Nature can do many amazing things, but it tends to have a standardization problem. Natural products are typically as variable as life itself, some growing larger, some developing stronger traits, and some ending up less developed.
This has long been a problem in the production of psilocybin mushrooms, as fungi can be difficult to control and chemical levels are never guaranteed in finished products.
But standardization is a key part of medical research, and if psychedelics are ever to enter mainstream medicine, the drug dosing process needs to be dialed in and predictable. Mimosa is a new company that’s building on the psilocybin work done previously by OLP Therapeutics, with a focus on developing psychedelic mushroom products that are precise, predictable and repeatable for the purposes of medical research.
To understand more about what Mimosa is building, we recently spoke with CEO Jim Keim. Here’s what he had to say about the business, the market and what’s coming next for psychedelic research.
Psychedelic Invest: I know Mimosa is a new project for you, so let’s start with what that’s all about and what you’re working on with it.
Jim Keim: So, Mimosa has acquired the technology from my old company, OLP Therapeutics, and we are focused on bioreactor creation of psychedelics. Our first product is going to be a psilocybin product and instead of growing mushrooms in a traditional substrate we are just growing the root systems in bioreactors. We’re going to be approaching psychedelics from that perspective, that focus and that competence.
PI: How is your production approach different than growing mushrooms in the traditional way?
JK: A mushroom is essentially like an apple on an apple tree. Once the tree wants to reproduce, it pops out an apple. When a fungi wants to reproduce, it pops up a mushroom.
What we’re doing is just growing the mycelium without necessarily growing the mushroom, and that allows us to use a very different and much more controlled approach. So, when it comes to medical uses, it results in a much cleaner and, perhaps even more important, much more dialed in product. It gives you the same exact proportions and quantities of active ingredients each time.
Bioreactors reactors are controlled by computers and so they’re very easy to standardize. Their most common use is in science labs for cell cultures, making vaccines and that sort of thing, so they’re a very advanced tool in terms of maintenance of conditions.
PI: I always associate mushrooms in general with not knowing exactly how strong each one is going to be. What do this kind of precision give you?
JK: It’s a medical grade product, and that’s great. But also, when you start using bioreactors, production can get to be very cheap. There’s some initial setup and investment, but after that it’s remarkably cheap. Essentially what that means is that once we get up and going, we can produce for less than the cost of a mushroom hamburger. It’s not a very complicated product.
PI: Is anyone else doing this right now?
JK: For some reason, no one else is.
We are the first using psilocybin as a product to make a spawn for reproduction, and we’re doing it very cheaply.
We’re also a public benefit corporation and our explicit goal is to create what’s really an open source product that’s appropriate for research. There have been a couple of major challenges for natural product and research, and that’s why synthetics and genetically-modified products are really stealing the show. It comes down to the lack of standardization and the dramatic differences in the strength of the mushrooms. And that’s not always the case in the mycelium, but it’s kept researchers away.
There’s a reproducibility issue that’s needed for research, your results have to be able to be reproduced by another party to verify your outcomes. That can get a bit complicated if they don’t have access to the same genetics and the same protocols.
Even if you’re growing regular mushrooms in the same substrate, the health and diet of the animals providing the manure can provide important variables. But if you are just growing in a bioreactor you don’t use manure, you don’t use any of that, you use actually just the basic products, lab quality nitrogen, etc. That is easier to reproduce later.
PI: I know your background is in therapy. How do these products work in that setting?
JK: I am a psychotherapist, I coauthored the book “The Violence of Men,” I have received a Fulbright Specialist grants and I’ve taught trauma at over 10 international universities as a visiting lecturer. So, I have a solid background in trauma, and I’ve always been very impressed with the power of psychedelics to really impact change in trauma.
As things became legalized and decriminalized in Oakland I realized there’s going to be a challenge for new therapists. They were not going to be able to carefully dose their medicines the way people had been doing for a long time and with stable sources. Last year our supplier retired after decades of working with us, so that sort of stable relationship was not going to be available anymore. I needed a new solution.
From the perspective of stable supply for clinicians, many of whom are novices who have not tried it themselves or understand that aspect of dosage. They needed a dialed-in product with exact doses of active ingredients. That was our first company, OLP Therapeutics.
We struggled to standardize mushrooms and it turns out that the bioreactor approach is just a much better way to produce these products in specific dosages. Although it’s not our goal to disrupt the industry, this is so much cheaper and so much better for clinical uses that essentially it’s going to disrupt the industry.
People are going to still want mushrooms for regular recreational use and for ceremonial use, but for clinical use they’re dramatically inferior.
PI: Do you think this kind of availability will make psychedelics more common as treatments?
JK: Absolutely. Because, one, it’s a guaranteed product; it’s a clinical grade product. Two, it’s cleaner because it’s just the roots and not the mushroom body. There’s less of the structure of the fungi that’s dedicated to shape and physical preservation and so less of the negative saccharide products that can cause some people some issues. It’s just clinically easier to use whether you prefer capsules or teas or whatever.
PI: As a therapist, why are psychedelics so effective as a treatment for patients?
JK: One slice of the pie is an area that we call memory reconsolidation. Part of what brings people to therapy is they want to have different associations with memories. PTSD is a very strong example of that, the memory of an event that’s associated with a fight or flight reaction and a loss of control. The challenge is that when you bring this issue up in your head that reaction kicks in faster than the digestion process. With psychedelics, we have a way of looking at painful memories of trauma and processing them in ways that are more normal.
Normally when you think about things, you continue to bring them up and you work on them and eventually resolve them to a good enough degree that you can move on. But if the very act of bringing them up evokes such a strong, hormonal response it’s a catch 22. You can’t digest the issue when merely bringing it up shuts down the digestion process. Psilocybin and other psychedelics do a fantastic job of actually allowing us to look at these objects and to remember them, to process them, without being overwhelmed by the fight or flight reaction.
PI: On the business side, you’re looking at a worldwide market for this?
JK: As I mentioned, we are a public benefit corporation and we intend to do this so cheaply that it is actually available in the developing world. Whereas others are going to have drugs that are in the thousands of dollars per course of treatment, we’re going to have what we suspect will be a superior product that’ll be in the tens of dollars.
As part of that, we are going to be making available for free or at low cost, the genetics we’re using. We want people to use them in research, we want them to be human property and we want them to fulfill the research requirement of reproducibility.
Our goal is that any researcher can come back in five years and have access to the exact same genetics if someone wants to reproduce research and the very same bioreactor protocol.
For the first time, natural products really have the potential to enter solid research rather than just kind of nibbling on the periphery.
PI: What do your first products include?
JK: We have some initial products at different price points. Our first product is sort of a “psilocybin for the masses” product, but we’re working on some others that are more clinically specific which will be more boutique products that relate to specific problems and styles of therapies. Those manifest in terms of what you want from a mushroom, so we’re producing some smaller production lines that are really, really specialized and at a higher price point.
Since psilocybin interacts with the body and the mind in different ways depending on the ratio of chemicals, one of the big unknowns is what part gut bacteria plays in this whole process. It’s exciting, but there are still a lot of unknowns. Some mushrooms have very different outcomes for different people than others do. We can’t say we know why that is, but these are natural products. We accept their natural gifts, and we go with those as therapeutics.
Learn more about Mimosa’s vision here.