Episode eight of season one of the Psychedelic Invest Podcast is now available everywhere you listen to podcasts.

In this episode of the Psychedelic Invest, host Bruce Eckfeldt, is joined by the founders of Nushama, Jay Godfrey and Richard Meloff. 

During this conversation, ketamine treatment is explored more thoroughly as Bruce digs into Nushama and what they hope to accomplish in with the further adoption of psychedelic-assisted therapy.

New episodes of the podcast are released weekly. Stay tuned and subscribe to be notified when a new episode is published. This podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and everywhere podcasts can be found.


You’re listening to the psychedelic invest podcast where we speak with founders, CEOs, investors, advisors, experts, and thought leaders in the brave new world of psychedelics and entheogenic medicines brought to you by psychedelic invest, bring you unparalleled psychedelic investing data and analysis. Psychedelic invest is the industry’s leading resource for those looking to invest in the burgeoning psychedelic industry. For more information, and to access all of the podcast episodes, check out our website at psychedelic invest.com/podcast And now here’s the host of the psychedelic invest podcast Bruce exiled.

Welcome, everyone. This is the psychedelic invest Podcast. I’m Bruce segfault, on your host, and we have two guests today. Richard mela and Jay Godfrey, they are cofounders of new Shama, we’re going to talk to them about what they’re doing in psychedelics and really their approach and their angle, I think that we’re really sort of seeing obviously a lot of interest and you know, kind of explosion of opportunities and people involved in this space. But there’s lots of different facets and lots of different kinds of angles to this. And it’s gonna be a fascinating conversation on really what the what their take is, how they’ve approached this market, and where they see the future going. So with that, Jay, Richard, welcome to the program. Thank you, Bruce, pleasure to have you on before we kind of get into what you’re doing today. And, you know, kind of the focus and what the activities are and where you are in terms of the business. I’d love to get a background, how did you each kind of get into this? How did you come together, give us the story, give us the kind of the origin of the business and how you guys approach it. And I’ll let you decide who wants to kind of kick us off on that.

Happy to kick it off. You know, I was an investment banker for for a year, I moved to the United States, from Canada to work at Citibank, or Citi Group. And after about 14 months of what I consider to be torture. I decided that that wasn’t for me. And, and I did what every investment banker does, which is applied to design school, so ended up going to the Parsons School of Design, he spent the last 15 years or so as a women’s wear designer. And how does that relate to psychedelics, it doesn’t accept the fact that I was waiting, I was waiting for the connection.

It doesn’t at all. But what’s kind of interesting about my story, I think, is in about 2015, I’d started going to therapy, talk therapy. And what I found was I was going every single week, I was paying about $350, every single week, three years, so 5060 $70,000 out of pocket. And while it was great, because I learned strategies and coping mechanisms, something underneath it all just didn’t feel right. I felt, you know, there’s something was disconnected. And ultimately, you know, my confidence wasn’t there. I just didn’t feel good enough or I lacked worthiness. And a good friend of mine suggested plant medicine. And I was incredibly fortunate to meet a great couple that does shamanic work with plants. And it’s been life changing for me. And during a journey that I took in May 2020, as COVID was kind of at its height, the fashion industry was at its low. Nobody, nobody was going out and they certainly women weren’t wearing dresses, especially ones of the cocktail variety. It came to me in this journey in this plant medicine experience, that while I was very excited about the hopeful legalization of MDMA in 2023, or 2024, and the psilocybin potential legalization beyond that and the LSD or DMT and Ibogaine even beyond that, I was concerned that there were people suffering from all sorts of mood disorders, whether it be depression, addiction, PTSD, you name it, and there weren’t solutions today and antidepressants weren’t working. And what can I do today, because more people need this. That’s what I was thinking during my journey. And that was on my journey was on a Saturday night and two days later and walking on the street listening to a podcast, actually, Tim Ferriss with Rick Doblin Yeah, to myself, well, we got to do this somehow. And my My college friend and my brother’s college roommate, Richard, Mel off, gave me a ring and said, I know you’re really interested in plant medicine and psychedelics. Have you ever thought about doing something commercially? And I’ll let Richard kind of tell where it went from there because his background is different, but equally as interesting, I think.

So. Thread one to thread two, Richard, what right what was your journey? How did how was your side of the story?

