Peter Thiel supports research into psilocybin in depression

Well-known tech investor Peter Thiel has shifted his focus from engineering and politics to mental health. He is now investing in the treatment of depression and other psychological problems with psilocybin. This is the mind-altering substance in magic mushrooms.

Interest in psilocybin is growing rapidly, there are indications that this drug could help with various mental complaints. And solid scientific research can ensure that psilocybin can be used as a medicine.

Psilocybin as a medicine

Magic mushrooms have potential: psilocybin is more than just a tripping agent. It can also be used as a treatment method for depression, addiction, OCD and anxiety. Magic mushrooms and other psychedelics have always been used by free-thinking and independent people and they are not really in favor of pharmaceutical companies turning psilocybin into a drug.

Still, thorough research can contribute a lot to the strength and effectiveness of the substance. If you want to use a drug as a medicine for mental complaints, then certain conditions are necessary. For example, it is important that a scientist knows exactly what the chemical composition of the agent is and whether the dosage is consistent. Otherwise you can never know exactly how much of the drug you are giving to a patient. You have to know exactly how long the medicine will work and what that effect is.

For that reason, people are in the process of developing synthetic psilocybin. Then you can more easily meet the above requirements. It also makes the production of the substance easier and better to control. For that reason, a lot of research is needed, and therefore a lot of money. That's true Peter Thiel comes around the corner.

Financing from outside is needed

Peter Thiel, originally from Germany, is known as the co-founder of Paypal and Palantir Technologies. He recently supported a Berlin start-up that is developing psychedelic drugs. Thiel invested 10 million euros in the work of ATAI Life Sciences. The company received $ 125 million during this funding round to develop psychedelic drugs to treat anxiety, addiction and depression.

Thiel is behind the company because, in his opinion, they take mental illness as seriously as we should have taken all illness. ATAI is a development platform that collaborates with other drug development companies. For example, they have previously helped develop ar-ketamine. This is a medicine to treat treatment-resistant depression. Ibogaine from the company DemeRx, which can be used for opioid addiction, is another such drug.

Angermayer, co-founder of ATAI, is confident in the drugs the company is developing. Yet it is a complicated process and they encounter all kinds of obstacles. It's not just about science, but politics too. And you can still mess up everything if you bet on the wrong process design. Still, he believes this is the right way. He believes that current treatments for psychological complaints are absolutely not enough. For some people regular treatments work, but for a large part it does not work or does not work adequately.

Developments do not stand still

Probably for that reason Thiel also supported Compass Pathways with a donation. The British company raised $ 80 million to fund research into psilocybin for therapeutic purposes. In any case, the FDA is behind the study. Compass Pathways was awarded the label Breakthrough Therapybecause their clinical evidence for synthetic psilocybin therapy was very promising. The FDA is allowing the drug review process to speed up. Compass Pathways will try to market the treatment by 2025.

There is increasing interest in alternative treatments for mental illness. The possibilities of psychedelics stimulate the imagination. The effect is somewhat mysterious, why they work exactly is not always clear. And besides psilocybin as a medicine, more and more people are looking at the possibilities of microdosing. This means that you only take a very small dose (1/10 of a normal dose), so that you can suffer less from mental complaints, without noticing the mind-altering effects.

Either way, more research is needed. And that is why money is of course also needed. Lots of money. It is the business community that can contribute to this. However philanthropic some people may be (Thiel is also seen as a philanthropist), drug development can be profitable. In 2018 alone, the antidepressant market was worth $ 14 billion. So it is not just because of humanity that companies want to invest in psychedelics as medicine. Some people may dislike that. But the investigation is necessary and in this way doors will open that would otherwise remain closed. 

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