The Psychedelic House of Davos

This excerpted from the Guardian

The Psychedelic House of Davos, a satellite event happening in conjunction with the World Economic Forum, was a ‘genius strategy’ to build credibility, say experts.

“We spark curiosity with the neon sign out front,” said Maria Velcova, one of the organizers of Psychedelic House of Davos. “Once people get curious and brave enough to come down here, they realize that this isn’t some underground electronic dance party. They find themselves meeting world-renowned scientists, clinicians, policymakers, people from for-profit and non-profit sectors, and experts from leading academic institutions.”

“I am a firm believer that psychedelics have the ability to unlock novel approaches to disorders notoriously difficult to treat, like PTSD, alcoholism, opioid addiction and pain,” said Kevin McKenzie, co-founder of Carvin Medicines, a Swiss drug company entering the psychedelic drug market. “Hosting this in Davos at the same location as WEF is a genius strategy – it brings fresh eyes and bright minds to psychedelic drug development, which builds credibility for these medicines.”

Last year the UK psychedelic company Compass Pathways completed the first randomized, double-blind trial of psilocybin for the treatment of depression, given to 233 patients across Europe and North America. Those treatments were administered by trained therapists, while MindBio Therapeutics just completed phase one of their research around LSD microdose therapy, which, for the first time, allowed participants to self-administer the drug at home.

Funding is still relatively scarce – it costs about $2.6bn to bring a single drug to market – but the marriage of high finance and the science of highs is beginning to seem inevitable.

Billionaires like Peter Thiel (PayPal), Bob Parsons (GoDaddy) and dozens of others have already invested heavily in psychedelic companies. In 2021 alone, 45 different investments led to a $595m windfall into the psychedelic medicine industry, leading Elon Musk to flirt with the trend when tweeting last month: “I’ve talked to many more people who were helped by psychedelics & ketamine than SSRIs & amphetamines.”

“Psychedelics in the last two or three years, particularly since Michael Pollan’s book came out, have had extremely positive coverage,” she said during a panel discussion. “And unfortunately a lot of the people who write about psychedelic studies may not have a background in science, and present too simplistic a conclusion on this research. I’m not working in opposition to anyone, but I do report on these issues as they arise and as I see them. I think the coverage has been overwhelmingly positive and there’s room for more nuanced approaches.”

By the end of the week, Hamilton Morris said the Psychedelic House of Davos felt more or less like any of the other dozens of psychedelic business and science conferences popping up all over the world these days.

While he’s a little burnt out on them and wants to get back to his chemistry lab, he admits coming here due to “some degree of morbid curiosity, because I never thought I’d see something like this at Davos. It has a reputation for being the international epicenter of avarice and business, things that seem superficially antithetical to the world of psychedelics.”

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