Damon Michaels is the Chief Operations Officer of Mydecine Innovations Group. Prior to joining MIG, Mr. Michaels was consulting for various hemp businesses through his company, Emerald Baron. Before that, he served as GM for the leading multi-platform cannabinoid research and technology firm based in Colorado called ebbu. In November of 2018, ebbu was acquired for CAD $429m by Canopy Growth for being the cutting edge leader in cannabinoid science. Over the last decade, Mr. Michaels has been in leading roles with multiple large brands throughout the cannabis vertical in Colorado and California. Outside of the cannabis industry, he developed a national snowboard brand with his team, was one of four entrepreneurs who created Colorado’s first-ever glass recycling company, and was on the business development team for a Google Ventures Company.
What made you personally want to get involved in psychedelics?
Ever been to a really good awe-inspiring magic show that left you walking out of the auditorium questioning reality? I always knew that there was more to life than what meets the eye, but sometimes there’s more than seeing with believing. After you’ve undergone a real psychedelic experience, it kills your ego. You establish greater empathy for others, and come to the realization that all things are connected. You also realize that there is so much more to life, consciousness, and healing, than we ever thought possible and I knew I wanted to find a way to one day take it mainstream to help awaken and heal others.
Why is Mydecine focused on building for both psychedelic medicines and psychedelic assisted therapies?
Our dedicated clinical research team has been studying psychedelic therapeutics for decades. We strongly believe there is a two-part equation to help solve the mental and social disorders that people may be suffering from prior to their psychedelic therapy. Simply think of consuming psilocybin, the psychedelic precursor chemical found in “magic mushrooms”, as a reset switch for your brain to help physically get the brain back on track. After the psychedelic experience, the back-end therapy is designed to walk you through the second stage of the healing process to make sure you don’t fall back into old habits or routines that could retrigger the original disorder. Mydecine is initially targeting PTSD and combating smoking addiction with a two-stage combination of medicine and therapy.
How did you develop your state-of-the-art mycology laboratory?
After we scouted multiple locations around the Denver area, we landed on the perfect environment for our mycology lab we call MYCOM (Mydecine Center of Mycology), which is also our US headquarters. It was once an FDA approved lab for probiotic research, so it had a great built-in layout for what we needed. After shaking hands with the landlord and locking down the lease, we brought in our elite group of staff who have extensive backgrounds in mycology research, genetics, and chemical analytics, to help us outfit the lab with our own design and equipment needed to conduct our ongoing studies around non-psychedelic medicinal functional mushrooms. Additionally, we have also started the process to get this lab under a DEA license to research and analyze psychedelic mushrooms as well.
What types of research are you currently focused on?
We are an emerging research driven biotech company, developing a vast IP portfolio, so we’re dedicated to all types of necessary research. Our company’s primary R&D focuses around our novel drug discovery and design of entheogenic, empathogenic, and nootropic compounds, therapeutic protocols, clinical trials, genetic experiments, artificial intelligence, patent design, and chemical analysis from fungal sources.
What kind of difficulties do you face in balancing international regulations and working within regulatory frameworks in the US, Canada, and Jamaica? How have you been able to legally export psilocybin and how will that evolve moving forward?
It’s always a balancing act to develop systems and operate between multiple regulated government bodies, but that is partly what our expert team of attorneys are on retainer for. They make sure that we do everything by-the-book in the eyes of the law. Months ago, we successfully and legally completed the first-ever international shipment of psilocybin containing mushrooms from Jamaica to Canada. This was facilitated under a Health Canada Schedule I Dealer’s License that is possessed by our R&D lab in Alberta. Currently, we are only supporting the feedstock of our own drug design and clinical trials. However, as things evolve, we hope to be able to commercially supply to a regulated market once we get FDA approval. After that, we can open up the doors further to collaboration and begin exporting to third party clinical trials, research groups, government entities and other licensed facilities that may be in need of our top tier product supply on a global scale.
How do you manage the different areas of focus at Mydecine and cohesively bring them all together?
Very carefully while putting work in many long hours of the day! Honestly, we probably couldn’t have pulled it off the way we did and as fast as we did it, if we weren’t a remotely structured company with access to modern day technologies that we all knowingly take for granted. Mydecine was founded at the height of Covid-19 in March of 2020, so we were forced to build the company remotely and put very strong telecommunication skills in place. Being mostly remote has opened up the doors much wider to human capital which allowed us to handpick the best team of constituents from around the world. If we could only hire locally from a designated city, it’s doubtful that we would have been able to put together the team we did. Everyone on the team jives really well together and are all hardworking passionate individuals that are as loyal as they come. This helps quite a lot when we’re all focused and working together to accomplish common goals.
How will your recent partnership with Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation allow you to further develop your novel compounds?
API’s exclusive partnership with us gives Mydecine carte blanche access to a research facility worth over $100M in assets along with access to an incredible group of world-class scientists. This has helped Mydecine to further our research and expand at a faster pace than we ever could have if we tried to build out a CGMP pharmaceutical grade research lab on our own. The lab has all of the technical, fundamental, and experimental capabilities needed to legally import, extract, process, research, analyze, produce, manufacture, sell, distribute, and export psychedelic Schedule I substances such as psilocybin, psilocin, and MDMA. The lab at API is the ultimate pharmaceutical environment we needed to discover and characterize countless molecules found in mushrooms and to also have the ability to take our novel drugs from pre-clinical trials all the way through to phase 4 clinical studies.
