Jeff Stevens is the CEO and Director of Psyched Wellness. Jeff has 20+ years of capital markets experience and has been an officer and director with several public companies. He has taken three companies public via reverse takeover, built teams and structured multiple M&A transactions while building successful businesses.
What made you personally excited about psychedelics?
That's a great question. My answer will likely be different from many of my peers as I didn't come to this out of a personal experience or need to explore psychedelics for mental health issues. Like many, I have used various tried psychedelics over the years and by and large have enjoyed the experience. More recently I have turned to micro-dosing psilocybin and have found that to be beneficial for improving my focus and concentration. I guess you can say I've always been open to the notion and experience.
I am an entrepreneur at heart and spent the first half of my career working on institutional sales and trading desks, working closely with various management teams helping them to craft their message and engage the street for financings and liquidity. I recognized early that I didn't want to be the guy walking management teams around, I wanted to be the management team. I made the jump from the institutional sales desk to the issuer side back in 2014 and since then I have been a founder or officer/director of 6 private companies working with them to take them public and raise funds.
In January of 2020, I was invited to join a group of individuals for a planning session to create a new company focused on the psychedelic space. This group included individuals from all areas of Bay St., we had securities counsel, an EMD, Hedge Fund PMs and deal originators. We had all been a part of the cannabis movement to various degrees and we felt the psychedelic sector demonstrated a lot of similarities to cannabis about 8-10 years ago. We knew to be able to make an impact and to get the market to support you, it was important to have a great team (board and advisory board) supporting the company, a unique spin to the opportunity and access to capital.
After many meetings, we agreed to put our collective skills and contacts together and form Psyched Wellness to become one of the first movers in the psychedelic sector and focus on a psychedelic mushroom that none of our peers had given any attention to. Because we took that approach, we were successful in attracting some incredibly talented and experienced individuals to join our team and raise approximately $4M privately that allowed us to execute the business plan while working through the RTO process to list on the CSE. This was key as we did not have to put on the brakes and wait to be listed to begin our work.
In its simplest form, what is the mission of Psyched Wellness?
Psyched Wellness's mission is to be the first company to legally bring to market products derived from muscimol, the psychoactive compound found in the Amanita Muscaria mushroom. Our goal is to provide consumers with natural health supplements derived from our extract AME-1 to assist with their health and wellness needs, and to make it available over the counter for the general public.
Can you tell us about AME-1 and what it is?
AME-1 is the result of many weeks of R&D where our team worked tirelessly through a long process of trial and error to find the optimal extraction process to convert ibotenic acid into muscimol in a 100% natural way . Our AME-1 extract converts the majority of ibotenic acid into muscimol virtually reducing the negative effects of ibotenic acid to nil. We have written the safety data sheets and specifications surrounding this extract so that we can be sure the results are within our required parameters for an enjoyable, healing and safe experience.
The need to perform an extraction process that converts the ibotenic acid to muscimol was both the challenge and the opportunity for Psyched. If the conversion is not done, the experience can be quite negative and the end user could end up with nausea, vomiting, muscle spasms and in larger dosages, delirium. By creating the AME-1 protocols and filing provisional patents around them, we have created the foundation off of which we can establish our health and wellness products.
Why did you choose to focus on Amanita Muscaria?
Amanita Muscaria is an extremely interesting, strong, and possesses medicinal and healing abilities. It has a long history of use by various indigenous groups, like Siberian Shamans and more recently by individuals who use it for the many potential health and wellness benefits. It has never been classified as a schedule 1 drug, meaning we are able to work with it as a food supplement and do our pre-clinical studies easier with a quicker path to market.
We recognized when we started the company that we needed to do something unique if we wanted to make an impact. There were already some big names in the space (Theil, Linton, O'leary etc) and many well-capitalized companies ahead of us with teams in clinical trials so we wanted to differentiate ourselves from the group. We felt that working with a legal psychedelic plant or mushroom would give us that edge. With that goal in mind, our COO, David Shisel identified a number of opportunities for us to explore and, of the various compounds we looked at, we all agreed on Amanita Muscaria.
The mushroom is the most recognizable mushroom as a result of pop culture using it in various movies (Alice in Wonderland), video games (Super Mario Bros), books (many children's books) and then the folklore of the Soma. All of this added up to a great opportunity for us to be the only public company working with Amanita Muscaria and taking the branding of the mushroom that was done for us and using it to educate people on what the red and white spotted mushroom is and the benefits it can provide.
What are some of the health benefits you have seen with Amanita Muscaria?
We are currently in the middle of the pre-clinical studies that will provide us with the science and data to support applying to the FDA for a New Dietary Ingredient and to Health Canada for a Natural Health Product Number. Our studies will prove the safety and efficacy of muscimol and specifically AME-1 for human consumption. Our initial product will be in the form of a tincture in a low dose to provide the consumer with a relaxing and calming effect. We will continue our R&D on the potential of AME-1 with the goal to create more products for the health and wellness category. Anecdotally we hear of people using muscimol to assist with various mental and physical health issues ranging from sleep insomnia to addiction to benzodiazepines. We believe the opportunity to further explore the science is justified.
What is the connection between AME-1 and gut health?
Psyched has initiated a study to explore the anti-inflammatory nature of the AME-1 extract with a particular focus on gut health. When gut health is damaged, it can lead to inflammation thus promoting a chronic condition of the gut lining and impairment of barrier function of the digestive tract. The aim of the study is to explore the anti-inflammatory properties of AME-1 extract and to demonstrate activities that may enhance digestive barrier function and immunity. This is significant as gut health and immunity promotion is substantial for health and wellness.
Can you share a bit about your extraction process?
The Company filed a provisional patent application on March 12, 2021 as App. No. 63/160,721 for its proprietary extraction protocols for AME-1. The patent discloses and claims muscimol extraction from Amanita mushrooms, and more particularly, enhanced muscimol extraction processes from Amanita muscaria, including by distillation and refluxing and/or pressing, resulting in a liquid or powder extract useful for preparations for human health.
How were you able to attract David Nutt and other leading voices in the world of psychedelic medicines to be a part of Psyched Wellness?
My COO, David Shisel called me and said he found the perfect guy for us to reach out to for the board. He told me he is one of the top 5 thought leaders in the modern renaissance of psychedelics, he's a professor at Imperial College UK, sits as the Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board for Compass Pathways....I was sold.
We reached to Professor Nutt while we were still private and still putting a lot of the pieces together and explained to him what we planned to do. He was immediately interested as he had written a paper on the Amanita Muscaria Mushroom some 30 years prior but it never really caught on in scientific research circles because psilocybin and LSD were the focus. He initially agreed to work with us as an advisor to see how we operate and get a comfort level with the team and our approach. I am proud to share that he was impressed with our work ethic, dedication to following the science and partnering with top-tier CRO partners to the point that he agreed to take on a full board position and work very closely with the team as we progress our studies.
I would like to point out that Professor Nutt is just one of many talented members on our team and we are very appreciative of all of their individual efforts assisting us in growing Psyched.
What is the most common misconception you hear about psychedelics?
Psychedelics have the same impact on the brain as other illegal drugs.
We are learning more about the impact on the brain of various psychedelic compounds and what we do know is that psychedelics have a fundamentally different effect on the brain than highly addictive drugs like alcohol, nicotine, or cocaine. By and large, psychedelics are proving not to be addictive.
What do you believe is the most important thing for people to understand about the future of psychedelics as medicine?
Plant-based medicine is not new and this movement to heal ourselves with naturally occurring compounds is not to be feared. I strongly believe we will see tremendous advancements in the coming years that support the use of these compounds for people struggling with various mental and physical health issues.