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Miami University licenses the manufacturing of psychedelic drugs (just without the trip)

lab at miami.jpg
Ann Thompson
/
WVXU
Andrew Jones, Ph.D. (left), graduate student Jordan Hinegardner (back), Matthew McMurray, Ph.D. (right), and senior Madeline McKinney in the bioreactor room where they make psilocybin.

Psilocybin shows promise for treatment of anxiety, depression, PTSD, traumatic brain injury and possibly Alzheimer's disease.

Talk of “magic mushrooms” is growing ever since research showed its main ingredient - psilocybin - may be an effective treatment for anxiety, depression, PTSD, traumatic brain injury and maybe Alzheimer’s disease.

Newsweek said it may be “the biggest advance in treating depression since Prozac.”

Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers go on a mental health retreat and unknowingly get micro-doses of it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvqujH6boEI

Growing magic mushrooms outside takes a long time and a lot of land but Miami University scientists have it down to two days in a lab. Andrew Jones, professor of chemical, paper and bioengineering, uses E. coli as the host, as WVXU explained in 2019.

It's complicated, but the Miami researchers use a mix of biology and chemistry to produce the drug. They take the DNA from the mushroom and trick the bacteria E. coli into turning it into proteins and enzymes. After a series of steps, E. coli produces psilocybin, then decides it has no use for it and excretes it.

Jones and his staff have come a long way. They have now licensed the technology to PsyBio Therapeutics. and are continuing to partner with the company.

“I’m learning a lot about the pharmaceutical marketplace and how to get drugs approved by the FDA and really looking towards formally approved FDA-regulated pharmaceuticals, as opposed to an over-the-counter type of recreational use,” he says.

Clinical trials could begin in 2022

He expects full clinical trials to begin nationwide early next year. Researchers must first prove psilocybin is safe and effective on animals and then people.

Jones has already moved some of the drug's strains from the lab into commercial facilities to be scaled up for the clinical trials.

He’s working with Assistant Professor of Psychology Matthew McMurray. He says there is a need for new drugs to treat patients because the current ones don't work, have too many side effects or take too long. He looks for ways to increase buy-in.

“There’s some promising research coming out of my lab and others suggesting that the hallucinations may not be necessary for the therapeutic value of the drugs," says McMurray. "So if we can isolate out what’s causing those hallucinations from the therapeutic value, it may be possible to have hallucination-free treatments, which I think will be much more acceptable.”

Can others manufacture it at home for recreational use?

“Could somebody take that strain, with relatively limited bioengineering, use that in kind of a home-based scenario to produce psilocybin on their own?” Jones asks.

In the journal Bioengineered, Jones recommends the government regulate the specific organism that’s being grown.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.