Aside from being the Chairman of the Board for Optimi Health, JJ is the CEO and Co-Founder of Ride Cycle Club and Partner at Very Polite Agency. JJ’s previous experience includes leading the international expansion of Kit and Ace, in addition to developing the businesses brand, ecommerce, and retail. A recent graduate from Harvard Business School, JJ now focuses on strategic growth initiatives and development for his operating companies, in addition to independent strategic investments, and philanthropy.
What got you personally excited about psychedelics?
For us, it was the opportunity to build a platform that would offer impactful, transformational and life changing products to the world. It sounds ambitious, but frankly so many of us know someone suffering from a mental health condition that we became excited about the potential of these new alternative approaches.
Can you share what the vision is for Optimi Health?
The vision right now is to work towards what we think of as human optimization through the production and application of fungi-derived formulations. We are focusing our efforts on medicinal mushrooms such as Lions Mane, Chaga, Reishi, etc and of course, psilocybin. We’re building a platform to identify, quantify, maximize and standardize the means to deliver positive impact to issues that many individuals have been struggling with, sometimes for years and years.
Optimi is leveraging a clearly growing interest in psilocybin and other psychedelic alternatives to help move the scientific community and society towards a future offering of alternatives for today’s pharmaceuticals options. We believe in a future where anyone can be prescribed these options to alleviate suffering from a variety of mental and physical conditions. By first prioritizing the required research and trials towards those who need solutions most, Optimi also sees a future of good to great, whereby psilocybin (and other psychedelics) can even help just about anyone, even without an existing condition, empower their physical and mental outlook towards an optimal condition. Right now, we are laser focused on psilocybin (GMP production and research) as the forerunner in the sector.
What are your current operations and what kind of future potential do they have both for functional mushrooms and psychedelics?
Early on, we identified an ability to maximize our investment through an integrated approach. Our team brings a diversity of interests, abilities, and experience that allowed us to quickly devise a practical approach. We’ve instituted three operating divisions with a long-term vertical integration model encompassing an end-to-end cultivation to consumer enterprise.
Division 1: Optimi Farms
The design and construction of our facilities was based on the premise that form follows function. First off, we appreciated that we really need to understand mushrooms. How best to grow, extract, and ultimately deliver the best possible product available. We noted the ongoing dialogue regarding both natural and synthetic psilocybin-based exploration that was becoming increasingly polarized. After internal consideration, Optimi is now positioned to capitalize on the broader context of health and wellness and the movement towards natural based products. Our mission is to provide best in the world GMP certified production of natural functional and psilocybin fungi varieties. I think that firmly states where we sit on that score. Our plan was to simply do it right and build the facilities we needed to ensure quality and quantity. That’s what we did, and we are nearing the point where we can begin production. We are confident that there is a significant desire for naturally grown high quality products to rapidly expand our business into a national presence.
Division 2: Optimi Labs
With direct access to natural, custom-curated precursor materials from Optimi’s own cultivation facilities, it was an obvious and important step to integrate the scientific capability for the development of novel and proprietary psilocybin-based extracts and formulations. With our vision for human optimization in mind, we set out to ensure our facility included generous room for a built-in research and extraction lab in order to create evidence-based formulations to help advance targeted outcomes, right from extraction through to human based clinical trials.
Division 3: Optimi Nutraceuticals
Different from our focus on psilocybin, functional and medicinal mushrooms offer an abundance of health benefits without psychedelic effects. However, body and mind are very much involved. The fungi world is complex and Optimi aims to capitalize on our research as much as possible. In the future, functional varieties may be paired with psilocybin to maximize benefits and is a key exploratory focus in our investigative agenda. Optimi Nutraceuticals is creating natural wellness products designed to optimize performance through the delivery of high quality and diverse product lines.
What will a Canada Health Exemption allow Optimi Health to do as it relates to psychedelics?
The management of psilocybin under an exemption license allows Optimi to investigate psilocybin within the criteria of certain restrictions mostly related to quantity handling. Today, we employ the exemption to advance fundamental research while we complete our cultivation and lab facilities in preparation for future trials. We are preparing the business to efficiently scale once our dealers license is approved.
Can you speak about your recent partnership with Numinus Wellness and what that allows Optimi to do?
Numinus is an outstanding partner already well-established in the world of psilocybin. Our partnership with them allows Optimi to leverage their research team to develop extraction methods, unique formulations, and effective controlled substance process management. So much of this is all new territory for everyone that our relationship with Numinus will benefit us both in ways we haven’t even yet identified. We are thrilled to join them on the path they have pioneered.
What was some of the science you found most compelling about how functional mushrooms can impact health for people, physically and cognitively?
Of course, It’s still very early days, but there is increasingly compelling evidence, data, and literature that we believe indicates psilocybin and other psychedelic alternatives may offer positive impacts in the lives of many, many people with unmet needs. It’s a very exciting time for health and wellness in general, and as the world continues to see value in what these products have to offer, the better off we will all be. Optimi is particularly interested in the current outcomes of psilocybin-based research and studies related to depression, emphasizing the long-term tail of chronic anxiety.
What do you believe is the most important thing for people to understand about the future of psychedelics as medicine?
That’s easy; Folks, this is not recreational cannabis, but keep an open mind. There is some obvious historical stigma attached to psychedelics, but the truth is that we still know very little about them. What we do know is increasingly compelling in nature and fact. They are powerful and can be used for great good if used appropriately via proper formulation and administration. It’s also important that the evolution of psychedelics takes a slow and steady approach, and that ‘legalization’ doesn’t translate into the wild west of drug use. This is a beautiful opportunity to develop some truly great medical solutions for many of humanity’s increasingly problematic unmet needs.
What is the most common misconception you hear about psychedelics?
That the only way forward for application is via approved clinically assisted therapeutic administration. We support making these products available to anyone in any format, provided its controlled in some capacity. We don’t clearly see a long-term future in these clinical formats yet, and we could be proved very wrong.
What do you see as being the next major step forward for psychedelics being more medically accessible?
As was just noted, the future is still far from defined. But that is part of what is driving interest and making the space incredibly exciting. Within Canada, there are multiple studies in a variety of mediums underway, and the outcome of these studies will prove very informative as to the direction the psychedelics will take. Psychedelics will in some capacity be legalized, Optimi believes it’s important to be positioned in such a way that allows the businesses to effectively support part of the supply chain.
Who is someone doing important work in the world of psychedelics that you think more people should be aware of?
We try and pay close attention to everyone, especially in North America, and have identified a number of companies and individuals that we believe are making significant strides early on in the space. As an example of who our founding team has always paid close attention to and would happily put forward is the work being done by Paul Stamets and Compass Pathways.
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