Rob Tessarolo has 25 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Before joining NeonMind Biosciences, he held the position of President and Chief Executive Officer of Mind Medicine (Mindmed) Inc., a psychedelic drug discovery and drug development company now traded on the NEO exchange, from September 2019 to January 2020. Prior, Mr. Tessarolo was President and Chief Executive Officer of Cipher Pharmaceuticals Inc., a diversified specialty pharmaceutical company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. His experience includes executive and key leadership roles that span over two decades including commercial and business development experience with obesity, addiction and neurologic assets.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO JOIN NEONMIND BIOSCIENCES AS PRESIDENT AND CEO?
These are exciting times in psychedelic drug development as important research ideas emerge and companies vie for the conditions necessary to drive growth.
NeonMind Biosciences has established an enviable position with our unique intellectual property portfolio, distinctive focus on obesity, one of today's biggest healthcare challenges and the desire to bring new treatment modalities to patients suffering with obesity.
As we have seen repeatedly, combining an emerging industry with the capital markets drives investor attention - capital becomes readily available, pursuit of innovative ideas receives adequately funded, novel discoveries can result, and investors are rewarded.
Ultimately, in drug development this means patients get access to novel treatments for their conditions. That is where we are with NeonMind Biosciences - this industry has enormous potential to help people - and it is only just beginning.
WHAT GOT YOU PERSONALLY EXCITED ABOUT PSYCHEDELICS?
There is an array of dynamic molecules that have been well characterized over the years but have not been adequately studied in the rigorous clinical trials necessary for regulatory approval.
The renewed interest in studying these psychedelic substances coupled with a fresh look from regulatory agencies means some of these substances have the potential to make it to market. The rewards for doing the research and pursuing these opportunities can be significant.
There is such enormous potential for these substances to truly help people and the prospect of being on the forefront and leveraging the recent surge to create a thriving business that ultimately helps patients is thrilling.
HOW DO YOU SEE PSILOCYBIN WORKING AS A TREATMENT FOR WEIGHT LOSS?
Our first effort is tackling one of the biggest health issues the world is facing right now: obesity. It is an epidemic that is responsible for 37% of the global burden of disease.
Over the years promising new drugs to treat obesity have failed to gain regulatory approval and some approved therapeutics have been withdrawn due to safety concerns. This market remains underserved with health care providers and patients dissatisfied with current treatment options. A new safe and effective new approach would be well received.
We know psilocybin activates serotonin receptors, and serotonin can curb cravings, shut off appetite, and reduce eating. We are currently conducting a preclinical trial at the University of British Columbia examining psilocybin as a treatment for weight loss.
HOW DO YOU SEE PSILOCYBIN AFFECTING EATING HABITS?
Psilocybin is known to cause neuroplasticity which means it can remove Pavlovian like responses to environmental stimuli, which also can be described as wiping the mind clean. That same neuroplasticity can also remove neural pathways associated with fear also referred to as trauma. Food addiction, emotional eating and eating disorders are all linked to emotional trauma.
YOU HAVE A LOT OF EXPERIENCE IN STARTING COMPANIES AND DELIVERING PRODUCTS TO THE MARKET, WHAT KIND OF PRODUCTS ARE YOU DEVELOPING AT NEONMIND IN THE NON-PSYCHEDELIC, FUNCTIONAL MUSHROOM MARKET?
NeonMind has a consumer division providing the opportunity to compete and drive the functional mushroom market. Recently, we launched a collection of 4 quality, flavorful mushroom infused coffees as our initial market entry. Our products are infused with legal medicinal mushrooms such as Lion’s Mane, Turkey Tail, Reishi and Cordyceps.
Mushroom coffees appeal to a growing market as physical and mental wellness (also referred to as self care) has become a focus for people. One in four U.S. adults wants to try medicinal mushrooms to help manage their overall health and wellness.
- Rest Blend | $24.99
Lean into relaxation and clarity with our deliciously smooth 100% Colombian Arabica dark roast. This instant blend combines coffee with Lion's Mane, Reishi, Ashwagandha and Turmeric, and comes in convenient, single servings.
