Is the US Ready to Release the Therapeutic Potential of Psychedelics?

Society is poised to break through a long-standing wariness to harness the potential of controlled substances in the treatment of brain disorders, says Mind Medicine Inc. CEO Rob Barrow.

By Brian Abrahams
Featuring Rob Barrow, CEO, Mind Medicine Inc.

Published September 14, 2023 | 3 min watch

Key Points

  • MindMed is drawing on a long body of historic research to support its development of psychedelic drugs for psychiatric disorders.
  • CEO Rob Barrow sees the company as well placed to deliver on three factors for success in the industry: quality, execution and data.
  • Amid close scrutiny of the company’s first LSD trials in patients, regulators are positive about the potential, Barrow believes.
  • Anxiety, depression, ADHD, and autism are among the conditions MindMed expects may ultimately be treated by psychedelics.

The effects of psychedelic drugs on the brain have been studied for decades, but the results have never been embraced by mainstream medicine. Rob Barrow is convinced that’s about to change.

The CEO of MindMed is excited by the opportunities his firm sees in using psychedelics, notably LSD and R-MDMA, in the treatment of conditions such as anxiety disorders, ADHD and autism.

A wealth of research

“For a long time, many big pharma companies, in particular, really shied away from developing brain drugs, and in particular psychiatric drugs. Now we’re picking up a long legacy of research,” Barrow says.

“That gives us so many insights, and a really extraordinary opportunity to bring these forward in modern research programs.”

The body of research to date provides evidence from hundreds of thousands of patients. In total, it supports MindMed’s belief that psychedelics trigger changes in global brain connectivity.

“It’s all driven by activity on the serotonin system – one of the best studied systems in all of psychiatry,” Barrow says.

He uses a weather metaphor to convey the potential effects: “In diseases where there’s an entrenched way of thinking, or a dysfunctional neurological pathway, it’s almost described as fresh snowfall that allows patients to have a new opportunity to see their lives and their disorder – and to ultimately overcome it.”

One complicating factor is that much of the research has focused on the effects of psychotherapy treatment combined with drugs. But Barrow believes there is promising evidence that the drugs are effective as standalone treatments.

Quality, execution, data

Following its first institutional fundraising exercise in the fall of 2022, MindMed is well positioned to advance towards its goals of marketing application and commercialization.

Barrow believes the business is well differentiated, with a strong team of researchers and efficient delivery. These fulfil what he sees as two of the three critical success factors. The other is data: “The reality is that execution, quality, and data ultimately win the day in our industry,” he says.

 “Getting to data – high quality, well conducted studies that can be done efficiently, and with as much speed as possible – is critically important. It’s what we’ve put front and center of our day-to-day lives.”

Regulatory relationships

Working with Schedule 1 controlled substances inevitably puts MindMed under extra regulatory scrutiny and requires additional bureaucracy.

However, Barrow has visited both the FDA and DEA for discussions, notably around MindMed’s first clinical trial with LSD. He says regulators recognize the potential opportunities in the company’s work.

“We’re working in a regulatory environment that is conducive, and there’s a recognition of the extraordinary promise,” he says. “Every discussion we have ends with the importance of what these drugs can do to help patients.”

Magnitude of need

Barrow points to the promise of LSD in generalized anxiety disorder, depression and ADHD, with R-MDMA also under study for potential in autism spectrum disorder. The use of psychedelics in psychiatry also hold “extraordinary promise” in alcohol use disorder, he says.

What is undeniable is the huge unmet demand for effective therapies. Barrow is driven by the ultimate goal of making treatments accessible to treat the “unbelievably sad magnitude of need” in the US. “I want to make sure these revolutionary treatments can actually get to patients,” he declares.

Our Experts

Brian Abrahams
Brian Abrahams
Managing Director, Co-Head of Biotechnology Research
Rob Barrow
Rob Barrow
CEO, Mind Medicine Inc.

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