I’ve been working in the natural product extraction industry for about 10 years, developing and commercializing products and extraction technologies for use in food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and supplements. I’ve been following along with the psychedelic industry and psychedelic chemistry since I was a young scientist in university, and I have had positive experiences with psychedelics in the past. Once some of the groundwork had been laid, and the industry began to have the backing of rigorous scientific evidence behind it, I was immediately drawn back in. The prospect of being able to combine my career in botanical extraction with something that I was truly passionate about, was an opportunity that I could never have dreamed of even 5 years ago.
Can you explain more about your role at Filament?
I am the Director of Research at Filament Health. I am in charge of many different aspects of Filament’s business model, including implementation of the R&D and patent strategy, maintaining the Health Canada Dealer’s License held by our subsidiary Psilo Scientific, and managing the manufacture of our drug candidates.
Earlier this summer, Filament became the first public company to be issued a patent for extraction of natural psilocybin. How did this help advance your mission?
The issuance of our first patent was really a validation of our robust research and development program. The bulk of the issued patent is centered around our innovative extraction technology which allows us to standardize a stable dose of natural psilocybin. This type of technology is vital to overcome crop-to-crop and flush-to-flush variability present in the raw or dried mushroom. Previous methods of natural extraction have experienced challenges relating to poor yields, stability, and repeatability. As a result, synthetic preparations of psilocybin have become the industry standard. At Filament Health, we are already well on our way in challenging this status quo and have recently utilized this technology to consistently manufacture clinical trial candidates that have been approved by the FDA in our first Phase I trial at the University of California San Francisco.
What is a cultivar? How does researching cultivars assist Filament in your natural psychedelic drug discovery journey?
Cultivar, strain, and variety are all synonyms which refer to a specific sub-species of cultivated mushrooms, bred through multiple generations for certain characteristics. Similar to the differentiation of varietals in wine grapes or cultivars in cannabis, magic mushrooms have also been selectively cultivated for certain characteristics such as psilocybin content, size, production, time-to-maturity, and even minor visual characteristics. The result of nature’s variability combined with clandestine mycologists breeding specific qualities over the last 80 years, has left us with a plethora of strains and species to explore. Many of these strains have not been adequately tested and characterized, and therefore may hold some interesting properties or chemical synergies. Exploring this variability within and between strains is paramount for Filament Health as we hope to be able to put the traditional-use of these substances into context, as well as explore the purported “entourage effect” and how that can be applied to the therapeutic application of these natural products.
Can you share more about your novel extraction process?
Having worked in the natural product extraction industry for around 10 years, I have gained experience extracting and developing products from a vast array of different chemical components from over 100 different plants and fungi. Each one has been a challenge in its own way, whether these challenges arise from the processing itself (extraction, purification, standardization, packaging etc.) or from the chemical stability and delivery of the compounds. We began tackling these challenges in magic mushrooms early, and have designed our extraction process to be efficient, scalable, food-grade, and safe to operate. Using the process, we have arrived at multiple suitable pharmaceutical-quality products, which are extracted, purified and standardized in multiple dosage forms.
What is the most common misconception you hear about psychedelics?
The biggest misconception I hear about the psychedelic industry is that natural sources of these compounds are not viable. Typically these arguments come in the form of: far too expensive to grow and extract, too variable, hard to standardize, not stable, not GMP, or not approvable by the FDA. Many of these ideas have been repeated by the industry since the 1960s to the present without question or second thought. While working at Filament Health, our focus has been to apply our past botanical extraction knowledge to overcome these hurdles, and I am very proud of our progress. At this point in time, we have developed multiple clinical trial candidates that are naturally extracted, standardized, shelf-stable, and have been FDA approved for a Phase I trial at UCSF. These candidates are manufactured in our GMP facility in Vancouver, British Columbia.
What do you believe is the most important thing for people to understand about the future of psychedelics as medicine?
That the most important aspect of these medicines is that they are delivered in a controlled environment, in a standardized form, by therapist or professional coach. That while these drugs have an increasing amount of evidence to suggest success in providing treatment to certain conditions, they must be respected as the powerful drugs that they are. Many of the raw forms of these drugs can be extremely variable in their potency and adulterants, they need to be manufactured with the utmost care and attention.
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