Magic mushrooms are seen in a grow room in the Netherlands in this 2007 file photo.
Peter Dejong | AP
Entrepreneur Dick Simon has never shied away from speaking up about business topics other CEOs might find too stigmatized to touch.
He has spent years dedicated to improving U.S. business relations with Iran, and more recently, the Boston-based CEO has embraced another passion: improving the market for and medical community’s understanding of how psychedelic drugs can be used to treat mental illness.
It’s an emerging health issue that Simon came to appreciate through the firsthand frustration of watching people in his life suffering — not just from mental illness, but from the failure of existing and costly medical treatments.
Drugs long stigmatized, such as psilocybin and MDMA, are rising in profile as mental illness treatment options. Just last week, results from a phase 3 trial of MDMA combined with talk therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder showed results that were impressive.
“This is a pivotal event,” said Elemer Piros, a biotech analyst at Roth Capital Partners who covers the emerging alternative mental health treatment space. “It may not seem humongous, but it is one of the best and most rigorously executed trials in the space. And the results corroborate what we have seen time and time again from smaller studies over the past two decades,” he said, referencing remission rates double that of a placebo. “The magical experiences kept showing up, but no one had the courage to take it through to regulators.”
The results of the MDMA study, whose senior author is Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, are expected to be published in the journal Nature Medicine on Monday and FDA approval could come by 2023, according to The New York Times.
A recent Imperial College London study of psilocybin use in depression reported in The New England Journal of Medicine also produced positive results. Before the end of the year, clinical results also are expected from a study involving Compass Pathways — which became a publicly traded company late last year — using its approach of guided psilocybin experiences as a treatment for drug-resistant depression.
“People still believe that ‘your brain on drugs’ commercial is the truth rather than all scientific evidence on major therapeutic benefits,” said Simon, who heads the Psychedelic Medicines for Mental Health Group at entrepreneurial network YPO and serves on an advisory council at Mass General Hospital on the…