So I also lived in New York after law school. I was a Wall Street lawyer for three years. I’m a little slow We’re on the uptake than j. So it took me three years to figure out that that wasn’t for me. And I returned to Canada and was involved in a number of entrepreneurial ventures. But the last two years, I was a senior executive in the legal cannabis space in Canada. And what I saw, not necessarily with my company, which was, you know, predominantly recreational use, but on the medical side, we did have involvement in that. And I saw the regime and, you know, was hearing from in the calls I was having in the meetings that was having that veterans were getting prescriptions, between five and 10 grams a day of cannabis to deal with their the trauma associated with their time in Afghanistan, in the Canadian context, we had soldiers serving in Afghanistan, and for 20 years since since 911. And they were coming back deeply traumatized, deeply wounded, if not physically and mentally. And the solution and it was a compassionate solution was to offer them medical cannabis to deal with this. What the size of these prescriptions was was indicating, however, was that it wasn’t really dealing with the heart of the matter. It was simply a bandaid, it was almost like the zombification of these of these poor souls who are getting up in the morning and smoking till the minute they went to sleep at night, right. And I didn’t view that, or I didn’t feel like that was an adequate solution. It was better than perhaps the alternatives. But it still wasn’t good in an objective sense. And so as I started reading more about psychedelics and the work that Dublin was doing with veterans using MDMA, I became persuaded that there was actually a way to get to the heart of the matter, and not just mask or Band Aid over what people are are feeling with SSRIs or cannabis, but really try and break through and and get to the source of the of the pain and the suffering. So it was in that context that I really became persuaded that there was a broader mission in my life to to help people overcome these challenges. And not by masking it or mandating it, but by dealing with it. And of course, COVID only added jet fuel to that. So that was my journey to this business. And of course, Jane, I quickly realized that while we had high hopes for MDMA and psilocybin as therapeutics in a legal context, the only tool in the tool belt at the moment is ketamine. And so that’s what led us to the creation of new Shama, and the creation of these clinics for the deployment of ketamine to treat mood disorders.

So there’s kind of this practical aspect of, you know, ketamine is the only kind of element or like molecule compound that you can use within the kind of legal scope right now. But I guess, how do you decide, like, as you looked at where you could get involved in the industry, you know, kind of apply your background skill sets where the need was, like, was there consideration? Or how did you get down to, okay, this is where we really want to focus our effort and what we want to create in terms of a company,

right, so we quickly eliminated drug development, right, and neither one of us has the skill set for that. And we also realized that it was highly binary, meaning either you’re, you’re going to develop a compound that’s accepted or, or purchased by a larger player, or you’re going to get nowhere. And so it’s sort of a lotto ticket type of business in our minds, right, it’s either going to be phenomenal, or more likely go to zero. And so given given that binary nature, and the an our skill set that was sort of quickly eliminated, but the other part of the thought process was what can we do to help people now, and drug development doesn’t help anyone now, so the only thing that we could think of that would help people in the here and now we’re was as a place to safely administer in a in a thoughtful and medically supervised but spiritually informed way ketamine clinics, and we were lucky enough to be introduced through Jay’s connections to adopt an anesthesiologist in New York named Dr. Elena Archer, who became the third partner of new Shama. And she’s been working with ketamine for over 30 years, first as a military doctor in in the former Soviet Union. And then as a practitioner in New York State for the past 20 years, both as an anesthetic and as an analgesic. But for the last few years, and at lower doses for mood disorders. And so that at that point, when we met Dr. Archer, and realized that we could start working immediately, and not in some distant point in time, that may or may not ever come to full fruition, because of the regulatory regime that sort of helped make the decision for us.

And tell me about like, as you look at ketamine as a compound and what it can do and what it can’t do, relative to some of these other things, I mean, guess what’s your kind of assessment in terms of kind of its application or its kind of effectiveness or where it can work can be applied? And how does that compare to some of these other compounds molecules as you kind of think through the future or these or you’re planning to introduce some of these other kind of things that are coming down the pike or potentially getting legalized like how does this work? work in terms of strategy for solutions?

