I'm with Greg Kubin. It's Friday afternoon. I get to talk about psychedelics today. Kind of excited for that. Greg, I have been listening to you talk about psychedelics and mental health on your podcast and it's so good. Congratulations on making a good podcast.
If listeners are interested in knowing what ketamine therapy is, Greg goes and gets a shot of it in his arm on like one of the first episodes.
Very first episode. It was dramatic. It was like suspenseful. I mean, I would say with an intramuscular shot of ketamine you don't exactly know what the experience will be like. It kind of shoots you into a liminal space and yeah, in that experience I had, I would say, a few notable memories from it.
One being that I. Became aware of some of the, I would say very subtle anxieties that had been lingering subconsciously. They were raised to the surface. And in other moments, as I shared in the podcast, I felt like a big block of cheese.
Right. I remember you saying it felt like a big block of cheese. I didn't even know it was legal to have ketamine therapy.
Yeah. So ketamine is an anesthetic that is one of the properties of ketamine. And it is actually, it was approved in 1970 by the FDA as an anesthetic. And it's a very safe anesthetic because it does not suppress the respiratory system. , and it was in the 1990s that researchers out of Yale, , discovered the antidepressant effects of ketamine and also some of the psychedelic qualities around it as well. And so the thing with, , ketamine and how it can be prescribable is that it's actually prescribed off-label. So the way it works with the FDA is that if a drug is approved for a certain indication, doctors, clinicians are still able to prescribe it for other indications, and in the process, it's actually harder for it to be covered by insurance.
But yeah, because of that, you have a lot of companies that are delivering ketamine And that's what I experienced in that first episode
it was great. but in addition to this amazing podcast business trip, , Greg has a 25 million fund ed investing in psychedelic medicine and mental health technologies before Syed.
Greg was a founder of a startup hello sponsor managing event sponsorship. And he worked at Morgan Stanley. What a trip
yes. My career has definitely been a trip it's it's continuing to evolve and let's see where it goes next.
but let's start with psychedelics. I mean, you. Cornell Morgan Stanley 25 million fund investing in psychedelic medicine.
I mean, what was the appeal? What was the pull of psychedelics?
Hmm. So I'd been working in and around startups for about a decade And I felt compelled to direct my focus of startups and entrepreneurship and business building really towards a area that I felt really passionate about. And a few years ago, Mattias, who's one of my, , best friends partner at Simon and ultimately co-host of business trip.
We put our heads together and we thought to ourselves,
Where is the world going, what are some areas that are really interesting to us that, you know, we want to get more involved in, on a deeper level, on a more heart led level. And I had this general theory that the hippies were right.
So when you look at the 1960s and you look at some of the ideals and, when you look at the, what, what hippie culture really was about, they really were right about a lot of things, right?
in my opinion,
right , they, adopted, , certain healthy eating practices, veganism. They created the music festival.
Uh They used psychedelics cannabis. , they brought a lot of Eastern traditions to the west yoga and, , Eastern Philosophical and, spiritual practice , to the west.
And, through this conversation, , we kind of like we're brainstorming on, you know, what's next of all, these things that are sort of have crossed the, the chasm or gone through the Overton window and psychedelic medicine was like very high up there on that list. And both Mattias and I had I would say our own deep experiences with psychedelic medicine had experienced, , transformations in our own lives.
, and. Really we're like, this feels like it could be next. And so we basically spent a few months reading research papers, attending conferences, reaching out to people that inspired us that were doing work , within psychedelics. And a lot of things from there really rolled organically where, , we got more and more comfortable, , with an understanding of the nuances of psychedelic medicine, the history, the indigenous history, the laws, the regulations how many compounds there areand yeah, from that, we started a syndicate, Um , let me take a step back. A really important juncture in our journey was meeting Dina Beke by who was one of the earliest investors in psychedelic medicine.
So she very much got us up to speed on how to think about the dynamics within what a psychedelic medicine company even is. Cuz a lot of these companies are really biotech companies going through FDA for clinical trials and Dina is just incredibly sharp and also is I would say very heart centered in how she approaches this space.
And so, yeah, from there, we basically decided to go from syndicate to fund, And we also decided to expand our aperture a bit in terms of our focus beyond just psychedelic medicine, towards what we like to call frontier mental health technologies.
