A New Frontier: The Imperial Center for Psychedelic Research, from idea to reality

A New Frontier: The Imperial Center for Psychedelic Research, from idea to reality

by May 18, 2019

The Imperial Center for Psychedelic Research, a venture by Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, raises over $4 million to explore applications of psilocybin therapy

The psychedelic world recently took a big leap forward, with the creation of the Imperial Center for Psychedelic Research. This arena will likely play host to the foundational investigations into psychedelic research that will occur in the coming years. Ultimately, it could be seen as a dream-come-true for the head of the new center, Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris.

“Current treatments aren’t cutting it. They’re not making the difference we need”

Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris

This researcher was at the forefront of psychedelic investigation throughout 2018 (See our Science Round-Up here) and his academic career as a whole. Working out of Imperial College London, he has attempted to describe and quantify the psychedelic experience. His primary focus has been on psilocybin, no doubt a trend that will continue in this new research centre.

This application of psilocybin has been explored in a particularly difficult field, with Carhart-Harris making progress in tackling Treatment-Resistant Depression (TRD). This is a clinical state of major depression that is resistant to all known forms of pharmaceutical and interventional therapies. Psilocybin, in this case, is employed as a therapy of ‘last resort’, akin to the most powerful antibiotics. Like any such impactful therapy, negative and positive outcomes are carefully considered before proceeding.

Unlike intense rounds of antibiotics, Dr. Carhart-Harris has demonstrated that psychedelic therapy presents few negatives consequences and often has a profound aspect. Many subjects in his clinical trials have described their experiences in his lab as ‘one of the most important’ experiences in their lives.

From personal to business

The recent talk surrounding ketamine derivatives and their applications in clinical settings seems to have lit a fire under the business and investment community as a whole. No doubt, the discussions surrounding the creation of this new center began ages ago; the coincidental timing may be an indicator of a larger trend toward investigation rather than strict prohibition.

This trend can be seen in at least two ways: a relaxing of inhibitions to research of stigmatized compounds, or an overt pharmaceuticalization of ‘drugs’ to the detriment of non-clinical, non-prescribed applications. The two approaches provide similar short-term outcomes, however the future of psychedelic research may be shaped by these decisions.

The trend of relaxation of law, stigma and inhibition on psychedelic therapies is the ideal approach; accepting and approaching these substances as medically relevant for betterment and fundamental changes in thinking. Pharmaceuticalization of these substances results in similar, if not more, research on the safe clinical utilization of these compounds. However, the approach places all emphasis on clinical applications and focuses little on harm-reduction and recreational use.

Activism and the stories of every-day individuals will keep recreational and non-clinical applications of classical psychedelics in-line with pharmaceutical developments. Regardless of brand or origin, psilocybin has the ability to provide as much positive outcomes in a casual setting as it does in a clinical one. Applying the knowledge of both science and the community can help ensure safe and productive voyages for any would-be adventurer.

Reducing the barriers to entry

As a positive sign, the research center intends to include a clinic that will have the capacity to accept a wide range of patients and subjects. This opens the door to those who might have been excluded from clinical trials, with reasons ranging from medical history to time constraints. This open-door nature breaks the boundaries between science and recreation, welcoming a much larger pool of interested individuals.

Carhart-Harris has mentioned that he intends this clinic to be a prototype for future psychedelic therapy centers. He applied specific emphasis to the concept of treating both those with disorders and applying the therapies to betterment of healthy individuals as well. This concept is a welcome approach to psychedelics and how they may be used and regulated in the future.

For now the team, that will eventually inhabit the Imperial Center, is applying their innovative therapies to depression and eating disorders. The latter is an affliction that has yet to be explored by rigorous scientific investigation, but it seems an ideal target for the ‘brain reset’ that psychedelics can provide. The former, TRD, seems to be the pet of Dr. Carhart-Harris, however these new trials will finally compare the effectiveness of psilocybin therapy against traditional antidepressant procedures.

Follow the money

These innovative therapies and applications have captured the attention of investors and speculators around the world. The possibility for utility to both patients and healthy individuals is an alluring point that seems too good to pass up. In terms of the Imperial Center for Psychedelic research, the players involved may help to provide context on the creation and funding of this new enterprise. Together, they’ve contributed over $4 million dollars to get this project off the ground.

Tim Ferriss

  • Primary investor
  • Acclaimed, 5-time Best Selling Author
  • Angel investor and advisor to Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Evernote, Uber
  • A podcast with Michael Pollan seemed to have sparked his interest

Sanjay Singhal

  • Canadian
  • Founder of audiobooks.com
  • Seems to provide start-up coaching, investment and guidance

Shamil Chandaria

  • Philanthropist
  • Known for mathematical economics modelling, and philosophy of science
  • Google Advisor (A significant contributor to their ‘DeepMind’ AI technology)

Anton Bilton

  • Real Estate and Philanthropy
  • Part of the ‘Bilton’ Real Estate empire
  • Active interest in DMT research
  • Launched The Tyringham Initiative, a think-tank for ‘new-paradigm consciousness’

Bohdana Tamas

  • Venture capitalist
  • Little known

Ultimately, investment in alternative and psychedelic therapies as a step in the right direction for furthering acceptance and normalization of these substances. The amount of money flowing into this domain may be alarming for some, but it can only be seen as an inevitable consequence of interest in the future of these compounds.

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