Interview: An Insider’s Look at “Psychedelics, Inc.”
“Timothy Leary’s dead
No, no, no, no, he’s outside, looking in…”
Those lyrics are from the 1968 song Legend of a Mind (1968), an ode to LSD sung by The Moody Blues.
The late Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary was the father of the psychedelics movement of the 1960s. I often wonder what the non-conformist Leary would have said about the corporatization of LSD, psilocybin (the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms”), and other psychedelic substances.
Biotech researchers are busily trying to turn psychedelic drugs into a host of new physical and psychological treatments.
Welcome to Psychedelics, Inc.
My research into the marijuana and psychedelics industry regularly leads me to interview seasoned experts, especially in the biotech sector. I recently caught up with a reliable informational source: Elemer Piros, Ph.D (pictured).
Dr. Piros rejoined ROTH Capital Partners in June 2020 and is currently a senior research analyst covering the biotech sector.
Between 2015 and 2019, Dr. Piros was a senior biotech analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald and ROTH Capital Partners.
Previously, Dr. Piros served as a buy-side biotech analyst at Spear, Leeds & Kellogg, a wholly owned subsidiary of Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS). From 1990 to 2000, he conducted academic research in the field of neuroscience.
Dr. Piros was ranked as the #1 Biotechnology Analyst by The Wall Street Journal in 2006 and by The Financial Times in 2010, both based on stock portfolio performance.
This week, Dr. Piros was gracious enough to carve out time for an interview with me, on the topic of psychedelic-based medicines. My questions are in bold.
Is there an analogy between cancer immunotherapy and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy?
There is an analogy between cancer immunotherapy and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. While the analogy is not perfect, there are some remarkable similarities. Immunotherapy is administered once, or infrequently, to arm the patient’s immune system to fight tumor infiltration.
Drug or cell therapy is followed by supportive care for weeks or for months. Durable remissions, lasting for 10 years, and perhaps beyond, are achievable for 35% to 45% of the patients. Unfortunately, not everyone responds and if given to the wrong patient there could be grave consequences.
Immunotherapy revolutionized cancer care. Similarly, psychedelic medicine treatment is administered once or a handful of times, with the purpose of awakening the mind to challenge ruminative thinking and behavior and to begin a healing process.
The healing process is reinforced by psychotherapy. A quarter to two-third of patients treated in controlled clinical trials achieve durable remission of treatment-resistant depression and PTSD, respectively.
Psychedelic treatment is not a panacea. There are ongoing efforts to identify the best candidates for such treatment. Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy promises to represent a paradigm shift in mental health care.
Do you expect these psychedelic-based medicines to be even more transformative than immunotherapies for cancer?
By all means. First of all, our current mental health care paradigm is where cancer treatment was 50 years ago. Only rudimentary treatments are available, which only work for some and at a cost of severe side effects.
What treatments with psychedelics offer is a one-time, or very infrequent treatment with drugs that are associated with limited side effects, such as headache, nausea and fatigue, for maybe 24 hours following treatment.
What are your latest projections for the size of the psychedelics market, in the U.S. and around the world, in terms of annual revenues and compound annual growth rates?
In comparison to the cancer market in the U.S., with 17 million sufferers, the conditions, such as treatment-resistant depression, PTSD and substance use disorders are five times more prevalent, or impact 80 million people.
The cancer market in the U.S. is valued at $100 billion. By an analogy, the mental health market could achieve $500 billion in the U.S. alone, during the next 5 to 10 years, in our view. The numbers worldwide are multiples of the U.S. market.
From your perspective, how great is the momentum behind psychedelics legalization?
With nearly 40 clinical trials ongoing, the momentum is tremendous and unstoppable (see chart).
Where do you see the greatest opportunities right now for monetization: in psilocybin, or LSD?
First generation drugs, such as psilocybin, LSD and DMT will reach the market first.
There are equally large opportunities available for the same drug, in multiple indications, based on early evidence.
To what degree are established marijuana companies getting involved in the psychedelics business?
So far, we have only seen a handful of examples. These examples represent cases, where a former cannabis company “retooled” to develop psychedelic medicines.
The business model in drug development is very different from selling cannabis products to the retail market. The research is significantly more capital expensive and time-consuming.
Editor’s Note: As my interview with Dr. Elemer Piros shows, psychedelic-based medicine is on the cusp of exponential growth. That’s why, in my new book, I covered not just marijuana but also the ancillary field of psychedelics.
If you’re looking for advice in how to profit from the revolution in psychotropic substances, consider my new book: The Wide World of Weed and Psychedelics.
My book is your definitive guide to making money from the mainstreaming of pot, magic mushrooms, LSD, and a bevy of other mind-bending substances that are increasingly becoming legal. Click here to get your free copy.
John Persinos is the editorial director of Investing Daily.