So that could be areas like neuro tech devices, precision psychiatry, certain digital therapeutics what are the hot topics, I guess in the research university crowd and what were some of the ones that really captured your attention or imagination?
comes top of mind is some of the research out of NYU and John's Hopkins, which shows thatthe, the mystical experience is a hallmark of many psychedelic experiences.
And that's actually align with healing and people who experience a mystical experience, being a connection with source or, something bigger than themselvesis associated with alleviating mental health challenges or disorders. So that to me is incredibly interesting. In addition to that, I would say the research out of maps, which is the multidisciplinary association for psychedelic studies and what they've learned about how MDM a also known as Molly ecstasy uh in conjunction with psychotherapy can be used to help treat post-traumatic stress disorder.
And when you really get into understanding the neuroscience of how it works, it's just a light bulb switch that went off in my head. I'm happy to explain it now if you'd like. So PTSD is really a debilitating condition, right? PTSD can occur when someone is victimized, when they experience abuse or assault. Um And following that experience.
People's bodies will often go into a, a fight or flight or freeze sort of scenario. And often the freeze scenarios where they end up where their body, basically their sympathetic nervous system gets activated whenever that they are triggered
So this happens and it actually continually gets worse over time to the point where people often will actually disassociate from their body. And this is happening with a lot of veterans, for example, in the us military but what we now know is that MDMA does a few things, neurologically it deactivates the activity in the fear center of the brain in the amygdala.
And it also induces a lot of serotonin, oxytocin feels basically people feel connected and feel a sense of safety and trust. So when you give somebody MDM, a they're able to really for the first time, since the, I Connect with somebody and rego through the traumatic incident and process it, talk through it because the MDMA is enabling them to feel safe and secure with in this case, it's two therapists in the room.
And in, in addition to that, what you also find is that people will have compassion on themselves.
They'll have a lot of more self love. And, , what neurologically we, we believe now happens is that the memory literally through the hippocampus, which is the memory center of the brain, goes from becoming a short term memory to a long term memory.
And as a result of that, the individual is , their whole nervous system isn't lighting up because they don't feel like the incident is ever present. And so they can actually just get on with their
lives The science part, the brain part is super interesting to me. Like I'm curious. You know, what are the other interesting compounds drugs? Do they all act very differently?
Uh And the big caveat I'll say is that a lot of the neuroscience and mechanisms of action are still being researched.
And this is due to the fact that a lot of the stuff there was just not sufficient funding or any funding, because the fact that these have been scheduled compounds since 1970 and that's when the controlled substance act was passed. So I think one really interesting compound or class of compounds are trip to means.
So these are compounds like Sila Sabin or L S D. And
do we understand how psilocybin works?
Well, we understand a few things about 'em. I mean, we, we understand that molecularly, they look very similar to serotonin. So if you actually look at the, composition, they're very, very similar. And they basically target receptors that are like serotonin receptors. And so once you hit that receptor or agonize it in scientific terms, it does one really interesting thing in the brain. It deactivates what's called the default mode network. So the default mode network is comprised of a few areas of the brain in the front is the prefrontal cortex.
And the bag is the posterior singulate cortex. And those parts of the brain in ordinary default mode are responsible for the sense of self
that I'm Greg and that you're mini. One of the hallmarks of anxiety and, or depression is an overactive default mode network. So you're, you actually start to ruminate and you start thinking and you start overthinking about something. And that often then results in someone feeling depressed or very anxious. So with psilocybin and many tryptamines, you actually reduce the blood flow to that part of the brain.
And in doing so, a few things happen. One is people often report feeling more connected to the surroundings, right? Nature, others like the universe, really the feelings of interconnectedness unity is one way that people like to call it. But in addition to that, it. Opens up the opportunity for the subconscious to emerge the parts of the brain that the ego is protecting.
And so when the subconscious emerges, that's where we have a lot of what there are often called shadows parts of ourselves that are repressed. And so a hallmark of a psilocybin or LSD experience is basically the deactivation of the default mode network. And then really I would say impactful information comes to you.
A lot of which has been stewing in the subconscious.
I love that we're able to talk about unity and also, you know, cutting edge research at NYU, like all in the same conversation.
no, totally. it's a really multidisciplinary field.