Yeah, that’s a that’s a great question, Bruce. Right now ketamine is, as you mentioned, the only legal tool in our quiver button Shama will certainly as the legal framework expands, starting with MDMA, hopefully by 2023, or 2024, solely for the treatment of PTSD. But in the context of how ketamine helps certain mood disorders, given that it’s the only legal one, it still for many of these mood disorders, the best option for many people, and if it’s not the best option, it’s a close second. So ketamine at the moment can treat or help treat treatment resistant depression, generalized anxiety disorder, alcoholism, opioid abuse, obsessive compulsive disorder, really what we refer to in JAMA as elements of the Spirit, we feel that people and this is certainly been exacerbated by COVID. Our D spirited Yeah. And we’re strong proponents of the general concept that it’s 10% molecule, it’s 10% diagnosis and 80% integration. And what does that mean? It means that when you administer a ego dissolving compound, whether that be ketamine, psilocybin, mushrooms, MDMA, LSD, DMT, or Ibogaine, there’s an experience. And it’s not just a physiological or pharmacological experience, it’s a psycho spiritual one. And people’s, as their ego dissolves, they experience the absence of ego, the absence of judgment, they’re devoid of, of fear. And they play the witness. And they get to see certain things about themselves, whether that be wounds or traumas that they’ve experienced as a child, or certain things that might not have made sense on this plane of consciousness. But when your ego dissolves, it certainly makes a whole lot more sense. And so there’s an experience here that needs to be integrated. And at New shaman, what we do is we really spend a lot of time with patients or journeyers, or participants, to get them prepared for what the psychedelic experience is, and make no mistake, high dose ketamine administered through an IV does indeed create as bonafide of a psychedelic experience as almost any compound out there. And every one is a little bit different. But it certainly does occasion and ego dissolving experience. And it’s our job at Nishan, not only to create a safe environment for these people, but also to help them integrate their experience. What was their key takeaway? What did they learn? What did they see? And how can they learn from that experience, and bring that into their lives. And an analogy I always kind of like to use, as I remember, I was taking my eight year old on a roller coaster, and she was very, very, it was her first time she was so afraid of going on. And as they buckled us in, or it strapped us in, and we’re going up the big hill, she said, Daddy, I want to get off. And unfortunately, I was powerless at that moment. So we just we both had to collectively, permanently let go as they say surrender to the experience. And lo and behold, after the ride ended, my eight year old said to me, I want to go again. And, and that really is the experience with people’s mood disorders, especially when they really experienced a trauma without their ego, they get to see it for what it is. They don’t color it with their stories or their or their life experience. They get to see it for what it is they look at it, they often feel it in physical manifestations that could be euphoria could be pain, and then they’re able to transcend it after they’ve re experienced it.

Yeah, yes. Talk to me a little bit about I mean, you kind of mentioned the the physical part, like how do you create a safe, you know, conducive physical environment process to support the experience and then you more of kind of the psychological the prep work actually going through the experience itself integration, what have you kind of learned or what’s been your strategy and your kind of design around those elements to create, you know, the experience or create the effect that you’re looking for?

Look, we’re we’re learning every single day, you know, this is the new frontier. And despite the fact that, that psychedelics have been used for 6000 years in the Amazon, and in various other indigenous cultures, above ground in the medical context, we’re learning every day. And one of the things we’ve learned is that there’s kind of a strange, nonsensical to non medical personnel of what we’ve learned from ketamine, which is, lower doses, believe it or not, are more addictive and more dangerous than higher doses. So if you had an experience with us at a very low dose, you might not actually get a lot of work done. You might not have the opportunity to go within what you might do is you might feel euphoric, a high of sorts, and that that kind of creates a dependency that you don’t want. But worse than that it doesn’t achieve what people came to do, which is to work on themselves to take a look in the mirror, and to tell themselves the truth. And with higher dose ketamine, what it does do is it takes the euphoria out of it. And what it does do is it really creates an experience where people can actually see unvarnished, what the truth is about themselves allows them to go within, and it’s definitely not euphoric. And in these dosages, it really does create a psychedelic experience that like other psychedelics is not only not addictive, but it fights addictions. Yeah, which is, which is super interesting.

Yeah. And tell me like what have been some of the challenges around this, as you’ve kind of really thought about it as a business or you’ve put together as a business like Where Where have been kind of the hurdles or the things you kind of struggled with or really had to kind of figure out to make this work?

I would say the biggest hurdle is stigma at the moment, to the extent that people have heard of ketamine, they’ve heard of it in not super positive context. So first, they might know it as a horse tranquilizer and of course, you know, with all the talk of ivermectin as a horse de wormer. And you know, there’s lots of like, Haha, what are you talking about kind of joke Enos, or they may recall it as a party drug, you know, Special K, they don’t really understand its provenance. They don’t understand its its uses as an anesthetic as an analgesic. And as, as the doses we deliver as an, you know, as an ego dissolving. Occasion are. So there’s this, there’s this stigma around it amongst or just that lack of knowledge altogether, right. So you’re fighting either a negative context or a non context. Like, you know, Oscar Wilde said the only thing worse than being talked about as not being talked about. And so to the extent that people don’t know anything about ketamine, we there’s an education component, as well. And it’s not just for the the journeyers themselves, but also refers, you know, psychiatrists, neurologists, they also have their own biases and stigma associated with this. So there’s still a ton of work to be done at the medical level and at the broader population level, to really de stigmatize. And that’s where I think the biggest, that’s one of the biggest challenges for sure,

yeah, that’s falling every day to you know, there’s articles and every major newspaper and online news organization, talking about psilocybin and MDMA and even LSD. And so we’re still, we’re slowly throwing that glaze here from the Timothy Leary era. So it’s, it’s, it’s even with ketamine, as a psychedelic, we’re, we’re a challenge is just educating everybody involved to thaw the entire glaciers of psychedelics, not just ketamine.

