Susan Chapelle EMBA, is an inventive leader with a highly successful career building businesses, leading as a two-term elected politician, and influencing changes that improve organizations and emergent industries. Susan has scaled businesses in healthcare, technology and collaborative workspaces. She has advised global technology companies on development of online platforms and integrations. She is a keynote speaker on digital innovation and smart cities technology and a published researcher in the fields of neuroscience and wound healing mechanisms. Susan has presented her studies and consulted across the globe.
Susan is excited to open minds and bring better access to human performance as Co-CEO of Havn Life.
What is the genesis story of Havn Life? What problems is the company working to solve?
Each member of the Havn Life team comes from various backgrounds, including the cannabis industry, healthcare, technology, ethnobotany and chemistry. All of us are passionate about patient access to plant- and fungus-derived compounds that have been proven to have health benefits. We are working to build a reliable supply chain for these compounds in the Canadian market. This includes developing standardized methodology to ensure that the growth of the supply chain matches the growth of the industry. It is widely recognized that new solutions for wellness are required, ideally from more naturally-derived compounds. The current cadres of pharmaceutical options for mental health are known to be detrimental, with well understood side effects, poor long-term outcomes and very poorly understood mechanisms of action.
The supply chain for psychedelic compounds will be critical not only to the success of clinical trials but also to support this emerging industry. More research may make it possible for policy makers to accept the evidence and make the changes required. To fully understand the benefits and applications of these medicines across populations, it will be essential for researchers to have access to a safe and evidence-informed supply of psychedelic compounds. This requires developing methods for growing, extracting, and analyzing. Not just in Psilocybin, but also for formulations of new nutraceuticals that can enhance function and work as preventative instead of reactive healthcare. It will not just be one company that achieves this vision; it will take many working together to help bring better options to patients. Havn Life is excited to work with researchers and companies in the space to achieve our shared common goal.
Currently there are many indications for psychedelics, including mental health, addictions, PTSD, cluster headaches and anti-inflammatory therapies. The amount of clinical trials has increased, currently there are over 260 listed psychedelic trials ongoing and being completed at the National Institute of Health . The supply chain for psychedelic compounds has remained challenging for these trials, and the research lacks methods on where the compounds were obtained or derived. Variables in the extraction of compounds have changed significantly in the last decade. It is interesting that the cannabis industry worked as a catalyst to drive agriculture and intellectual advancement in plant science and growing methodology, yet limited work has been done on repetitive use, long-term effects and production methods for this genus of mushroom due to the limiting policy hangover from the ‘war on drugs’.
I am driven by the possibility of solving bigger problems and believe that it should be possible to drive these changes at the same speed of rapid change that we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. The same energy and commitment should be applied to solve other pandemics, such as mental health and addiction. Being at the forefront of new discoveries in human optimization and wellness is what drives the Havn Life team in this amazing space.
What inspired you personally to build a business in the psychedelic space?
Many people describe their personal experience with psychedelics, and like others I have had life-altering relationships that have required a different way of thinking in order not to dwell on negative thought patterns from lived experiences. I too have found solace in using mushrooms to help me come to terms with having a chronic, often life-threatening illness. Psychedelics alter perspective. They offer a chance to change your mindset, and even if it is for a moment, a different way to look at issues or problems can be helpful, even life altering, in a positive way.
It is affirming to hear my male CEO counterparts in the psychedelic space describe their life-changing observations that they attribute to psychedelics. I am impressed at the willingness to contribute to the reduction of stigma by speaking to their personal experiences with mental health in such a public forum. Our personal experiences are a beautiful commonality, and it is so important that we continue to share our positive outcome stories. I would also add that we know enough. We know enough to make these compounds available to hospice patients. We know enough to develop safe dosing and methodologies, and to make these compounds available to researchers across the globe. We know enough so that we must allow for the possibility that there may be another way to help patients overcome deep, debilitating health issues that currently have very few safe options.
What is the most common misconception you hear about psychedelics?
These are hippy drugs that may make you see lizard people forever. Not unlike cannabis biases, perception around psychedelics is changing. There is much work to be done to think about these new medicines as a valid, well-researched treatment for mental health challenges.
You have a diverse business background that encompasses healthcare, technology, politics, and cannabis. Can you talk about how your past experience will inform Havn Life’s growth and operations strategy in an uncertain regulatory environment?
The commonality in my diverse experience across so many sectors has always been to develop new ways of improving access to patient care and wellness. In politics, I lobbied for access to rape kits for women in B.C. and across Canada. Through work as a Government Relations Director in the new legal Cannabis space, helping municipal and regional councils understand that as policy changes with nascent industries, so to must zoning and land use to include these new, economic generators for communities. Psychedelics is science, technology, clinics and agriculture. All of which I love. As the industry grows, these conversations on policy development must be top of mind for all of the new companies in the space.
I have had the privilege of being the ‘first’ female in many industries including in the Stagehands union IATSE. It led me to developing sexual harassment policy for Toronto Theatres, after realizing that nobody else was going to advocate for the changes that were needed to accommodate women entering non-traditional industry. Working in complimentary healthcare for over 25 years as a therapist and researcher to look at mechanisms, and in technology development so that patients had access to comprehensive charting across different practitioners. I built one of the first and largest multidisciplinary clinics in my region back in 1999. My practice was focused on post-surgical care, and I was able to see how many people benefited from botanical adjunct therapies. So many cancer patients were driving south on a mountain highway after treatments to access cannabis, and there were hospice patients wanting access to psychedelics. I ran for city council to help integrate evidence-informed policy changes so that land use could be zoned with the intention of improving healthcare outcomes for the community.