I feel like those experiences also are really powerful tools for a lot of people outside of just therapeutic settings. . Do you have thoughts on , what you've seen, be useful to people in different
Great question. So I would say there's a few buckets that I like to think about the use of psilocybin or really many psychedelics. So one is the therapeutic, that's the one that I'm most focused on in my day job. But uh a few other buckets. So one is from a creative standpoint, they can be very creative uh tools.
There are, have been other studies that have actually shown the interconnectedness of the brain on psychedelics one study in particular. The study was done by Robin Carhart Harris at Imperial college, London. There's an incredible graphic. And you just see basically how.
Really distinct parts of the brain are communicating with one another.
That is typically not the case in your sober default state. And so that can be linked to having insights or out of the box thinking, but also synesthesia, right. Where people will see sounds basically the, the wires in their brain are kind of crossing momentarily and then they go back to the normal state.
And so from a creative standpoint, yeah, I think that psychedelic compounds when used responsibly can be fantastic. And let's get back to the used responsibly for a moment becausea really important concept with however, one wants to use work with psychedelics is the concept of set and setting being in the right mindset.
Being in a safe and supportive setting. This was not well understood in the sixties
is probably one of the biggest reasons why you know, people were having bad trips and falling out of windows and buildings and having psychotic episodes because that was not well understood.
And if you account for a set and setting the reliability of having a good trip is much, much higher. Okay. So we talked about the therapeutic bucket.
There's theuh creative.
And I think it's also really important to remember that many psychedelic compounds have hundreds and potentially thousands of years of use as a sacrament.
And it's something to keep an eye on, on what's happening today because, you know, in the United States, for example, there are actually some iowaska churches that have exemptions from the us government to basically work still with these compounds as sacrament. And those churches are growing because more and more people are finding a connection to source in that kind of way.
what are your thoughts on iowaska? Like, it seems like it's growing in popularity. I hear about it more. I hear more people like my husband
Yeah I mean , it's a powerful experience. It can be incredibly healing. because of how strong it can be and how one of the hallmarks of it is purging, like actually throwing up and releasing the energies outta your body.
, I would say it's, it's not an entry level psychedelic compound.
and I, I have some people have asked and I'm like, yeah, you may wanna start with like SIL Ivan or something. That may be a bit more gentle, Fair enough. Should we get back to talking about invest? Sure. I've heard about mind bloom, because that was a great name. Mind bloom, where you went and got your ketamine injection.
Yeah, so, well, just one thing that we did not invest in
Oh, well you went and tried
and tried it out. Yeah. When I did the mind bloom experience, we were not investing yet. And yeah. So we didn't invest in them.
You know, what struck me is I kind of went into it thinking, wow, ketamine therapy kind of woo, woo.
Out there. He came across as like an extremely articulate sort of startup founder. Right. It just, it's interesting how the worlds are all colliding, I
Yeah for sure. I mean, yeah, he, before that was running a, a tech company that was doing something around It was like insurance related or
yeah something like that.
And , you're definitely starting to see more and more tech founders that were previously, you know, making enterprise software for cybersecurity and being like, you know what? I actually wanna apply the tools and the knowledge that I have to this space,
Mattias too. Right. Mattias was an AI and
Mattias. He headed up the startup accelerator at Nvidia. So he was making AI and
data science Exactly.
And now he, he's your partner here?
So not including mind bloom. So tell me about some of the fun
So one company is called delic therapeutics. They are developing non hallucinogenic analogs of psychedelic compound. So, what does that mean? , one of the big insights that led to de is the research that one of the founders David Olson at UC Davis did around the neuroplastic qualities of psychedelics.
So when you were asking earlier about some of the,
you know the brain stuff so neuroplasticity is and neurogenesis are two really important concepts. Basically it's the ability to generate new neuro pathways in the brain. And our brains are super neuroplastic when we're younger. That's why kids can learn multiple languages and adults can't.
And um one of the. Hallmarks of depression, PTSD but also certain substance use disorders or, or many substance use disorders is a atrophy of neurons and neuronal activity in the brain. And so people who have, for example, substance use disorders, because of the atrophy in the prefrontal cortex, , the hypothesis is that one of the things that keeps them reaching for the drug that they're addicted to is the fact that that part of their brain is not in good shape.
