Published on
June 29, 2021

Justin Kirkland | CSO Optimi Health

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Justin Kirkland
Chief Science Officer

A chemist with specialized experience in natural products, small molecules, peptide synthesis, analytical chemistry, and drug formulations for improved bioavailability. He was recently awarded a U.S. patent for the improved synthesis of the ergoline, 2-bromo-LSD; useful in treating cluster headaches. He lately served as CEO of Las Vegas-based Fristoe Pharmaceuticals, an FDA registered wholesale drug distributor, and previously oversaw product development for Wells Pharmacy Network from their base in Florida; he was the lead scientific investigator regarding synthetic peptides at Tailor Made Health in Kentucky, and managed functional food manufacturing at Nuka Foods in Colorado and founded Kilochem’s efforts in Illinois. Since 2007, he founded and operated Nutraseeds dietary supplements and cosmetics program. Kirkland’s career includes training support, sales, analytics, and related consulting services since 1998.

What got you first excited about psychedelics? 

I took a tissue culture class in graduate school and was amazed that contrary to human cells, almost every cell in the mushroom has something called “totipotency”. That is a word you don’t hear every day, and it basically means the cells hold the genetic ability to grow into unlimited quantities of mushrooms from any cell, regardless of which part of the mushroom the sample is taken from. It could be from the pileus, stipe, lamellae, or mycelium, better known as the cap, stem, and gills. This was the same year as the O.J. Simpson murder trial. While the rest of the world watched the legitimacy of genetics and DNA evidence being argued in the courtroom, I was quietly creating genetic clones of mushrooms in a small university lab. 

Can you talk about your background with 2-bromo-LSD? 

Sure, I had corresponded with the late Dr. Andrew Sewell MD at Yale University regarding his work treating cluster headaches with 2-bromo-LSD. At that time, psychedelic medicinal research did not exist as it does today, so there was a huge barrier to entry as you can imagine. Historically, to manufacture the compound, one had to first create a large quantity of LSD and subject it to a bromination reaction. I went on to develop a process that used commercially available starting materials which circumvented the need to ever possess LSD. I was subsequently awarded 2 process patents as a result of this research. 

What will you be focused on building at Optimi Health? 

My focus is to improve upon nature without diminishing the all-natural aspect of the products we are developing. We are well aware of the medical value of all of the mushrooms in each product line and look to improve bioavailability, delivery systems, extraction methods, and formulations. 

How is Optimi looking to advance psychedelic science and clinical research? 

We have committed a great deal of resources in time, personnel, funding, and facilities to ensure we are advancing the highest quality products, research, and ongoing medical validation with all of our products. We have some very exciting ideas that we feel will unlock value for consumers, clinicians and shareholders alike. We are highly focused on the integrity of our overall operation, and most importantly, to the patient’s quality of life. 

How does Optimi plan to develop new, innovative psilocybin-based formulations? 

Our scientific approach is exactly the same as any other standard pharmaceutical development process. We are looking at all aspects of psilocybin and its biochemistry to determine the best way to apply rigorously proven methods to provide the most efficacious, consistent, and highest quality product for patients.

How is Optimi validating their research and work with psychedelics in their dosing study in humans at the University of Calgary? 

We are using the most stringent gold standard for pharmaceutical science; the randomized double-blinded placebo-controlled study. These types of trials are designed by default to determine cause and effect, which is the basis of the scientific method. They eliminate predisposed notions with the ultimate goal of truly understanding the value of the outcome. 

What outcomes are you looking for with Optimi’s research in collaboration with Numinus Wellness? 

Our partnership allows both parties to further the value of psilocybin-focused mushroom research. We have a very complementary relationship that benefits both companies as well as accelerates the future of psychedelic medicine for future patients. 

Can you share a bit about Optimi’s plans to be a leader in cultivating and supplying psilocybin for clinical trials and research? 

We are currently and actively designing and pursuing our cultivation facility to encompass both Psilocybin-based and other medicinal mushroom strains and formulations. Optimi has designed this laboratory with an eye for GMP quality and with a focus on producing a standardized product of clinical trial quality. 

What is the most common misconception you hear about psychedelics? 

They are not a magic bullet. While psychedelics are incredible and valuable tools, I believe improved outcomes occur in a medicalized environment. These tools can provide insight to aid in solving issues. Still, it is essential to have other assets such as proper diet and exercise, counseling, and a peer support system as critical for lasting benefits. 

How do you see psychedelics making an impact on healthcare as a whole? 

The science of medicine as a whole has seen vast improvements over the years. There are so many areas where the quality of life is improved. What I see now is a strong move towards making innovative tools available to treat the mind. It is an area that is often overlooked and also an area that affects every demographic within our society.