Vertical integration is a buzzword in all sorts of different industries, referring to an arrangement when a single company owns the entire supply chain for their product. It’s when a potato chip company owns the fields where their potatoes are grown, the trucking service that brings them to their facilities, the factories that cook and prepare the chips, and the distribution network that delivers them to consumers. It gives the company control over everything they need to produce their product to protect them from unexpected challenges or risks that might otherwise be out of their control.

In plant-based medicine, vertical integration can mean greater standardization, higher quality, and better access to the compounds that producers need to create products for the market. That’s the goal of Leiio, a company dedicated to bring precision to the microdosing experience.

To do that, the company is working to cultivate its own mushrooms, operating its own research lab, and also developing a line of packaged products to make access to microdoses easier than ever.

We recently spoke with Leiio’s co-founders, Cory Rosenberg and Joe Claussen, both experienced cannabis entrepreneurs, about how the company is approaching the market and what’s missing from today’s microdose experience.

Psychedelic Invest: Given your background in cannabis, let’s talk about how psychedelics are different. It seems like the stakes are a lot higher than they were in cannabis. This is a science, this is medicine, this is different.

Cory Rosenberg: That’s right. Look at the whole prohibition era and the war on drugs, that’s left some pretty damaging notions in people’s minds about drugs. Getting over that is not an easy feat. Fortunately, there’s a lot of money in this space and there’s a lot of people doing a lot of really great things to change those impressions. There have been a lot of legitimate organizations paving the way. 

I think it’s important to get over this common notion first so that people can instead focus on what these substances are actually capable of. Even in my house, I talk to my wife about it sometimes and she’ll ask, “are you sure about this? Are you sure you’re not a drug dealer?” 

PI: Here’s an easy one – how do you pronounce the company’s name and what does it mean?

CR: It’s pronounced like “Leo,” and it’s derived from the Greek phrase meaning “just enough” or “the right amount.” There’s also a similar Swedish word that has no specific translation that means something close to “absolute perfection” or something that’s indescribable.

We wanted to create that branding with Leiio because what we’re doing is uncharted. Right now, people are interested in microdosing but they don’t know the right dosage, so that’s a big part of what we’re doing. We’re positioning Leiio as being representative of the “perfect amount,” indicative of that fine balance between a non-hallucinogenic microdose quantity and a full, so-called, macrodose.

PI: And how is that dosing determined?

Joe Claussen: A microdose is typically about 1/10th of a psychedelic dose. So when most people try it out, they take somewhere between 0.1 to 0.5 grams. In comparison, a full therapeutic psychedelic dose is typically at a minimum of about 3 grams. For our product, we have settled on about 250 milligrams, which is a little bit on the higher side of most microdoses.

PI: What does this kind of precision bring to the experience that’s different from most microdosing?

JC: Typically, most people take a little piece of mushroom and just wing it, and that’s not very measured at all. It’s very inaccurate and depending on what part of the mushroom you take, there are also different variabilities in the compounds themselves. For example, the stem might have a much higher dose than the cap, so you don’t really know what you’re getting when you’re doing it that way.

Being precise is the opposite. We really want to learn the exact, minimum amount of a compound someone can take and have it actually be effective. It may be significantly less than what we’re taking now. But the truth is, we just don’t know yet.

PI: What’s next for Leiio in 2021?

CR: Right now, we have two main focuses. One major focus is our Labs project, where we’re going to be research-forward with the goal of building a full vertical supply chain from growth to extraction, and to formulation to make sure that we have a consistent and standardized product. Because, as Joe was saying, there’s nothing standardized within this space yet. No one really understands what the definition of a microdose is. We intend to build that scientific research data set to demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt what doses do and what’s safe.

And then there’s the Consumer Packaged Goods side. We’re working on ways to incorporate psilocybin formulations, as well as some non-psilocybin formulations, into products that are easy to access and easy to consume. In terms of the form factor, we’re still exploring. But what’s guiding that research is the way in which we see the brand living within your home, your pocket, your briefcase, or your purse, and the ways that we see people engaging with the product.

We don’t want to just toss out a microdose pill. First and foremost, we have to make sure that we can get a consistent dose every single time, and a lot of times when you mix certain ingredients into different form factors it’s hard to do that. But there is no margin of error here. That’s why we’re so committed to building a vertical supply chain with consistency and standardized dosages.

PI: Let’s talk about that a little more. Why is vertical integration so important here?

CR: From the cannabis space, transparency is such a big buzzword. But it’s even more important when you’re messing with the brain. These compounds are going to be offered alongside clinically proven, regulated drugs. This means you have to make sure that you’re doing it right. 

As this industry progresses I think there’s going to be a lot of focus on the production of the mushroom itself and everything that goes into every product. By us owning our assets across the board, we’re creating a moat for us as a brand. This gives us the ability to generate different revenue streams, whether it’s supplying research facilities with psilocybin or supplying other brands with standardized compounds that can be incorporated into their formulations.

Right now, a lot of companies are just manufacturing psilocybin as a chemical and isolating the compound that way. But we’re looking at a whole plant because there’s an entourage effect that is not fully understood yet. There are a few other alkaloids that have just been discovered in the past year and we’re learning more about the entourage effect, so it’s important to try and use the whole fungus.

There’s a lot to explore, which is another reason why we’d like to own everything in the process so that we can dig a little deeper on any one piece of that chain.

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