Yeah, I’m curious, on the medical professional side, do you find that, you know, the folks that seem to be embracing or, you know, willing to investigate this or, you know, folks that know more about, you know, ketamine about these molecules and see kind of how they work? And what what the potential is? Or are you finding, you know, folks that are dealing with conditions that are just so unresolved? You know, they’re it’s kind of a, you know, why not try something else? Because nothing else seems to work? Is it a desperation? Or is it a hey, we actually understand these molecules and what they can do for us, I’m curious, where you’re seeing kind of the uptake in the medical community.

You know, it’s, it’s interesting, I think the biggest opportunity for the medical establishment really resolves in their pain points. You know, we speak to psychiatrists, and therapists all the time, kind of helping to educate on the safety, and the efficacy of ketamine and other psychedelics. And we hear Wow, this is this is terrific, new kind of novel solution, because hopefully, I can now start to see some new patients. The mental health pandemic has gotten so bad in this country, that you’ve got people who’ve gotten into the mental health side of medicine, unable to see new patients, because their existing ones are not getting better. Yeah. So I think this has been a huge opportunity for many of them. But it’s also I think, a lot of doctors now are starting to understand that notion, or at least are open to the idea that the Body Keeps the Score, which is a famous book that was written fairly recently a bestseller, which talks about how one’s mood one’s consciousness can affect their physiology. And so now people are looking at things like migraines, fibromyalgia, chronic pain conditions that might any and even irritable bowel syndrome, as psychosomatic illnesses that are without solution, and maybe just maybe, if you can put one of your struggling patients with IBS or or any of these other psychosomatic conditions, or into an experience where they can learn about their traumas and let go of them. Maybe that could help their their their physical allergy. And so there’s a lot more doctors being are open to that, which is for us. Very, very exciting.

Yeah. How is this playing out in kind of the health care systems that we have at this point? And I know that kind of the Canadian system US system are a little different. I know other countries have different kind of approaches to this. But what’s what are you noticing and returns have the dynamics of how to actually bring these solutions to people through healthcare systems? Is it just this is all private services? Are you seeing a future potential of of doing this through the healthcare systems? And what are the dynamics you’re seeing in terms of why or why not embrace these from, you know, health care kind of policy.

So we’ve seen some encouraging news at the state level. For instance, you know, a network of clinics in Utah announced that Some insurers will now provide coverage for ketamine for mood disorders, ketamine has traditionally been off label for depression, it’s on label for pain, but it’s off label for depression. So one of the I mean, that was very encouraging that, that certain insurers in the state of Utah, for instance, will be covering ketamine for mood disorder. This is an important point, you know, the access for the great need that’s out there is going to come when there is the ability to use insurance to cover these treatments. And if there is a bonafide pain diagnosis, then insurance is becomes part of the mix. If If there isn’t a bonafide pain diagnosis, then right now, and in New York, where we operate ketamine is, is out of pocket, a lot of the other related services can be insured. And one of the things that we’re doing and this is an important part of our ethos around access, and making sure access, we do provide access to those in need, and not simply to those who can afford to pay is working in in a group setting. And what groups enable us to do is really two things one, allow a much more modest entry point from a from an out of pocket point of view, that allows us also to do some pro bono work because of the context of a group, a couple of part members of the group who are who are there, you know, on a needs basis, we can still provide the services to everyone equally, and it’s neither here nor there sort of economically. And groups also enable, in many ways a more efficacious treatment. I mean, there’s a reason why so many things that we see around, you know, addiction like AAA or weight loss and weight watchers is are done in groups. And that’s so that there is this creation of a support network, people who are in the same boat as you are going through the same struggles as you. And you know, you really can learn from each other. So we believe that an important component of this work going forward. And we’re we’ve already done some groups, and we’re going to be doing more and more at our facilities is to focus on on group access. And this will enable us to also, you know, get more bodies through the door, because of what the insurance companies really want to see is evidence that this is efficacious, and that it will save them money in the long run. And we truly believe that I mean, this isn’t all about dollars and cents. But for insurance companies, it really is around value based care and making sure that instead of having to pay long term disability and having to people go through a million different treatments, and all these things put a lot of stress on the healthcare system, they put a lot of stress on on insurance premiums. And if we can show and we will, that this is not only not only works, but is is a net saver to the whole system, in terms of both time, money and resources, then we believe that it’s only a matter of time that you know, insurers and all all the states are going to recognize the value of this.

