Behind the World-First Export of Jamaican Psilocybin Mushrooms
Industry Insight Feb 19, 2021
To better understand the therapeutic potential of naturally-occuring psilocybin, biotech and life sciences company Mydecine Innovations Group is taking steps to produce larger quantities of these molecules for research purposes. As part of this effort, Mydecine recently announced that it had completed the first harvest and commercial export of legal psychedelic psilocybin mushrooms from Jamaica to Canada. We spoke with Mydecine’s chief scientific officer and co-founder, Rob Roscow, to find out more.
Ruairi Mackenzie (RM): What are the regulations surrounding the growth of psilocybin-containing mushrooms? Has the export of this harvest been a straightforward process?
Rob Roscow (RR): Outside of Jamaica, psilocybin-containing mushrooms are a controlled substance and all of our research is compliant with this through the clinical trial structures that we use. Jamaica is unique in allowing the cultivation of psilocybin-producing mushrooms in the same way as other gourmet mushrooms. Through our licensure across multiple jurisdictions, we have not had any issues with import/export.
RM: What are the next steps for the harvest? How will it be turned into therapeutic-grade product?
RR: The harvest will be transferred to the University of Alberta, Advanced Pharmaceutical Innovation and their pharmaceutical labs. This is where our entire therapeutic-grade product is produced for clinical trials.
RM: For perspective, how significant is the import of 20 kg of psilocybin mushrooms? For instance, how many therapeutic doses can be derived from that amount?
RR: For comparison purposes, this represents over 4000 clinical study doses, while also supporting our border research purposes in general.
RM: Is there future scope for domestic psilocybin cultivation and harvesting?
RR: This is an open-ended question as the industry matures. When psilocybin and similar compounds receive regulatory approval post clinical trials; production will naturally need to scale up. This is a few steps away.
Laura Lansdowne (LL): What are the benefits to cultivating natural psilocybin mushrooms, rather than utilizing other bio-based or synthetic psilocybin production methods?
RR: There is a long history of human use of psilocybin-producing mushrooms in their natural state. Additionally, nature is very efficient at producing psilocybin and this can be leveraged for efficient production. Mydecine believes that natural production is sustainable and scalable into the future.
LL: You mention that portions of the natural psilocybin mushroom harvest will also be used for Mydecine’s genetic, pharmacology and clinical research, are you able to elaborate on some of the company’s planned R&D activities?
RR: The company is very interested in the promise and chemical diversity produced in psilocybin mushrooms and the potential it has in medical applications. We always let the research and data steer our drug development course and are actively looking at improvements in production, pharmacology and clinical use. The research around the medical use of these compounds is in a nascent state and we will see significant improvement in all areas in the coming years. This is a complex but valuable topic and the company is positioned research wise to address this potential in a step-by-step fashion.
LL: Mydecine recently announced that it had sponsored a study on the neuron-level response to psilocybin, could you tell us more about this research?
RR: Mydecine is excited to support the work of Dr Jaylyn Waddell, at the University of Maryland. The study has great potential to demonstrate neuron-level response to psilocybin treatment and provide direct links to behavior-level effects. Understanding psilocybin's function from the neuron up will enable better development of human touching therapies.
Rob Roscow was speaking to Laura Elizabeth Lansdowne, Managing Editor, and Ruairi Mackenzie, Senior Science Writer for Technology Networks.