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