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In crowded field of psychedelic startups, Filament CEO champions ‘natural’ drugs

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A recent boom in psychedelic research has given rise to a bumper crop of startups seeking to harness the potential of mind-altering drugs to treat depression, addiction and other conditions.

In this crowded field, Vancouver-based Filament Health has a unique approach: extracting drugs like psilocybin and mescaline from natural sources, including mushrooms and cacti, rather than synthesizing the ingredients in a lab.

Filament is studying its mushroom-based psilocybin as a treatment for opioid and stimulant use disorder.

And more than a dozen other companies and academic centers are using the company’s drugs in trials on depression, chronic pain and other disorders.

Filament CEO Benjamin Lightburn spoke to The Associated Press about the ethical, therapeutic and medical arguments for using naturally occurring psychedelics.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What do you mean by “natural psychedelics” and how are they produced?

TO: It means that we get them from natural sources, such as plants and fungi, because that is, in fact, the way humanity has interacted with these substances in their natural form for thousands of years. Only recently did we have access to synthetic chemical manufacturing techniques.

Since our products come from natural sources, we believe it allows people to maintain some connection with the way humans have been ingesting these substances for years and years and with important aspects of many traditional communities.

Vancouver-based Filament Health has a unique approach: extracting medications from natural sources, including mushrooms, rather than synthesizing ingredients in a lab.
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A natural product contains much more than a single active compound, right? And so, in the case of magic mushrooms, for example, they contain much more than psilocybin. They contain other compounds such as psilocin and a dozen or more other active ingredients.

Just like when you drink a cup of coffee, there is much more to it than caffeine. There is a whole entourage of different compounds, which in the case of coffee give it flavor, aroma and terroir.

Q: Do you think patients will be able to notice a difference when taking these medications?

TO: Our hypothesis is that the presence of these other compounds may contribute to differences or even improvements in the therapeutic potential of these complex natural mixtures. After all, these substances evolved in nature along with humans.

Q: Your company also prioritizes harvesting these plants ethically and sustainably. How does it work?

TO: The iboga plant, which contains the psychedelic ibogaine, is probably the best example of this at Filament. We have been working with groups in West Africa, in Gabon, where the iboga plant is indigenous and, in fact, also involved with important cultural practices of the Bwiti people.

Therefore, it is very important for us to ensure that any source of supply that is imported from abroad is done sustainably, first of all, of course. And No. 2, that adequate procedures are established for informed consent with the local indigenous community and procedures for reciprocity and equitable distribution of benefits.

We obviously believe in sharing the benefit of any commercial product that is manufactured with the local community who, after all, have been managing and shepherding this cultural resource for the previous millennia.

Q: What is the advantage of all these practices when there are so many competitors in the psychedelic space?

TO: We are really the only ones that focus 100% on natural. And in fact we have been able to successfully manufacture these products and put them through clinical trials.

There is great interest from different researchers around the world in using our psychedelic drugs. And I think there’s a lot of interest from the investment community in funding our own internal drug development.

If you think that psychedelics are something that is going to be here to stay and you think that people will at least want to have the option of having a natural psychedelic product, then I think it’s fair to say that Filament is going to be around for a long time. the long journey.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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