Dr. Joel Raskin was a community psychiatrist and academic with 20 years of international pharmaceutical experience in neuroscience drug development, lifecycle preparation, launch, and commercialization. He earned his medical degree and FRCPC, Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He is currently on the Alzheimer's Drug Development Foundation Scientific Review Committee and the Weston Family Foundation Brain Institute Scientific Advisory Committee.
Dr. Raskin is a member of the Canadian Medical Association, Ontario Medical Association, and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. As an active member of the academic and life sciences community, Dr. Raskin, until recently, held an adjunct staff appointment with the University of Toronto Department of Psychiatry.
What made you personally interested in psychedelics?
I've always been interested in how amazingly complex the brain is, and how various substances, including conventional medicines, psychedelics, even foods, can affect it. As a psychiatrist, seeing both the successes and limitations of the medications I prescribed, encouraged me to pursue other options for people suffering with mental health problems. I wanted to help my patients feel better, to have a better life, and to see the value in their living. It's exciting to be involved in new areas of research that hold such potential.
What are some of the biggest challenges in mental healthcare right now and how could psychedelic therapies address these challenges?
Unfortunately, there are many challenges in mental healthcare right now, although we are making progress. We need to learn more and unlock the mysteries and complexities of how the brain works. We need more education regarding mental illness and mental health, both treatment and prevention, and we need to decrease the stigma associated with mental illness. We need to develop better treatments including medications and psychotherapies, and improve the access to these treatments for anyone who needs them. And then we need to study how to personalize these treatments, so that each person receives the optimal customized treatments tailored specifically for them.
What are you working on developing at MINDCURE?
At MINDCURE, we are working on researching several treatments utilizing psychedelics for various mental health problems. It is exciting to me that we are taking a holistic approach to treatment, studying not only psychedelics but also psychotherapies and digital therapeutics. Also, in addition to researching existing psychedelic molecules, we are exploring the development of improved versions of these molecules that could be advantageous to people and their treatment.
What clinical trials & research are you currently working on?
We have recently announced our plan to manufacture fully synthetic ibogaine, which would enable us to have a pharmaceutical grade product for our planned research. We are also working with MDMA and plan to do research with other psychedelics and potentially develop analogues that may be more effective, or safer, or easier to use. I'm looking forward to researching these psychedelics in several different conditions of high patient need. The fiels is moving quickly and so are we.
What led you to decide to manufacture synthetic ibogaine and what are the future plans for novel drug discovery?
There is a lot of scientific interest in Ibogaine to potentially help treat many conditions. Traditionally, Ibogaine has been sourced and then synthesized from the iboga plant, which creates the challenge of an unreliable supply and also affect the consistency required for research use. By fully synthesizing Ibogaine, we can produce high quality Ibogaine suitable for human studies and protect the natural iboga plant. Researchers, including me, would be able to rely on a consistent supply of pharmaceutical-grade Ibogaine for their studies. This would be a big help to the field to advance the science.
How will your digital therapeutics platforms benefit your clinical research?
Digital therapeutics have many benefits and not just for research; they can improve clinical treatment too. Digital therapeutics provide real-time information to the patient and the researcher or therapist that can help guide and enable faster and more evidence-based therapeutic decisions. These digital platforms can measure things, like physiological responses, behavior and mood changes, that our current measures cannot capture and lead to better informed decisions. These platforms can also increase the personal engagement and adherence to treatment. They can provide information in-between study or clinical treatment visits, providing more and better data for the study team or the therapist and clinician to analyze. Digital therapeutics can provide so many benefits to the person and those helping them. We get more useful information, in real time, that can lead to better outcomes for research and clinically too.
How will your neuroscience experience at Eli Lilly & Co help guide what you are working on at MINDCURE?
Working in neuroscience at Eli Lilly for 20 years was an amazing journey. Having the opportunity to work with the smartest people, both inside the company and externally, who were engaged in trying to advance the science and bring medicines to patients, was the best learning experience possible and has left me with deep respect and admiration for so many, and also lifelong friends. My global responsibilities enabled me to gain experience and perspective in drug development and commercialization; trying to balance what's important to patients and their families, physicians, regulators and payers, and how to bring potential treatments forward taking all these needs into account. But the biggest learning, and one I take with me to work everyday, is that the patient is at the center of what we do. We must always start with the needs of the person who has the illness as our guiding North Star.
What do you believe is the most important thing for people to understand about the future of psychedelics as medicine?
There is incredible potential for psychedelics to become very valuable treatment options for people who are suffering with various mental health disorders. This is tremendously exciting and could be revolutionary. I believe it will be. But before we over-promise and get too excited, we need to do the high quality research required to properly evaluate the future of psychedelics, and this takes time. I know people are waiting, so know that we are all working as quickly as we can.
Who else is doing important work within psychedelics you think more people should be aware of?
There is a lot of important work being done now with psychedelics. MAPS is leading the charge, and there are many companies, like Mind Cure, that are engaging in research. And now, many universities have also established psychedelic research programs, bringing the research into the mainstream. It's not going fast enough for anyone involved I'm sure, but it really is going fast and I'm excited and curious for what's to come.