Kelsey Ramsden | CEO, MINDCURE
May 10, 2021
Kelsey Ramsden | CEO, MINDCURE
Kelsey Ramsden has over 15 years of experience founding, scaling, and operating innovative companies across Canada and the Caribbean. She has built multiple 8-figure businesses from the ground up and has twice been named Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneur. Kelsey also serves on the Entrepreneurship Council for the University of Western Ontario, where she is also a faculty member teaching Design Thinking. Kelsey holds an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. She is an accomplished keynote speaker and published author. Her latest endeavour is focused on advancing transformative psychedelic medicine through her role as the CEO of MINDCURE.
What made you personally excited about psychedelics?
There was a time in my life when I thought happiness would come by ascending the mountaintop and collecting all the gold coins—jumping through the hoops as if life were a game I had to win. We’re taught to think this recipe will make us feel whole and yet, when I reached the top of this metaphorical mountain—I felt hollow. I tried traditional therapy, but nothing was truly getting to the point of the issue—an issue I didn’t wholly understand, so I began studying alternatives, including psychedelics with therapy. It took two years of research before I felt confident enough to give this route a go and actually consider it a viable option. Because here’s the deal: I have only one brain, it’s the biggest asset I have—and so naturally, I was nervous. However, I’d reached that point I think many of us may know and relate to, where to stay where I was would be more painful than any risk of the unknown other.
After going through psychedelic therapy, I was able to get to the true heart of the matter. It was a realization that shook me, and reminded me, that I if all I have is one go on this little blue marble, then where would my skills and abilities best be applied? And so here I am today, because I knew after my positive experience that if ever there would be an opportunity to lead a company in psychedelics, I would do it.
What do you see as the potential impact psychedelics will have on healthcare as a whole and what kind of therapeutic potential do they have?
Once we have enough research and science to allow changes to regulation, we’ll be able to unlock insurance payments. As it stands now, this route is reserved for those who can afford to pay out of pocket. The future holds net cost savings to insurers because simply put, these medicines have better efficacy, and they treat people faster with better results. We’ll see an adaptation within health care in that this option will become cheaper. Ultimately, we’ll have a lower total cost of ownership in the health space because mental health can lead so many secondary, and even comorbid affects.
As with the cannabis industry, and any time a new idea gets introduced, change may start slow, but as the research barrels in, the snowball will get rolling. In this industry, we’re researching therapies that have existed for such a long time, however, they’ve been shunned by society, politics, and regulation. When we rely on science however, it’s like math: factual and simple—we no longer need to get upset and involve culture and politics. Rather, we can get to the real point: are people getting better? It’s a straightforward proposition.
The lovely result will be that, when administered well (and that’s key), people will have an opportunity to truly heal themselves. When we unleash psychedelic therapy, the answer will no longer lie in the silver bullet of some pill. It will be the experience which allows the patient to be a colleague in their own care, to become responsible for own their lives, and then, to take the whole “patient” idea out altogether. Globally, society will become more responsible for itself.
What is Mind Cure focused on building?
One of our primary focuses is our digital therapeutics tool iSTRYM, which we see as the backbone in the rollout of the psychedelics industry at large. Sure, there are a lot of people developing molecules, but we need to think about what happens when regulations change, and we have the science to back up said molecules. How do we get them in the hands of therapists in a responsible way—in a modern way where people like me, full of objections, can be addressed, monitored, quantified, and personalized? We’re building this digital-therapeutics tool so we can partner with everyone in the psychedelics industry and thus, help them bring their drugs to market in a way that gives more people help, and provides therapists with their own wingman—one that provides assurance and quantification. It’s quantified medicine at scale, and because it’s backed by AI, the algorithm starts to learn and understand what works best. And so, when one person does the hard work, it ultimately helps the whole data set. The more people who choose to get well, the faster everyone will.
We’re also synthesizing ibogaine because we recognize the promise it shows in the mental health space. With the iboga plant being endangered, it’s understandably hard to access, so we thought we’d be those who would supply it to the market by synthesizing it and ensuring it will get the research it needs.
How would you describe MINDCURE’s approach to the psychedelic space?
In one word? Renegade. A lot of people are focused solely on the next best molecule. Every indication we’re looking at however, is not typical. So, while what we’re building may not be typical, we consider ourselves to be approaching the industry collegiately. We asked ourselves, how can we be the one who works with everyone to make it all better—and that’s the thinking behind our digital therapeutics tool. We’re collegiate. We’re renegade.
You have shared a lot about how psychedelics have made a profound difference in your life. Can you share a bit about this and how psychedelic medicines have helped you?
