Tech Tonics Podcast: Amy Emerson and Her Psychedelic Mission

Summary: Amy Emerson, CEO of MAPS Public Benefit Corporation (MAPS PBC), speaks on the Tech Tonics podcast about her journey from the traditional pharmaceutical industry to mission-driven psychedelic drug development at MAPS and MAPS PBC that prioritizes public benefit above profit. “There are no shareholders to pressure us,” Emerson explains, which “helps us to set the foundation for the way we want to see this moving forward.

Originally appearing here.

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Amy Emerson, CEO of MAPS Public Benefit Corp. (MAPS), grew up in Kodiak, Alaska and fell in love with both animals and science as a child. Later in life, when considering veterinary school, she realized that she loved biology but hated math – she would rather live in the wilderness on a lake and look upon science as a form of art.

Amy’s path led her to a microbiology lab for fish and game, then to bench science at a biotech company where she learned, as she says it, pre-clinical research is “an exercise in proving yourself wrong.” She ultimately switched to the clinical side of biotech research and spent years developing drugs the old fashioned way. For instance, she played a key role in the development of numerous vaccines during a long stint at Chiron starting in its early years.

A chance moment at Burning Man led Amy down a different drug development path. Through a circuitous series of events, she met Rick Doblin, who was doing foundational clinical research into the use of MDMA (aka Ecstasy) for clinical applications. Rick went on to become founder of MAPS, a company intent on bringing the first FDA approved MDMA product to those who suffer from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions.

Upon hearing Rick speak, Amy felt “a moment of clarity and purpose.” She made a cold call to Rick, volunteering to help with his clinical and regulatory efforts. Today she is CEO of the company. We spoke to Amy about her career, but also the burgeoning field of psychedelic drugs for mental health treatment and the issues around legality, stigma and potential convergence with traditional pharma.

We are grateful to Manatt Health for sponsoring today’s episode of Tech Tonics. Manatt Health integrates strategic business consulting, public policy acumen, legal excellence and deep analytics capabilities to better serve the complex needs of clients across America’s healthcare system. Together with its parent company, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, the firm’s multidisciplinary team is dedicated to helping its clients across all industries grow and prosper.