Being a ‘measure what is measurable’ person I am often very binary when it comes to ethics, accessibility, and equity. Creating environments, technology, and accessibility to healthcare and science are connections that are natural and essential. Technology has always been close to home; my father is an engineering physicist who worked with IBM from the early 1960’s. Early adoption of technology solutions and design thinking help bring ideas to reality quickly, although sometimes require innovative problem solving and policy changes. As a researcher, using technology to develop a hypothesis, imagine all the variables and then implement a solution has helped me to imagine prevention instead of reaction, which, for me is what psychedelic medicine can bring to patients.
Psychedelic compounds are just some of the fungi derived compounds that have shown benefit in these scenarios, and people should have full access to safe, reliable, dosed medicine. Starting a company seemed like a natural fit, and working with such a diverse and inspiring team at Havn Life to help develop a localized, safe supply chain for mushrooms while at the same time helping researchers gain access to the compounds they need from a local, Canadian source is such a natural fit for my skill set.
How would you describe the current psychedelic medicine space and what industry catalysts do you see on the horizon? How is Havn Life positioning itself today to capitalize on the future of the industry?
These compounds have deep value in helping humans achieve greater potential. It concerns me to see the comparison to cannabis start-ups. These medicines are well understood, although because of the dark period where research had to be cloaked under the guise of addictions and the propaganda that was created by the ‘war on drugs’, we have only recently achieved a way forward in which we can continue to work on developing a supply chain for these compounds. Whether it is understanding receptor sites or the impact of psychedelic medicines on diseases, the research is much more established than that of cannabis.
Even with all of the policy challenges, psychedelics have achieved so much through passionate investigators who have done the heavy lifting. One of our advisors, Dr. David Mokler has been working in this space since the 1960’s working on understanding receptor sites and outcomes. Research with such noble academic institutions like Johns Hopkins and Kings College London has helped people understand the amount of disease profiles that can be helped with these new medicines.
The legalization of cannabis for recreation happened before much research into its benefits were derived. There is very little evidence, but also very little harm and the Trudeau government recognized that people desired access, and patients required access. There are excellent technologies now collecting user data and connecting it to plant profiles, such as Strainprint. As psychedelics gain a better safety profile, we hope in our lifetime to see a change in attitude towards entourage effects with botanicals, and that people will have the legal opportunity to explore different and evidence-based ethnobotany without fighting the law.
We also know enough about the effects on mental health and wellness. Many have gone down the path of clinics and integration with therapy. Allowing different compounds to be utilized for study while clinics are being utilized would allow better comparison, and policy should allow this to happen. In the future, I would love to see psychedelic clinics being able to utilize medicine that suits the patients such as both Psilocybin and Ketamine instead of just Ketamine, depending on the indication. Ketamine being used in intramuscular injections because of its availability for complex pain syndromes, and the ease of medically supervised use has been a great start for many of the companies in the space. Ketamine is a dissociative drug, and the psychedelic version is not the pain compound which has shown some effect on depression but may not be the best option to treat depression and mental health. Any of these compounds that are shown to have safety and efficacy will be welcomed in this space as an alternative, and non-invasive, equitable delivery systems should be welcomed.
What should investors expect to see from Havn in the next 6 months from both a business development and capital markets perspective?
Havn Life has a multitude of channels to follow. We have developed innovative evidence-informed hypotheses and are in the process of a submission to earn a research licence from Health Canada. We are working with our scientists developing novel formulations utilizing compounds that are not restricted, yet still express psychoactive properties in the mushroom and plant medicine world in order to provide preventative formulations to the nutraceutical market.
We are further going to explore the concept of microdosing, not just Psilocybe spp compounds, but other fungus derivatives that have been shown to have similar health benefits, but without the hallucinogenic effects.
Looking at patient’s needs and seeing the work that has been done globally on these compounds, it is not difficult to identify the gaps in the market and the need for well-controlled human trials. This is what led to our team at Havn coming together to start to work on filling these gaps. There is much work to do in the research realm. One of the questions I personally have, because of my work in the wound healing space is the effect of the 5-HT2a and b receptors on TGF-β1 and inflammatory mediators. The possibility of inflammatory mediation or an increase in inflammation is still work that must be done to ensure patient safety. Getting these compounds to researchers in all the formats, including organic, synthetic and newly formed, is all work that must be done in order to develop safe and effective medicines for the population. Havn is focused on becoming the leader in formulation and compound development to ensure that researchers have access to the compounds needed to conduct research, develop new compounds and safety profiles.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that the world can pivot quickly to help humanity. Mental health care is also a facing a pandemic that requires quick and immediate action. I don’t think the legalization of Psilocybin is going to flow the same as cannabis did, which is incredibly odd for me to grasp. Here is a compound that has shown to help cluster headaches, TRD (Treatment Resistant Depression), symptoms of cancer, Alzheimer’s, basically anything that requires a change of perception. There is evidence that these compounds help neuroplasticity. Why would we not want to help people obtain better health or function with these life-altering debilitations?