And so what Delex has been able to show in animal models. So he did this with mice and fish. I I'll explain the study really quickly, which is that he basically got the mice and fish um addicted to heroin
to alcohol and um you know, you push the lever, you get more of it.
They kept coming back for it. Uh And then after taking the compound, they were not seeking out the drugs anymore. Which is like, holy crap.
that's pretty amazing if that can translate from animal to human.
that's actually where they are at as a business right now. They're going from preclinical to phase one, which means that they're basically moving into the clinic to give to humans. ,
Wow. That seems incredible.
Tell me about the neuroplasticity again.
Yeah. So things, get ingrained in our brains and then we can't get out of our rut, but drugs help us get out of our rut.
I'll, I'll explain it a bit differently. So
yeah. That's okay fair enough
Yeah basically neurons can form new pathways. They basically can grow, think of like a Chi pet growing and psychedelics promote more growth of those neural pathways. And those neurons are basically associated with like cognition and our mental acuity. And so the more that you're able to grow those things, the more you're able to learn new behaviors, new ways of thinking new patterns and whatnot.
And so psychedelics promote the creation of more of those neural pathways.
Hmm, I need to do more drugs. I really . I keep listening to you being like, damn, because I'm so stuck in all my little pathways. Mm-hmm I need to grow like a Chi pet.
Mm-hmm I need
So um the next company that we're gonna talk about is called freedom Biosciences. So Delex is a drug development company, freedom, also a drug development company and freedom is developing the next generation of ketamine therapeutics.
Ketamine is an anesthetic on one side of the spectrum, but it also has neuropsychiatric quality. So it can basically be a fast acne, antidepressant and at a certain dose, it can be a psychedelic.
It can cause you to hallucinate. freedom has basically identified two major um shortcomings that exist with ketamine.
One is around what's called the durability. So the amount of time after someone has ketamine treatment, that they still benefit from the afterglow or the effects of it. Ketamine's uh window is actually very short, shorter than almost all other psychedelics. It's like two to three days. And freedom's lead program basically is looking to extend that window through a combination therapy, combining ketamine with another compound.
Their other lead program is focused on the abuse liability, or the possibility of abuse of ketamine. And specifically around people that ha already have substance use disorders and depression. So the thing with ketamine is that it it's a partial agonist of the opiate receptor.
And so . It can be habit forming for certain patient populations.
Is that what makes something, I mean, what do we know about addiction?
Yeah. I mean, a big hallmark of it is the receptor that it's targeting and the opiate receptor in particular creates like a cascade of craving and wanting more of it afterwards.
So most of these psychedelics are not touching the opioid receptor.
So like MDM,
a, the shrooms those are just not touching that receptor. So probably not
Yeah I would say that that is a. Simplistic way of putting it.
Cause obviously we don't, we have a no opioid crisis
think another important thing to note about addiction is there's like the pharmacological explanation, which is around the receptor activity, but then there's also the sort of psychological way of thinking about it, which is that there's like a root cause that is unaddressed.
And until that root cause gets addressed, the addiction may continue to manifest. And so, and this gets to, I would say from a high level of like of why psychedelics and psychedelic therapy so powerful, they have the ability to help people address the root cause not just be being symptom management.
Right. So like SSRIs, antidepressant, They generally get people to baseline if they're feeling really depressed, but they don't actually help people address the depression that they're feeling. and they allow, allow them to just keep going without getting to that early, early root cause of it.
but also I think one um really interesting and fascinating neurological dynamic of psychedelics is their ability for us to access repressed memories And so I, I guess what I wanna mention is that there are many people who actually report reliving Birth and processing it.
It that's too much for me. See, this is, I was thinking about our podcast and I was like, it can ver on being too Woohoo for me. And I bet you get that a lot. Right. I get bet you get close mind. People are like, I can't believe in reincarnation or whatever it is.
I mean, look, everybody is entitled to believe whatever it is they want
believe. I wanna be more open
minded. Yeah. And you know, I think that at the end of the day, people often fear what they don't know.
There's a lot in my own unfolding in this, like I'm learning new things every day. If we were to have this podcast five years ago, I'd be sitting in your seat.