What is the biggest misconception that people have about psychedelics?
I can at least speak for psilocybin/psilocin, because that is what we’re primarily focused on. I think the biggest misconception is that these compounds are harmful, toxic, unsafe for use, and have zero medicinal value. This is completely untrue as psilocybin alone is safer than caffeine, and there is zero risk of dependency and abuse. There is ample historical data from many of the world’s top universities to show that psilocybin/psilocin have plenty of legitimate medical uses.
How did Mydecine choose what areas to focus on for clinical trials and why did you ultimately land on PTSD and smoking cessation?
From the get-go, we focused our efforts on PTSD and eventually added smoking cessation, because they are both indications that we personally hold close to our hearts. Unfortunately, many of our team members have had to deal with the traumatic repercussions of a friend, colleague, or loved one taking their own life as a result of suffering from severe PTSD. Understanding the potential healing power of psychedelic medicine and wanting to target this indication is what prompted Mydecine to fully acquire NeuroPharm, a dedicated psychedelic industry entity geared towards PTSD relief in veterans and frontline workers using psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. One of the amazing team members that came along with the acquisition is Dr. Rakesh Jetly (Mydecine’s Chief Medical Officer) who we fully admire and respect from what he’s accomplished in his career already. As of February of this year, Dr. Jetly has fully retired from a 31-year career with the Canadian Armed Forces with the last decade holding the position as Head of Psychiatry. He knows all too well the devastating effects of PTSD more than anyone we know and knew there had to be a better solution than what currently exists within the limited options of Western medicine. This led Dr. Jetly to spend many years studying psychedelic medicine and it’s safe and effective uses with treatment resistant patients. Neuropharm’s clinical trial developments and its patients are now fully under Mydecine’s care and we couldn’t be more thankful to be working alongside Dr. Jetly as we continue to expand the efforts he and his team initially started. Currently, there are no prescribed medications in the market specifically designed for PTSD.
As for smoking cessation, we know based on historical data, which recently has been developed out of Johns Hopkins University, led by Dr. Matthew Johnson (who we’re huge fans of), showed major promise to help people kill their addiction to deadly nicotine. There is over a 60% success rate using psychedelic therapy for smoking cessation. Other products that are currently on the market have a much lower rate. CHANTIX has been the leading prescribed drug for nicotine addiction, but with only a 20% one-year success rate. CHANTIX was also just recalled a few weeks ago due to the discovery of carcinogens found within it.
What trend do you think is emerging in the world of psychedelics and what impact do you see that having?
One trend that is catching on quickly in the medical field and throughout the media, is that we are all starting to see an increasing number of people who are accepting and willing to try psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy as more education and research is revealed. For mental health treatment, it’s safe, effective, what more could you ask for?. It finally gives people an alternative rather than having to take a pill the rest of their life that may do more harm than good. Kind of a no-brainer (pun intended)! Once these novel drugs go through the traditional path of FDA approval (hoping to achieve breakthrough status) and eventually get approval, doctors can prescribe this medicine to their patients and we will see a new wave of healing on a global scale that we’ve never seen before in modern history. It’s time to normalize psychedelic medicine and therapy and open up mainstream accessibility.
Can you tell us more about Mydecine’s digital health platform?
Mydecine saw the huge upside opportunity with Mindleap Health, which is why we decided to acquire it early on. With everything going remote due to Covid, it couldn’t have been better timing to resurrect Mindleap and give users the convenient ability to connect with a mental health specialist wherever they are in the world at any time of the day. Mindleap is very unique as it is the first mental health application to bring psychedelic treatment and inner wellness together. We’re very excited for Mindleap right now, because 2.0 is about to launch on iOS and Android platforms this month, which will give the user a lot more options to reach their mental health success by adding other integrations into the Mindleap platform (i.e. yoga, breathwork, nutrition, etc.). Mindleap also collects data from wearables such as watches to help the specialists understand the user more than ever before. This in turn helps the specialists develop the best path for the user to achieve their mental health goals. All data is secure and is managed strictly by the user, Mindleap does not sell any of the data, and the platform itself is HIPAA compliant. Mindleap will also be a great medical tool for Mydecine and other research organizations to better manage clinical trials in regards to psychedelic integration therapy.
Who is someone doing important work in the world of psychedelics? Who you think more people should be aware of and what companies do you see that are also on the path to succeed?
There is absolutely no way I can just narrow that down to one person. First off, I want to start off by saying our amazing staff and Mydecine’s Scientific Advisory Board Members are absolute rock stars. Outside of our direct team, a handful of others I commend in psychedelics are people like Dr. Matthew Johnson – who I mentioned earlier, Rick Doblin, David Nichols, Dennis McKenna, Rachel Yehuda, Daniel Carcillo and Paul Stamets just to name a few, but there are plenty of others. The leading industry companies that I personally see doing real work out there next to Mydecine are (in no particular order): MAPS; Cybin; Entheotech; Numinus; MagicMed; CaamTech; Gilgamesh; The Beckly Foundation. I’m sure there are other companies doing significant work as well, but these are the companies that come to mind.
Overall, we truly hope this industry breaks the mold of classic dog-eat-dog scenarios of other major industries and finally finds a way to create a strong network of collaboration, so that we all rise together in this renaissance.
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