Some of my addictions in life are very socially acceptable—like work. Discussing work as a problem may sound trite, but like any type of addiction, can lead to all sorts of negative behaviors. It’s like a kaleidoscope, you can keep on turning but all you’ll get is a whole new array of beautiful problems. Work aside, I also went through cancer and its recovery which added an entire new element to my need to heal. Psychedelics helped me to reorient myself and keep the most important thing—the most important thing. It reminded me who I really am underneath all these other challenges. I’m a person who’s always done things differently and has often been early to market, yet I’ve had this underlying question about my skills and the way I run on my insight (plus a dash of skill). In other words, how has this intuition gotten me to where I am today? Psychedelics have allowed me to reconnect to the guiding parts within me, those that have always been responsible for making me the most successful.
As we age and go through life, we’re told how everything is supposed to be done and why it’s done and where it’s done, and so on and so forth, and over time I started to lose my edge—the edge of my true self. Psychedelics helped me return to my self in a way that got me clearer, and helped me to focus on what I truly want.
Why did you want to pursue digital therapeutics as part of Mind Cure’s mission?
There are a couple reasons, first, not only do I see this tool as the largest market opportunity in the very near future, but it’s also globally scalable. We can utilize it with every medicine. Having gone through my own journey, and from knowing many therapists and their journeys, I’ve been able to identify the hurdles to the actual rollout. That said, we need therapists and patients to use it so we can collect the data and metrics and thus, have a springboard toward insurance coverage. We want to show the insurers real files, not just lab work, but all the real-life variables that come with the journey, so that we can move toward scalability, affordability, and accessibility in the distribution chain.
The tell will help us see what really works best for us as individuals—never mind what society says. If everything else is personalized, why can’t we have personalized health care? That’s the idea behind our solution.
Can you share a bit about your recent strategic partnership with ATMA Journey Centers and why that was something you wanted to be involved in?
We believe in their model of group therapy, and that at scale, it’s the most cost effective and profitable. Not to mention, we support their method of working across many different medicines. Additionally, the partnership allows us access to a lot of patient data. We will be the first key opinion leader wherever they go, which means we’ll be helping both their therapists and patients, while collecting data around the world.
Where do you see the future of psychedelic research going and what obstacles still need to be overcome to bring these therapies to patients? What do you think fundamentally needs to change in order for there to be broader medical accessibility?
Research will always be research—it’s slow. Sure, there was a lot of early excitement in the industry but now we’re going to sit and wait for a while. Still, we’re going to start seeing some of the early successes with these medicines, and we’ll also probably learn that some studies need to be redesigned. Luckily, we do have a bit of a head start in that we’re researching medicines we know to have been successful in the world over the span of centuries. It’s just that now, we’re finally taking what’s already known to the lab.
To get to a point where there’s broader medical accessibility two things would need to change: enough research needs to be finished so we can prove what needs to be proven for insurance coverage, and secondly, we need trained therapists.
From there we need de-stigmatization. But story moves culture. The more people like me, a typical 40-something year-old woman and mother of three, start talking about psychedelic therapy, the faster it will normalize.
What is the most common misconception you hear about psychedelics?
We’ve all heard this one, no? Where that one guy in the seventies jumped through a plate glass window when he was on acid. The misconceptions come because we’re talking about psychedelics on a Saturday night. We’re swapping anecdotes about what we did in college. Psychedelic therapy is a whole different league. It’s like comparing the consumption of an Advil for a headache, then getting administered a much higher dose to deal with a much more serious issue—and needing a trained staff to oversee it.
The other misconception is linked to the cannabis industry. Unlike that industry, we’re not looking to make these drugs a recreational pastime, we’re actually looking for more regulation so that they may be used responsibly in the healthcare system.
What do you believe is the most important thing for people to understand about the future of psychedelics as medicine?
I often liken using psychedelics as medicine to getting behind the wheel of a Ferrari. These are super powerful drugs that have the kind of impact that allow you to radically transform how fast and far you go, with better handling, and after using them—you’ll feel like you’re in the seat of your true self. The number one thing to know about psychedelics as medicine is to recognize it as a high-performance medicine that requires high performance training—and commitment to treatment. Psychedelic medicine could potentially provide the most transformative societal undertaking since the world wide web. Imagine people in control of their minds with an adept ability to go through life’s ups and downs, while maintaining his or her center. I’m not talking about happiness or any sort of manufactured happiness, rather the ability to stay present and centered.
Who else is doing important work within psychedelics you think more people should be aware of?
MindMed is doing great clinical research and the team at Field Trip are developing in-person distribution that could be good when new medicines become available. The team at Awaken are also doing some interesting things. But honestly, anyone who is deeply rooted in the science should be given some attention in this space and I’d encourage people to look at the rigor of the teams. It’s still early days and just as there exists in any burgeoning industry, some will make it and some won’t.
I’d be remiss not to honor those whose shoulders upon which we stand, those who did the work before us despite the peril they risked to their academic careers, so let’s give a moment to thank them, especially Stan Grof and Rick Doblin—and to any who keep the fire burning.
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