Joseph is a serial entrepreneur and a founder of Field Trip. He, along with Ronan, Hannan and Ryan, was a founder of CanvasRx and Canadian Cannabis Clinics, where he served as CEO. After CanvasRx Inc. was acquired by Aurora Cannabis Inc. (NYSE:ACB) in 2016, he joined Aurora's board of directors and, along with his partners, led Aurora's mergers/acquisitions and corporate development efforts. Following his time at Aurora, Joseph became CEO of Trait Biosciences Inc., a leading cannabis biotechnology company. Prior to working in cannabis Joseph co-founded Newten Home Comfort, a fast growing home services company which was acquired by Just Energy Inc.
Tell us about the mission Field Trip Health is on and how you plan to help people access psychedelic medicines?
Our mission is to bring the world to life through psychedelics and psychedelic therapy. We're approaching that mission from two fronts, first, developing novel psychedelic compounds that we believe will be improvements on the classic psychedelics, and second, by building out the infrastructure and know-how to scale the delivery of psychedelic therapies.
What got you interested on a personal level to start a company based around psychedelics?
For me it was the incredible potency and efficacy of psychedelics to create long lasting positive changes in people. I'm drawn to working in innovative fields and to have the opportunity to help scale access for patients to psychedelics was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
Why did Field Trip decide you start with ketamine assisted psychotherapy in a clinical setting?
There is good and growing evidence for the use of ketamine on its own in depression and other conditions. But taking advantage of the fact that ketamine is a dissociative psychedelic allows us to combine it with a specially designed psychotherapy protocol and have results that we believe can be better and longer lasting than ketamine on its own. Working with ketamine assisted psychotherapy now allows us to start delivering on the promise of psychedelic assisted psychotherapy today, while building up the expertise, technology and know-how to roll out other psychedelic therapies as they come to market.
You currently have clinics in Toronto, New York and Los Angeles. What have the early days of operating clinics across North America taught you about where psychedelics is heading and how do you plan to become a clear leader in the clinical space?
Our early results from the clinics have been truly inspiring for everyone at Field Trip. I still get goosebumps when I speak with patients and hear how much ketamine assisted psychotherapy has helped them. These results validate my belief that psychedelic assisted psychotherapy will play a central role in how we treat a variety of mental health conditions in the future.
Field Trip is working on developing a novel molecule. Can you tell us about this process and what you hope the outcome will be?
First, we laid out what we wanted to create - a novel psychedelic molecule that was as potent as psilocybin but with a significantly shorter trip time, thus making this new drug more practical to use in the clinic. (Psilocybin trips can last between 4 -8 hours which requires significant labour and space resources, so shortening the experience without affecting the potency offers many clear benefits.) We initiated synthesis of a battery of small molecules, from which FT-104 was selected as our lead molecule because we believed that it would provide the characteristics we were looking for, and our preclinical studies have validated those beliefs. In particular, we have now confirmed that: (i) FT-104 is a near equipotent 5HT2A receptor agonist to psilocybin that can be delivered with high bioavailability; and (ii) FT-104 will likely produce a reliably short-duration of psychedelic experience in the range of two to four hours, which is approximately half the duration of psilocybin. We are excited to take FT-104 into the next phases of our drug development program.
What are some of the misconceptions you think exist currently around psychedelic medicines and how is Field Trip working through these challenges to be a leader in helping people become educated and access these treatments?
I believe that many people, even those in the industry, are underestimating how important the delivery and administration of psychedelic therapies (ie the "set and setting") are to patient outcomes. Factors such as the preparation the patient does before their treatment, the therapeutic protocols employed by the therapy teams, the aesthetics of the location, the music, the lighting others have been shown to have a significant impact on the patient outcomes. These factors may even be as relevant, if not more relevant, than the choice of drug in a psychedelic experience. This is why at Field Trip we are focussed on both the development of new psychedelic molecules as well as the delivery, and why we are rolling out our Field Trip Health centers across North America now using ketamine-assisted therapies. The work we are doing in our Field Trip Health centers now are enabling us to not only help a large number of people and generate revenue but also helping us to innovate and develop best-in-class experiences for patients with a goal of creating the best patient outcomes whatever the psychedelic.
Field Trip recently went public, which is clearly an enormous milestone. Why did you want to pursue being a publicly traded company and what opportunities will that open up?
Although psychedelic medicine has been around for a very long time (eons in traditional cultures), incorporation of psychedelics into western approaches to medicine is going to require the development of new infrastructure to support it. That requires capital and the companies that are going to be best positioned to build this new industry are those that will have the lowest cost of capital. As we assessed our development plans, we quickly realized that access to public capital markets would provide that low cost of capital to us, which was the primary impetus for our listing. However, being public also offers the advantage of a platform to raise awareness to a much broader audience, and get more people both financially and emotionally invested in the success of psychedelic medicine.