Yeah. Right. I'd be asking the questions and I don't have all the answers. I'm still freaking learning. But the more that I learn the more I'm like, wow, it's it's
Also there, there is an aspect of it that sounds very Buddhist or like, it sounds like there's lots of, you know, reducing the ego. Some of that stuff doesn't sound new
it's a very astute observation. And in fact, if you look at an FMRI imaging scan of a meditator, and you put it next to someone who's on a psilocybin or LSD trip, they're very similar meditation also reduces access to the default mode network.
And it gets people to the, present to the now. And guess what? Meditation is a very, spiritual tradition and people who get very, very, very present and very now and their ego is not yapping in their ear and they feel connected to something bigger than themselves.
So, you know, , there's definitely overlap in how these processes work, you know, and, and one, saying that I like is that spirituality is an ocean with many shores.
So there's many ways to access these, states of being another one that's not doesn't involve drugs is holotropic breath work.
Right? You do that for 30 minutes consecutively, many people report leaving the feeling of leaving your body.
And there are some people who say that that process actually releases endogenous DMT in our brains.
And DMT is the the God drug
DMT is the, the God drug
DMT is what's an IASA Okay.
It's ethyl protamine Okay
And so, yeah, you know, at the end of the day, the stuff comes from plants that comes from animals and maybe we even have it within ourselves.
Amazing. Yeah, I mean, I feel like.
I feel like it's like, I love Pasadena. We're in Pasadena right now. I love Pasadena. We're in the pot hut. We're in the pod hut in Pasadena. I love it here, but that doesn't mean I don't ever wanna leave the pod hut in Pasadena.
And so I feel like I ought to travel, see the world. And I kind of feel like the same with this ocean of spirituality out there. Like, I'd be silly not to try lots of things. That's what listening to your podcast for a week has made me feel like
mean , what I think you're sharing what I'm hearing.
Oh my God. We're having a therapy in my pod. Hu.
hearing is there's a part of you that this is stirring up. Uh You know, I'm a really big fan of Carl Young. Andyoung has this concept of individualization. It's a long word. I Good Good Scrabble word, but it's the idea of becoming more and more of
your self, your higher self and less and less of the egoic self, right?
The who I should be, who my parents wanted me to be. And
I think the reality is that for many, many, many people in modern society don't individuate because it's really hard to, in our culture where it's like you go to college at 18, you take the job that maybe some friends or people around you are taking and you're on your way.
And I think that for a lot of people, what psychedelic experiences represent, is an opportunity to connect with their self, with the capital S and , I think that that can be really beautiful and really powerful and honestly result in a lot of change in people's lives.
I think a really important concept also that is fundamental to psychedelic experiences is, is what's called integration, not just having the insight. But like doing something about it, having the right container is often what it's called to implement those changes. I, I hate to be the person who's like, I don't know what self is, but , what does it mean to. Have a better sense of self with the capital?
I think uh self of the capital S for me uh aligns with purpose. Like, what do I feel in my heart that I'm meant to do, be doing, spending my time working on the being around. Another word for self is soul.
So I'm working on a little project it's like a little book called the adventures of ego and soul. And basically it's, it's almost like a Calvin And
Hobbs kinda part of the reason I'm making this book is that I think that the concept of soul for me is actually very hard to describe or define
But some examples that I've, you know, included in this book the ego says, hurry up and the soul responds. What's the rush,
right? The ego says I'm afraid that on this podcast, people are going to judge me or I wanna speak a certain way.
So I'm experienced a certain
way. And the soul says I'm going to speak from a place of honesty and, share what I actually believe so you
know itit there's there are many ways to define it.
But I'm fascinated by it. I think it's incredibly interesting. And yeah, I'm, it's a, it's a really good question
And how did your ego want to be experienced on this?
I'm increasingly living my life.
not caring about it and just coming as I am. And however it is that I'm experienced, I'm experienced
Right. I think there was a time for myself where I wanted to come off as being experienced as smart.
You know, or clever.
And, I mean, we're going on another tangent here, but like,when you speak to little kids. They're doing their freaking
right in the moment,
they're in the
moment And then the way that our society is set up is it's like, don't do this, do that. They're constantly being told, not to do things and not frankly empowered to do what they actually may want to gravitate towards, And so, , , as you become an adult, there's this like untangling you know , it's very much in process for me, but like, I'm, becoming much more aware of that.
and now here I am back in the present
mm-hmm and we're like, what up
Okay. Totally. But where are we in this podcast? I have no idea. Should we get back to investing?
