The latest edition of the largest psychedelic business gathering around brought a flurry of attention to the industry. But where is the sector headed after this?
At the largest gathering of stakeholders and enthusiasts in an emerging psychedelics industry, a common thread prevailed — once approvals arrive, where will the industry be heading?
Wonderland offered a preview of what many industry experts see as the future of the nascent industry and how to get through the struggles seen in the stock market during 2022.
Here the Investing News Network (INN) offers a dispatch of highlights from the second edition of the Wonderland psychedelics event held by Microdose for the investors who might have missed out.
FDA speaks, in a non-official way
One of the most significant talks at the Wonderland event was given by Commander Gene Gunn, a bioresearch monitoring specialist with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and US Public Health Service.
Gunn spoke at-length about the entire clinical trial process, including do’s and don'ts of the drug development review pipeline conducted by the FDA.
But Gunn also opened up to the audience about his own personal history with mental health struggles and the redemption he has found thanks to new therapies. After facing a few losses close to home, Gunn found his way back thanks to ketamine-assisted therapy for mental health.
“I didn’t really think they were going to let me (come),” Gunn told the audience after sharing the behind-the-scenes of his interest in speaking at Wonderland.
The FDA official explained he was under no capacity to comment on the FDA’s current review process for any psychedelic-based compound drug trials; instead he was there as an advocate wanting to share his personal experience.
The event was significant in highlighting how varied the types of patients who turn to these therapies are and how passionate they tend to become about these treatments.
A debate sparks: to follow drug approval paths or move ahead without them?
Politics served as the backdrop for a significant number of conversations throughout the week of panels.
While various industry stakeholders are eager and even giddy to see the research and clinical trial process move ahead, many people within the halls of the Wonderland show floor expressed reservations about the largely established and rigorous pharmaceutical process.
Speaking at a panel discussing the politics of psychedelic medicine as a whole, a tense back and forth sparked when Gregory Ferenstein, CEO of Frederick Research, pushed back against the accepted notion that pursuing a medical approval path with regulators like the FDA is the only way for the industry to move forward and treat more patients.
The hesitation expressed for the model most publicly traded psychedelics companies are vying for relates to a frustration for the patients who may not have enough time to wait around for approvals to see the light of day.
Instead, Ferenstein outlined a state-by-state approach in which programs could be built to push legalization bills that can open the doors to the therapies patients are looking for but may not be aware exist or need some form of legal stamp of approval to start on.
At the state level, very recently, the psychedelics industry received key victories in Colorado, where voters approved psilocybin-assisted therapy, and Oregon, which validated its existing laws by rejecting county bans on psilocybin.
“We have consistently demonstrated that it's almost impossible to get anything done at the federal level,” Courtney Barnes told INN. Barnes is a partner and lawyer with Barnes Caplan who also spoke at the panel.
And therein lies the debate seen at times throughout Wonderland: the resistance to the corporatization of an industry built on plant-based drug treatments with no chance at being commercially approved unless a massive amount of research, time and money is invested into it.
Najla Guthrie, CEO of Wellbeing Digital Sciences (NEO:MEDI), pushed back against Ferenstein’s comments by stressing how vital the clinical research being conducted at the moment will be for the industry.
“We need the regulatory framework to happen responsibly. And we need the industry to rally around behind that,” Guthrie told INN before her panel took place.
The expert expressed excitement for the amount of research being produced and how it all helps fuel an industry that’s bigger that any one single company.
The psychedelics industry is on the verge of being catapulted into an even bigger spotlight thanks to imminent scientific results but questions remain about what comes after the data sees the light of day.
Investors are beginning to see the pillars of the industry being built as the much-anticipated approvals remain on the way. But financiers and those looking for new venture opportunities all seem aware of how exciting and potentially magnifying this entire endeavor could be for the right stakeholders.
For now though a message of harmony is prevalent around a busy show floor full of eager enterprise makers and passionate advocates looking for a less corporate approach to this drug business.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Bryan Mc Govern, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.