Nick von Christierson | CEO & Co-Founder, Woven Science
August 9, 2021
Nick von Christierson | CEO & Co-Founder, Woven Science
What made you personally excited about the psychedelic renaissance?
I’ve been experimenting with altered states of consciousness since my mid-20s and it was only until eight years ago that I started to work with various plant medicines and study their traditions. The ceremonial setting combined with a meticulous emphasis on preparation and integration caused a shift not only in how I wanted to show up in this world but also my understanding of how these medicines have the ability to heal so many who suffer on a daily basis.
Parallel to this, the psychedelic renaissance was gaining momentum. The possibility of these ancient technologies merging with modern technologies to alleviate much of the mental and physical suffering we experience in our world suddenly became a reality in research, advocacy, reciprocity, and capital. What excites me is that the benefits of these medicines for treating mental illness are finally making waves on a societal level.
Beyond that, I see an opportunity for psychedelics to inform new models of collaboration between stakeholders in the industry. We meet entrepreneurs and organisations regularly that are asking the right questions about business models, sustainability, partnerships, and ultimately, who benefits. I’m excited that with this kind of dialogue, we can collectively drive towards systems change together.
What are you building with Woven Science?
At a macro level, we’re the first company building a true ecosystem for psychedelics, with a model of reciprocity at its core. Our model is to incubate or invest in exceptional businesses addressing unmet needs in the space. Changing the paradigm of mental health care is not a one company mission and it’s certainly not going to happen overnight. Our vision is to use our structure as a permanent capital vehicle to create a long-term, entrepreneurial ecosystem of aligned partners dedicated to this mission, and we’re doing this by seeking out or building the next generation of ambitious, meaningful, and valuable companies to embed psychedelic models of care across the entirety of one’s healing journey. At Woven Science, inspiration from psychedelics goes beyond a pill - it’s helped us frame a new way of thinking about care across the value chain that is collective, integrative, reciprocal, empowering, and accessible to all. Instead of thinking in a siloed way we see opportunity for these principles to be applied at the intersection of compounds, clinics, community, and technology and are constantly looking for whitespaces within and between these areas.
What is El Puente and what is Woven Science’s relationship to it?
El Puente is the industry-leading reciprocity program that serves as a bridge for Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS) between psychedelic companies and indigenous peoples. El Puente makes impact investments in indigenous-owned and directed projects such as clinics and detox centres; works with legislators, voters, and companies to advance public policies and industry initiatives such as regulatory sandboxes and opportunity zone capital gains tax incentives; and develops sustainable entheogenic plant practices in collaboration with indigenous communities, including the Shipibo-Conibo community of Santa Clara near Pucallpa, Peru.
When my co-founder Giles Hayward and I came together to create Woven Science, we felt that respecting the communities that have protected plant medicine traditions and wisdom for millennia should be considered at the core of the model - not as an afterthought. We decided that Woven Science would dedicate 10% of its equity to El Puente. The bridge between the psychedelic industry and indigenous culture is so important to us and the preservation of culture and our ecosystems is at the core of everything we do. We’re proud to have El Puente’s Council of Indigenous People serve as special advisors to the El Puente Board with veto powers, which gives them a real seat at the table.
What partnerships does Woven Science have that you’re most excited about?
We recently partnered with the Richard Evans Schultes Center for Amazonian Ethnobotanical Research, whose team includes luminaries Wade Davis, Dennis McKenna, Luis Eduardo Luna, Leanna Standish, and Paul Stamets, on a bioprospecting initiative for novel nutraceutical and pharmaceutical medicines based on ethnobotanicals used by indigenous communities of the Upper Amazon to bring to market through the Woven Science ecosystem. Just this past month we identified two candidate ethnobotanicals, a species of sedge grass with endophytic fungi producing ergoline alkaloids and fruit with a high concentration of terpenes affecting cannabinoid receptors, working together with in-country partners at the Instituto de Medicina Tradicional (IMET), Universidad Nacional de la Amazonía Peruana (UNAP), and the Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana (IIAP) for further investigations.
What is the most common misconception you hear about psychedelics?
Some people understand psychedelic medicines as merely a replacement for the common medicines that are currently prescribed for treating mental illnesses (like SSRIs, for example). However, the biomedical model that’s sustained healthcare in the western world for centuries doesn’t fully capture the true potential of psychedelics. They’re actually only part of what we like to call the treatment arc. We need to deliver care for people based on each stage of their healing journey, from diagnosis to preparation and pre-screening, through to treatment, followed by integration and finally, community and mental health sustainability. The psychedelic compounds themselves address treatment, but a true model of care is inspired by these psychedelics and how they connect with the spaces & tools to deliver psychedelic-assisted therapies, the education, products, and community tools that sustain long term wellbeing, and the health technology that makes care more accessible.
How do you see psychedelic medicines making an impact on healthcare as a whole in the future?
Psychedelic medicines inspire a holistic, value-based approach to sustaining mental wellbeing. They help drive the conversation away from just a treatment model for mental illness. While I’m optimistic about the potential of psychedelic medicines to have an impact on so many lives, I can’t help but notice that still so much of the focus is on solely the medicines themselves. My own healing journey, and those of the people close to me, have taught me that there is no magic pill. Years of work with entheogenic plants, non-psychoactive plant medicines, and holistic medicine have made it clear that sustained healing crosses modalities. And that’s why at Woven Science we realize that while the medicine is important, everything that happens before and after matters just as much. We aspire to work with aligned partners to support people through their entire healing journey while shifting the focus from doctor dependence towards patient empowerment.
What do you see as being the next major step forward for psychedelics being more medically accessible?
One question I often ask myself is what does the new western cultural container look like for administering these compounds? The people and companies in the Woven Science ecosystem that are finding innovative ways of exploring this are at the forefront of psychedelic healthcare accessibility. Cybin is making psychedelic therapies more accessible by launching a phase two clinical trial with a novel compound of psilocybin as a dissolvable oral strip in treating patients with Major Depressive Disorder. Maya Health’s measurement care platform for psychedelic practitioners is based on their work from academic research through Unlimited Sciences, which uses data-based methods to capture the lived experiences of people using psychedelics in order to inform the public of policy and best practices. One of the biggest effects of medicalisation and legalisation of psychedelic use will be the ability for people to obtain reimbursement from their insurance provider for their treatments and therefore making these treatments more accessible and affordable. Companies like Enthea Health are leading the charge in this area to expedite health plan coverage for psychedelic-assisted therapy.
What do you believe is the most important thing for people to understand about the future of psychedelics as medicine?
In this industry, we need to realise that we’re stronger together, especially when we’re bound and driven by a common set of values. Woven Science is forming an ecosystem because we believe in working together to solve the mental health crisis. We can’t do this alone, and we call upon the growing psychedelic community of researchers, clinicians, entrepreneurs, investors, healers, advocates, and enthusiasts to thoughtfully consider how we can bring about sustainable changes in this space. Coopetition is not a term that should be used lightly.
We also believe in the power of patience. We have a long way to go to understand and build these western cultural containers to administer these powerful and sacred compounds. I strongly believe that the industry will need to collaborate and remain agile to navigate the ever-evolving regulatory environment. All the while, we need to take the time to truly understand the implications of the infrastructure that is being built.
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