When walking through the woods, or even a particularly grassy side street, it is not uncommon to see mushrooms of the same variety sprouting up through the undergrowth.
In the same way individual apples on a tree are connected by an intricate latticework of branches, so too are fungi. A network of fluffy white bacterial colonies known as mycelia, not unlike the kind which grow on bread left too long on the counter, connect their fruiting bodies, mushrooms, beneath the earth.
Some fungi sprout taller than their neighbours, some have broader caps or develop brighter coloration, but no mushroom is an island thanks to the mycelium. And if companies in the booming psychedelic space can be analogous to mushrooms, Salvation Labs aims to be the network between them.
“My vision is to form this group of companies that is capable of playing in every aspect of the psychedelic space rather than create a single vertically-integrated entity,” says Michael Tan, CEO of Salvation.
Salvation Labs is a hybrid company, tracing its roots back to the early days of the Canadian cannabis space while Tan, who was recently took on the position as CEO, was the former executive director of cannabis operations for BC Liquor Distribution Branch.
While working for B.C.’s liquor board, Tan once borrowed his teenage son’s hooded sweatshirt and spoke to customers about their concerns outside of a nearby government dispensary.
Having worked with the BCLDB, Tan has an intimate understanding of a fledgling industry’s growing pains, albeit from the other side of the field.
So although Salvation is still firmly anchored in cannabis, and while Tan says recreational CBD products are a pillar of their business model, it’s the burgeoning psychedelics market which is to be Salvation’s focus.
The sector is still awaiting the green light for treatments to begin, but Salvation was granted a Controlled Drugs and Substances Dealer’s Licence in July which authorizes the possession, testing, sale, sending, transportation and delivery of:
- 3, 4, 5-Trimethoxyphenethylamine (mescaline);
- N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and;
- N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDMA).
Psilocybin and MDMA are the ‘low-hanging fruit’ in the psychedelic space due to their FDA breakthrough therapy status in North America and Europe, according to Tan, meaning they’re the closest to being approved.
Compass Pathways, the Peter Thiel-backed organization which was granted breakthrough therapy designation from the FDA, is currently conducting trials on psilocybin’s effect on treatment-resistant depression, a condition which they estimate affects 100 million people worldwide.
Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, head of the Psychedelic Research Group with the Imperial College London, said “In our 2015 study, we provided psilocybin to 19 patients in a clinical setting, coupled with psychological support, and found promising signals of efficacy and safety as treatment for treatment-resistant depression.”
Psilocybin just the start
Tan says his company is already planning for the next round of substances to be introduced. “It’ll just be a matter of time before other substances are introduced. Even beyond that list, I know we’ll have to apply for an amendment to include LSD and Ketamine.”
But Salvation’s purview is to be all encompassing, according to Tan: If the company cannot fill a role themselves, they aim to find someone who can.
Tan says the “ecosystem” his company is building will envelop everything from mass production, to testing, R&D, fund raising in the capital markets to supporting clinical trials.
“Given the potential to revolutionize society for the better, it’s important to minimize restrictions on research as much as possible, and we’d like to be a part of driving how this ecosystem looks and operates.”
One of Salvation’s first partnerships is with Numinus, an operator of psychedelic-based treatment centres, to eventually conduct testing on any product Numinus acquires for use with patients.
Salvation Biosciences, one of three divisions within Salvation Labs, is the company’s testing and R&D arm once Numinus needs analytic services.
Salvation Botanicals heads off extraction for the company while Salvation Biomass handles the industrial hemp from which CBD products are derived.
Tan says the company will fund Bioscience’s research and testing of psychedelic substances with revenues from the sales of CBD-related products.
“Salvation is seeking to expand its scope to include manufacturing ideally through a partnership, according to Tan. Alongside Numinus, such a partnership will put the company in-line with Compass Pathways, a Peter Thiel-backed start-up and thought leader in the sector.”
“We do believe psychedelics will have exponential potential over the next five years,” Tan says.
Payton Nyquvest says he started Numinus, in part, because he saw a limit to what could be accomplished solely through philanthropy.
A former director and VP at Mackie Research Capital, Nyquvest is an oddity in the psychedelic space: his Instagram account is littered with high-res landscapes, gym selfies and vlogs about the limiting effect of expectations one expects from an agent of the capital markets.
Although his access to concentrated capital would make him a valuable asset to any clinic seeking liquidity, that alone may not have been enough to earn his acceptance within the community.
But Nyquvest says he is a true believer. Plagued by chronic health issues since childhood, the former Mackie VP says his symptoms were only alleviated with the use of psychedelic treatments, and it’s a cause he says has his full attention.
“I sort of have the blessing and the curse of being able to wear both hats. The psychedelic community has sort of gotten behind and trusted, I guess, my level of integrity around this.”
Nyquvest’s father, Shayne, is also active within the world of psychedelic treatments: His company, Universal Ibogaine, works with treatment centres in Mexico to develop SOPs regarding the treatment of substance abuse and other mental illnesses with a psychedelic compound derived from the Iboga shrub.
The clinic is open and, though limited to offering mindfulness-based therapies while psilocybin undergoes clinical trials, Nyquvest said conversations with Health Canada regarding the applications of psychedelics had been promising.
To that end, Numinus has partnered with the British Columbia Centre for Substance Use and Together We Can to assist the cross-border studies currently being conducted in regards to psychedelic-based treatments.
“There’s a lot of clinical trials that are getting done in the U.S. which we can do observational studies for to help out with that allow us to put a scalable model on the clinics while also being able to aid research at the same time,” Nyquvest said.
Nyquvest recently came on as Salvation’s chief strategy and development officer. For now, Nyquvest says both Numinus and Salvation are focused on assembling the psychedelic ecosystem and validating treatments to the regulators in Ottawa. “I know from working from Health Canada they’re very open to doing work,” he says.
“It’s just a case of getting out there and sort of rolling up the sleeves and getting it going.”