Yeah. And you mentioned the beginning, one of the reasons you should have chose this path rather than drug development was, you know, just the the risk profile the capital requirements, but I imagine there’s still, you know, investment that needs to be made, like where if you had to develop, you know, create investment and get investment, where have you deployed that, like, what does that look like in terms of building the business. So we’re

a clinic space business, and we have three in New York City, two in Manhattan and one in in Brooklyn. And really, from a from a capital point of view, the big the big business expense is the build out of the space to make sure it looks the way you want it to look in. And then you know, there are security deposits and sort of uses of cash like that. And then you also have to have the staff and you have to have the staff whether 100 people show up or nobody shows up. Right. So there are certain fixed costs associated with clinics that are there regardless of your throughput. But we were fortunate to start with two existing clinics that had a had a patient base through our partnership with Dr. Archer. And the third clinic that we built in midtown Manhattan, we believe is just an amazing location. We are already seeing a pretty significant daily number of patients there. And so there is a pathway to break even in the pathway to making it sustainable from an economic point of view. Because while we want to help people we have to be in business to help people right and so we need a model that is sustainable. We believe we have one, we have growth plans to open more clinics, we believe that over time, people aren’t going to travel great distances for this, they’re going to want it local to them. But, you know, our focus is to really make sure that the three clinics we have in New York City are functioning properly and that we have our our model down. And we’re incredibly dialed in and then start opening more from there.

And what are any particular kind of goals objectives in terms of where you have to be in the next couple years in terms of numbers of clinics, or number of patients where, what what is success for you, as you go forward,

we’ve modeled out the next five years is heading around 35 clinics predominantly in the northeast, although we sometimes like to consider South Florida the northeast, for strategic and lifestyle reasons. But culturally, it is the northeast, of course, geographically it is it is not, but 35 clinics, you know, when the next five years focused regionally, we we believe that in order to get some leverage and and, and regulatory simplicity, focusing in on a region makes a lot of sense versus sort of spreading everything all over the place. And, you know, we believe that our clinics, our model is based on a 10 room clinic. And we expect to see 1000 unique patients a year per clinic. So at 35 clinics, we would hope to see 35,000 patients a year that would is what success would look like. And that’s an amazing number of people in terms of helping you know, 35,000 people overcome their challenges. What is what is unbelievably daunting, is the evidence from the Kaiser Family Foundation, that of the 26 million adults in the tri state area in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, a full third of them have are suffering from from mood disorders. And so that’s 8 million people, 8 million adults, and of those 8 million adults 75% of them. So 6 million of the 8 million have received some treatment, and 2 million have received no treatment whatsoever. So in our world of what success looks like to us 35,000 patients is remarkable in the context of 8 million adults with mood disorders, you can see how how great the need is overall for the deployment of these treatments. Yeah,

and any particular kind of policy changes, legal changes, like what what are the big things that you’re watching in terms of kind of shifts in the landscape here that would really, you know, either accelerate or hinder your ability to execute on the planet? Yeah, that’s

a good question. You know, one, kind of three major policy shifts in the next few years that we’re expecting. Number one is the legalization of MDMA, through the maps trials, that’s expected, as I mentioned, probably end of 2023, beginning of 2024, it will take some time for that to come into clinical practice. So that might be by 2025, or 2026. Before if you’ve got PTSD, that you can get a prescription and do a guided journey with two therapists. That will be number one, number two, a lot of people in the industry are really waiting with bated breath for some positive results for the FDA trials, namely from Compass pathways, but others who are looking to get a patent and legalization on some form of psilocybin. So I think that happens, that’ll be huge for the industry. And then third, I think, more ketamine specific, I think we’re going to start to see some regulation on ketamine, you know, and increasing the safety standards of it. We philosophically believes that ketamine is the type of treatment that needs to be done, either via intravenous or via intramuscular injection with medical supervision in a clinic with the right equipment and right medications we are philosophically I guess, opposed to doing this at home. And we do expect at some point, legislation and or regulation will, will make it more difficult for people to use some of these home services.

This has been great if people want to find out more about the programs, the work that you’re doing, what’s the best way to get that information,

you can go to New shama.com That’s nu sh ama.com. And the site is is awesome in terms of education, frequently asked questions, even what does a psychedelic or ketamine journey feel like? So there’s tons of information and check us out on Instagram at New Shama? Wellness?

Perfect, I’ll make sure that all that information is in the show notes. Richard. Jay, thank you so much for taking the time today. It’s been a pleasure,

many thanks. Thank you, Bruce.

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