Yes. We talked about delic. We talked about freedom company. Number three is called journey clinical and journey clinical empowers therapists to add or incorporate psychedelic therapy into their practice. So really ketamine therapy today.
What does that mean? Well Journey clinical has an on-demand medical team that helps with really prescribing and dosing, like the whole psychiatric component, as well as resources and a community for therapists to. Add ketamine therapy to their practice. I also like that model a lot because the alternative are, there are a lot of teletherapy companies that are popping up andgenerally in those companies there isn't, what's called like a therapeutic Alliance where the therapists or clinicians that they have, they don't have a long standing relationship with , the patient that they're working with. I prefer the model where it's like a patient and a therapist already have a relationship. And then through that they then layer on ketamine into the relationship.
And then the fourth company is a stealth company.
Can't mention the name yet, But it's a, it's actually not a psychedelic company. It's a neurotech device. And this company is using ultrasound transcranial focused ultrasound to neuros. The deepest regions of the brain. So I had mentioned the amygdala before the fear center what their technology will be able to do is potentially neuromodulate so up or down the amygdala so that people can feel temporarily less fearful what do you think of Neurolink?
think there's a huge ethics question to be had.
I think there's huge ethics question to be had in all of this around consent. And what does it mean to be human? I think that this will be a very big debate. I think that there will be a large camp of people that are like evolution and change is the natural order of the universe. So yeah, put a chip in me.
I don't care. I think a lot of people will, will feel that way. obviously you need to look at what the downsides are of making physiological changes to people, but I think at the end of the day, that's the question that people are going to be debating pretty vigorously in the next decade, because it's becoming more and more real
Yeah. I mean, I guess I even have that same fear, not of like the Neurolink level stuff, but even of psychedelics, I have the fear that I'm messing with my brain and I'm scared of it getting rewired too much and getting
Yeah. I think,
think the thing to remember though with drug use is just like intention and
know the middle path,
right Yeah. It's like not overdoing it
that's not my style, Greg
What else do you think we really should cover here today? I
mean I think , to me what's really interesting is like this is a movement, there's a psychedelic Renaissance happening right now. the general movement that I am observing is that there is an increasing number of people that.
Are benefiting in one way or another from psychedelics and, and or psychedelic therapy. And I think that the way that these things work is that when somebody has a transformative experience and shares it, they share it with a lot of people.
And when they
share a lot of people, those other people say, Shoot.
I wanna try this myself. , I wanna improve parts of myself or work on parts of myself or have a more creativity or something of that nature. So when you add the internet and social media as this, like amplifier to me, it's like, I foresee this the next few years to be really interesting around psychedelics and culture.
but at the same time, you know, the cautionary note is that these are incredibly powerful and psychedelics are not for everyone.
. I think that the really important thing to note is that the really powerful ones can take you to a place where they can completely make you question reality and the sense of reality, because guess what?
billions of people right now have this consensus view of reality that certain psychedelic experiences can make you question.
and that can be really challenging for people who are not resourced, who don't have people around them and, or maybe didn't even wanna know, or maybe were comfortable just living their life in California and Pasadena waking up on a sunny day, drinking their kombucha in the
bohu Yeah. And that's that's good
Yeah. But I've had, I mean, to, to share mine, like I've had some experience where like, I don't think I ever look at trees exactly the same. Cause like I had one trip in particular where I was like, I feel way more connected to trees. and I, 20 years later I still feel more connected to
Yeah I mean, Michael pollen, who wrote how to change your mind? He yeah. On his experiences shares how he had felt a communication with trees.
I did a lot of hugging
Yeah I mean, tree hugs are always a good idea.
Um Anything else? Um So it's movement. The hippies were
The hippies were, mean, that's my take
Greg. I could talk to you for hours and hours, but that might be the line to end on. Congratulations on SimonMed
It's been wonderful and um I appreciate what you're doing with the LA venture pod and you get to meet a lot of cool people in your process.
I do so people can find you on business trip podcast.
Yeah. At business trip, FM or business trip.fm and our fund is PsyMed Ventures.