There’s a significant challenge that many therapists and patients face when going through psychedelic therapy: time. The process simply requires a lot of time in the clinic and under the therapist’s care to deliver the best results.
But what happens when the patient goes home? How does their mood shift in the days, weeks, and months following treatment, and what steps should their therapist take as a result? Osmind is a startup based in Mountain View, CA, that is developing a software platform to enable this sort of long-term, back and forth communication between patients and providers, focusing on psychedelic treatments.
We recently spoke with founders, Lucia Huang and Jimmy Qian, to learn more about the company and what software tracking can mean for psychedelic medicine.
Psychedelic Invest: Let’s start at the top: What’s the goal for what you’re doing with Osmind?
Lucia Huang: We’re focused on treatment-resistant mental health, and that’s the subset of patients that have tried multiple therapies and failed on two or more of them. The crazy thing is in the U.S. that’s over 20 million people; over a third of people with mental health conditions have not been able to find the right treatment for them.
It’s because we have a lack of understanding about what works well for the individual. We have really no clue about basic biology even, or the different factors that can affect one’s mental health in different ways.
What we’re doing is really trying to help both researchers and clinicians solve that problem.
PI: What does that look like in practice?
LH: On the clinician side, we have an electronic health record that serves doctors working with treatment-resistant modalities, primarily ketamine and FDA-approved psychedelic medicine. Obviously, you know all the benefits of these new treatments, but we really see these as being revolutionary for mental health, especially for patients that have tried everything under the sun and are finally able to do something that is potentially curative.
Our software helps clinicians streamline their workflows, document notes and overall make better care decisions for their patients. The software is also connected with an app that patients can use to track their treatment throughout their whole journey, everything from reporting side effects on their ketamine session at home or reporting how they’re feeling every day and how their treatments have impacted their mood ratings or their moods.
That information helps clinicians make better decisions too because a lot of these patients are pretty severely affected. Clinicians constantly need to be monitoring them. For example, if you think about ketamine treatments, patients go to the clinic a couple of times a month or a couple of times a year. But providers need to know how they are doing in-between visits. Our software helps providers get patients in when they’re actually not feeling well and overall helps the clinicians deliver better care.
On top of that, because we’re aggregating insights on how patients are doing with respect to various treatments, we can also use this information for research purposes. So, we’ve gotten a lot of interest in working with life sciences organizations, for example, on developing new therapeutics, especially in psychedelics. A lot of these new drugs are analogs or derivatives of previous drugs. Right now, there’s a lot of interest in ketamine-based analogs and studying how current psychedelic medicines on the market might impact the development of future drugs.
PI: You touched on this, but the numbers I’ve seen for treatment resistant depression are pretty staggering. What is the disconnect? Why are we facing this massive problem?
Jimmy Qian: In general, we don’t understand mental health the same way we understand a lot of other diseases. Partially, I think that’s because there’s a diagnostics issue. Depression itself is not just one entity. There are many types of depression and we don’t currently have a good way to quantify or tie it to the physiology of each person.
A result of that is simply trial and error for a lot of patients and a lot of people end up with what we call treatment-resistant depression because the first few treatments they’ve tried were not fit for them. That doesn’t mean that they cannot be treated; it just means that the typical Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and psychotherapy given initially isn’t always effective.
However, I think there are certain patients that have very challenging issues, whether it be psychological or biological, that current treatments are not well suited for.
But psychedelic medicines from both a cognitive perspective as well as from a physiological perspective, have been very beneficial for a lot of these people. That’s really exciting given the unfortunate experiences patients have gone through. I think that it’s a paradigm shift in how we view what is traditionally called treatment-resistant depression.
PI: How are psychedelic treatments different from traditional SSRIs?
JQ: The idea with SSRIs that you have one neurotransmitter in your brain that you don’t have enough of, and we give you this magic pill that’s supposed to make you feel better. It doesn’t really work like that. Biology is way more complicated. With psychedelic medicine, it’s not just what the drug itself does on a neuro level but the actual experience that someone goes through when they’re on the medication and working with their therapist. Those cognitive changes are part of an approach that has never been thought of in psychiatry or in therapy.
LH: And from the clinician’s perspective, this whole field still gets a lot of skepticism. So one thing that’s really important is being able to prove the effectiveness of these treatments. Even in established fields like psychiatry, not everyone is convinced that psychedelic medicines and experiences will actually help.
That’s where our software comes in. It is really easy to show referring providers the progress that a patient has made. It will literally track and make a graph of their progress. For example, if a patient had a new treatment last month, you can monitor their reported depression scales since then. Again, this makes it easy to see whether or not the patient is improving.
That’s one thing that our clinicians have liked a lot because there are still people who are curious about this. What is this ketamine thing? What is psychedelic medicine? And being able to show quantitative evidence is only going to help drive the field forward.
PI: So between the two of you, what backgrounds do you bring into Osmind?
LH: I have been on the business and operation side of healthcare for a number of years, but I’ve always been interested in how we can fix our broken healthcare system and, in particular, mental health. I spent a number of years on the investing side with a focus on healthcare technology companies. After that, I was the first business and operations person at an early stage neuroscience biotech startup and then went to get my MBA at Stanford, which is where I met Jimmy. We both realized our shared backgrounds and how excited we were about innovative treatments, like psychedelic medicines, that would completely transform mental health and ultimately decided that we wanted to build something around it.
What we’re really excited about is bringing this healthcare expertise and knowledge to psychedelics. We’re all aware there are lots of political, cultural, and historical challenges with bringing psychedelic medicine into the U.S. healthcare system. We see drug companies go through FDA approvals, we have to deal with insurance, and I think us having that experience in healthcare will allow us to help navigate these challenges.
JQ: My background is also kind of focused in healthcare. I was in medical school at Stanford before I decided to step away and to work full-time at Osmind. Before that, I had worked on several different non-profits in the healthcare and the life sciences space.
PI: Will the COVID situation, along with the growth distance telemedicine, push a lot of change?
JQ: I think telemedicine is extra important in behavioral health because we have a severe lack of providers. These remote tools are really helpful because they can scale how many patients that each individual provider can help.
PI: Let’s talk about the market. How big do you think Osmind’s software can be?
LH: In terms of how much, for example, insurance companies and the government spend on patients with treatment-resistant health conditions, it’s almost a trillion dollars. It’s absolutely insane. A treatment-resistant mental health patient costs almost double than a “conventional” patient, so to speak, with mental health conditions.
It’s a really, really huge market, no matter how you’re slicing it.
Whether it’s how much money we can save insurance companies by providing a treatment algorithm that outlines what to try next after a patient fails drug X, Y and Z… to helping pharmaceutical companies develop better psychedelic-inspired therapies…
The market will be in the billions if not trillions of dollars.