- Energize Blend | $24.99
Feel energized and reinvigorated throughout the day with our tasty and smooth 100% Colombian Arabica dark roast. This instant blend combines Turkey Tail, Cordyceps, Holy Basil, and Moringa, and comes in convenient, single servings.
- Focus Blend | $26.99
For productivity with purpose, find your flow with our full-bodied dark roast coffee, carefully blended with Lion's Mane, Reishi, Gotu Kola, and Brahmi.
- Protect Blend | $26.99
Start your day with a cup that promotes stamina and strength. Our fragrant, medium roast coffee combines extracts from Turkey Tail, Cordyceps, Moringa, and Amla.
WHAT KIND OF OPPORTUNITIES DO YOU SEE IN THE FUNCTIONAL-MUSHROOMS MARKET?
All mushrooms contain a type of complex carbohydrate called beta-glucans, soluble fibers that stimulate the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. Mushrooms such as cordyceps, lion's mane, reishi, and turkey tail, all offer long-term physical, neurological, and immunological benefits.
There is a large immediate opportunity in medicinal mushroom products. NeonMind is using its proprietary formulations and expertise to generate near term and long-term revenue. The global market for functional mushrooms is forecasted to reach $34.3 billion by 2024.
WHAT KIND OF DRUG DELIVERY DO YOU USE IN YOUR MEDICINAL TREATMENTS? ARE YOU PURSUING A FOOD BASED DELIVERY, LIKE THE COFFEE PRODUCTS IN YOUR FUNCTIONAL MUSHROOM INFUSED PRODUCTS?
The typical route of administration for psilocybin clinical trials so far is oral administration via capsules. This is most likely how we’ll administer psilocybin as well, although we’ve had some interesting meetings looking into the potential of a sublingual dosing delivery mechanism. Our clinical team will discuss all these options and decide on the best before we move forward.
While we definitely won’t be using coffee as the vehicle in our clinical trials, coffee as a delivery mechanism for micro-dosing psilocybin is an interesting prospect, although this needs studies as well and is years away from being a possibility worth putting too much thought into.
WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON MISCONCEPTION YOU HEAR ABOUT PSYCHEDELIC MEDICINE?
Some people still snicker when they hear the term ‘psychedelic’ and the many ways it’s been portrayed since the 60’s as a strictly recreational application.
So, the healing potential of psychedelics is still vastly underestimated at this point. These substances do hold the potential to help us overcome many of the great challenges we face as individuals and society.
To support the use of psychedelics as medications, will require significant clinical research with compelling evidence proving safety and efficacy.
HOW DO YOU SEE PSYCHEDELIC MEDICINES MAKING AN IMPACT ON HEALTHCARE AS A WHOLE IN THE FUTURE?
The quickest and most exciting answer is that our mental health care system is in dire need of new treatment paradigms to break the vicious cycle of these conditions and psychedelic substances, if approved for medical use, have real potential to transform patients' lives.
We are just scratching the surface of the potential for psychedelics to heal; these treatments may help solve some of humanity’s biggest challenges including addiction, major depression, PTSD and the area we are focused on obesity.
Of course, the healthcare system, as it stands, will need to evolve to accommodate psychedelic medications. Robust clinical evidence will be critical to drive the change necessary to ensure these innovative treatments are integrated into patient care.
WHO IS SOMEONE DOING IMPORTANT WORK IN THE WORLD OF PSYCHEDELICS THAT YOU THINK MORE PEOPLE SHOULD BE AWARE OF?
I think we need to honour and acknowledge the work of therapists and clinical researchers who have been carrying the torch of psychedelic therapy for the last number of decades at great risk to themselves and their careers.
A lot of credentialed professionals recognized the value of these substances long before they started making their way into the mainstream as they are today. It is because of these trailblazers and their dedication to the potential of these substances and their commitment to pursuing robust research to support the use as medications that this movement is where it is today.
This psychedelic renaissance stands on the shoulders of these individuals.