The Wall Street Journal: Silicon Valley and Wall Street Elites Pour Money Into Psychedelic Research
Summary: The Wall Street Journal reports on the successful completion of the Capstone Challenge, a fundraising effort to complete Phase 3 clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. The article highlights multiple $1M+ donations and the support of the Psychedelic Science Funders Collaborative (PSFC) and author Tim Ferriss, illustrating the rapid mainstreaming of psychedelic research and fundraising. "Psychedelic research has been thought of as ‘fringe’ for a long time. But there’s nothing ‘fringe’ about PTSD,” says Bob Parsons, the MAPS donor who founded GoDaddy and PXG. “There are millions of people with PTSD in the U.S. alone, and that includes veterans like me, first responders like those on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic, and survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse. All of them deserve better, significantly more effective treatment options than we give them today."
Originally appearing here.
A group of Silicon Valley and Wall Street executives has raised $30 million to speed the development of a closely watched psychedelic-drug therapy using the key ingredient of the party drug Ecstasy to treat trauma patients.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a nonprofit advocating for psychedelic research since the 1980s, is conducting its last phase of clinical trials to research the efficacy of using MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder.
PTSD afflicts about eight million adults a year, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. MDMA is more commonly known as the main component of Ecstasy.
Armed with the new funding, MAPS is aiming to finish the trials and seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration to commercialize the MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as soon as 2022.
So far, MAPS’s efforts have received positive signals. In 2017, the FDA designated MDMA as a breakthrough therapy for PTSD, meaning it would expedite review of the drug. MAPS said a recent interim analysis of its Phase 3 clinical trials, conducted by an independent data-monitoring committee, showed a very high likelihood the therapy will be effective for treating PTSD.
In phase 2 clinical trials, individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder receivedpsychotherapy, some with the psychedelicdrug MDMA. More of those who received thedrug no longer received a PTSD diagnosis inthe months after treatment, compared withthose who received a placebo.
Silicon Valley and Wall Street business leaders said their donations came from a personal connection to mental-health conditions.
Among them is billionaire Bob Parsons, founder of GoDaddy and golf-equipment manufacturer PXG, and a Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran, who said he has continued to battle PTSD.
“Psychedelic research has been thought of as ‘fringe’ for a long time. But there’s nothing ‘fringe’ about PTSD,” he said in a statement. “There are millions of people with PTSD in the U.S. alone, and that includes veterans like me, first responders like those on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic, and survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse. All of them deserve better, significantly more effective treatment options than we give them today.”
Also among the largest high-profile funders to the trials are hedge-fund billionaire Steven Cohen and his wife Alexandra, president of the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation, who donated $5 million; Silicon Valley investor Joby Pritzker, member of the wealthy Pritzker family that founded Hyatt Hotels, who donated $3 million; and venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson and his wife Genevieve, co-founder of tech startup Fetcher, who donated $2.6 million.
In an interview, Mrs. Jurvetson said she has family members who have struggled with addiction and depression, adding: “If we look at a lot of mental-health disorders, like PTSD, depression, addiction, anxiety, OCD, and eating disorders, many share ruminating thoughts and unhealthy, mental looping patterns. I think psychedelics can help disrupt those thought patterns and provide flashes of insight for a healthier state of mind.”
Ms. Jurvetson said the need for effective mental-health treatments will only increase in light of national tensions over Covid-19 and racism.
Behind the success of the latest funding round—which took place during the thick of Covid-19’s economic devastation—were two prominent Silicon Valley insiders: Tim Ferriss, the widely known podcaster and investor, and Joe Green, a serial tech and social entrepreneur.
“I was the one kid at Santa Monica High School that didn’t do drugs,” said Mr. Green in an interview. He said guided psychedelic experiences after he left the helm of FWD.us, an immigration reform group backed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, in 2014 helped him “rediscover wonder” and see beyond “making my dent in the universe.”
Mr. Green said he marveled at the number of researchers at a 2017 psychedelic science conference and how underfunded it all was, calling the area a “buried treasure.”
His Psychedelic Science Funders Collaborative, aimed at putting investor-level due diligence around psychedelic funding opportunities, helped MAPS raise the $30 million for this round. The organization did so in part by creating a community of philanthropists, with about 40 members so far, Mr. Green said.
In June, Mr. Ferriss publicized the campaign to raise more money for the clinical trials on his podcast. More than 2,500 funders helped put together the $30 million round.
Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of MAPS, said the money will help the nonprofit complete the last leg of the Phase 3 clinical trials and help commercialize the drug-assisted therapy. MAPS says it has trained hundreds of therapists in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.
The nonprofit plans to sell the drug-assisted therapy through a separate public-benefit corporation that will use proceeds from sales to invest in other psychedelic drug research and MAPS’s operations and expansion, Dr. Doblin said.