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In this Spotlight interview, Neil Maresky, CEO Psyence Group talks with Psychedelic Finance about what spurred his interest in the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. He provides insights into Psyence’s mission and focus on Palliative Care.

1 – You have an impressive background with experience working both as a family physician and in research-based pharmaceuticals. What first got you excited about psychedelics and their therapeutic potential?

I entered into the Canadian pharmaceutical industry in the mid 1990s and over the last two decades I was at the helm of research and development for three major pharmaceutical companies; Wyeth, Bayer and AstraZeneca. This career path, as a trained MD, has given me an understanding of the fundamentals of healing through interactions I have had with individual patients as a physician and at a macro level, through the development of drugs that are able to change health outcomes for entire populations.

Throughout my career I have been passionate about mental health and am committed to using my experience at a patient level and at a pharmaceutical level to deliver better mental health outcomes for all. Over the last few years, I have followed the new wave of research at leading institutions including Imperial College London and John Hopkins University in psychedelics and the role they could play in improving mental health and treating mental health disorders.

When I was offered the opportunity to be an advisor to a company that was doing psychedelic research, I had more direct exposure into the potential of psychedelics and I became increasingly excited about the opportunity. The importance of addressing mental health has become especially evident during the Covid-19 pandemic and although the pandemic has certainly exacerbated the problem, it has also gone some way in destigmatizing mental health issues and bringing it front of mind (no pun intended). As a result, I think there has never been a better time to come up with real solutions to this incredibly pressing problem.

2 – What got you excited about the mission Psyence Group is on?

I have always been passionate about addressing mental health challenges. Psyence’s vision of developing and providing innovative, safe and effective psychedelic and nature-centered solutions for mental wellness really resonates with me. I am particularly impressed with the caliber of Psyence’s team and their tireless commitment to executing on this vision.

I am also excited about Psyence’s focus on natural psilocybin and Palliative Care, an important area of health that has long been overlooked. I believe that society is turning to natural alternatives to address health concerns. People facing a terminal diagnosis will find natural therapies more appealing after often having already experienced months or years of treatments such as chemotherapy, which unfortunately can have adverse side effects for a patient.

3 – What are you building with Psyence Group?

At Psyence Group we are building a leading healthcare biopharma company at the cutting edge of developing psychedelic and nature-centered solutions to the mental health challenges we face, challenges that have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

4 – What psychedelic molecules is Psyence Group discovering and for which indications?

Our focus is on psilocybin, which is a naturally occurring psychedelic prodrug compound produced by more than 200 species of fungi. Psyence secured one of the world’s first federally issued psilocybin licenses and cultivates a species of psilocybin mushrooms known as psilocybe cubensis, the most common and well-known psilocybin mushroom species. While many companies are isolating and manufacturing the synthetic psilocybin compound, we are growing the full natural mushroom.

Our aim is to extract psilocybin for patients with various health challenges, specifically those receiving Palliative Care and experiencing the associated anxiety and existential distress that comes with a finite diagnosis.

5 – Can you share more about why Psyence Group chose to pursue Palliative Care?  

At Psyence we believe that making the most of one’s remaining time is a huge priority and our team of highly experienced medical experts are committed to improving the outcomes for people who have been given a few months or years to live. Critical to this diagnosis is mental health wellbeing and how to make the best of one’s remaining time. Current treatments are far from meeting this need. We believe that the research done to date suggests that psychedelics, and psilocybin in particular, have the potential to play a major role in this regard. We are committed to building on this research in the hope of coming up with a far more impactful solution and in doing so allowing patients to have an improved quality of life.

6 – What do you think is the most common misconception about psychedelics?

The war on drugs, initiated by President Nixon in the US in the 1970s grouped all drugs, psychedelics included, as being addictive and harmful to self and to society. Unfortunately, this misconception around psychedelics has persisted despite evidence that psilocybin has demonstrated extremely low addictive and harm potential.

7 – What excites you the most about Psyence Group’s future?

Psyence’s future is incredibly bright. We have an excellent team of medical professionals, scientists, business people and drug production specialists that are committed to delivering on our bold but achievable strategy of transforming mental health outcomes for millions of people. As we begin clinical trials in 2022, there is enormous potential to impact society in a hugely positive way, which is extremely inspiring for me and I am excited to lead Psyence in its endeavor to do this.