CSIRO starts psychedelic trip
CSIRO is starting work on medicinal psychedelics.
The national science agency is aiming to develop new psychedelics to help people with a variety of mental health issues including depression, addiction, end of life anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
CSIRO will work with local medtech companies to improve existing psychedelic products and develop new ones.
Psychedelics such as methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) or psilocybin (derived from certain species of mushrooms) are currently being tested by researchers in Australia and internationally in strictly controlled clinical settings to see if they could be an effective treatment alongside psychotherapy for mental health related illnesses. Results have been promising.
In Australia, it is estimated that one in every five people will suffer a mental illness each year, with some research suggesting that more than a third of sufferers may not respond to existing treatments.
“CSIRO is well-placed to contribute to this emerging area of research, which could lead to life-changing advancements in mental health,” CSIRO scientist Adjunct Professor Peter Duggan said.
“Clinical trials both here and internationally have been using known psychedelics – usually MDMA or psilocybin (derived from certain species of mushrooms) with impressive results, but there’s still much to be learnt about how these drugs work and how improvements to their chemical composition could enhance patient outcomes.
"By working with local industry to improve drug design and the patient experience, CSIRO can push Australia into a leadership position in the development of these potentially life-changing medications," he said.
One of the first companies to work with CSIRO in this space is Melbourne-based Natural MedTech who gained R&D funding through CSIRO’s Kick-Start program and are looking to further explore the psychoactive properties of plants and fungi for medical use.
“Natural MedTech is working to develop psychedelic treatments for several unmet neurological disorders,” said Natural MedTech CEO Mark Hestermann.
“Working with CSIRO enables us to work with some of Australia’s leading scientists and access state-of-the-art facilities to meet Natural MedTech’s unique requirements.
“CSIRO’s scheduled poisons licence extension will mean that they can legally make the raw material we need to further our research and development of psychedelic molecules with a view to progress new drugs to clinical trials,” he said.