Well, for one, I’m hopeful that the UFC’s decision to move on this will serve as a catalyst for other professional sports organizations to get involved, too.
I’m also hopeful that professional fighters on the UFC roster will be able to benefit first hand from this research, particularly if they can get involved in some of these clinical trials.
If successful, how could this expand into other sports leagues?
I think if there’s any success here in terms of treating professional fighters suffering from brain trauma or mental illness, it won’t take long for other professional athletes who have suffered similar injuries or illnesses to get on board, too.
In terms of brain trauma, I suspect some of these therapies - if proven successful - could help a lot of active and retired NFL players. Addiction and brain trauma in the NFL are very serious issues. Whether or not the NFL would back it is still unknown. Most sports leagues have really fallen short in terms of seeking out new or better therapies to treat their players. Hopefully that changes in the future. But for now, it seems like the UFC is the only professional sports organization that’s really stepping up here, and willing to embrace new ideas instead of dismissing them.
What do you believe is the most important thing for people to understand about the future of psychedelics as medicine?
I think the most important thing is for people to not immediately equate psychedelics with hippies and party drugs.
Certainly any type of medicine can be misused. But there’s more and more evidence coming to the surface showing that these molecules can effectively treat a lot of very serious mental health issues, brain trauma, and potentially even neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
I should clarify that we’re going to need a lot more research to see if psychedelics can live up to the promise of being the next big disruptor in mental health and brain diseaes. But much of the research we’ve seen over the past few years is very promising. Only time will tell, but based on what we’ve seen thus far, there’s no disputing that certain psychedelics do have real medicinal and healing properties.
What is the most common misconception you hear about psychedelics?
Honestly, the only misconception about psychedelics that I’ve seen is that these molecules have no medicinal benefits. But if you spend 30 minutes looking at some of the research coming out of Johns Hopkins, you’ll know that nothing could be further from the truth.
I suppose another misconception from champions of the psychedelics industry is that these molecules pose no danger to anyone who uses them. I disagree with that entirely. Again, this is real medicine. And if not used responsibly, and with the right guidance, some of these things could absolutely have negative side effects.
Which current studies are you most excited about and why?
I don’t know if there’s one study that I find more exciting than any others. It’s all very exciting. Haha. Although I am really interested in learning more about how DMT can promote brain plasticity and lead to the growth of new neurons. This is absolutely ground-breaking stuff and could lead to so many new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases. We’ve really just scratched the surface, too. I think over the next 10 to 20 years, we’re going to discover a wealth of knowledge about all of these different molecules. It really is an exciting time.
How do you feel about all of the recent hype and investment interest in the psyched?
Regarding all the hype and investment interest in the space, I’m a bit conflicted. On one hand, it’s so great to finally see some real money coming into the space. Money that’s needed to do all the necessary research to get these medicines and treatments into the hands of the people who need them.
The downside is the worry that certain companies won’t operate in a responsible manner or not give these molecules the proper respect they deserve. There’s a lot of scammers out there. Particularly in the world of investing.
This is another reason we formed JLS. We want to help investors be able to separate the legitimate psychedelics companies that are doing the heavy lifting to get better mental health treatments into the market place from the companies that are just looking to make a quick buck. If day traders want to play with those, that’s fine. But we’re playing the long game here. We’re investing in the best of breed, at the best valuations, and with the best deal terms. Anything less than that is of no interest to us.