Patenting Psilocybin Inventions
Psilocybin Technology – Magic Molecules from Magic Mushrooms
Recently psilocybin (the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms”) has received considerable attention. Professor David Nutt and his team at the Imperial College of London recently published an article in Scientific Reports about “Psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression: fMRI-measured brain mechanisms.” The study demonstrated that administering the psilocybin resulted in “pushing [the brains of depressed people] out of their depressive states.” This effect is analogous to electroshock therapy — where a person’s brain is effectively rebooted.
Although psilocybin is currently a schedule I drug, the laws may be changing. Recently, the Huffington Post and many others reported that California may legalize (or decriminalize) psilocybin. In addition to Dr. Nutt’s work in treating depression, the Financial Times reported that Compass Pathways will soon test it for therapeutic value as an antidepressant. Scientists at John’s Hopkins University are also studying the use of psilocybin for treating anxiety and depression.
Is New Psilocybin Technology Patentable?
About a year ago, we posted an article about Patenting Mushroom Inventions. Our thesis was simple. Many types of mushroom (or fungi) inventions could give rise to patentable subject matter. Such patentable subject matter can be divided into the following categories: Compositions of matter; Methods or Processes; Plants or Living organisms; and Machines or Devices. Of these categories, we explained that composition of matter inventions were almost certainly the most valuable kind of mushroom inventions.
The above articles signify the beginning of a new field — psilocybin technology. Developing a new field often involves rapid innovation and pioneering inventions. In other words, new industries often develop first-in-kind technologies as opposed to optimizing or refining existing technology. We recently saw this sort of innovation in the cannabis space. Below, I have compared the development of the cannabis industry with the impending emergence of the psilocybin industry.
Comparing the Patentability of Psilocybin Inventions with Cannabis Inventions.
The present psilocybin situation shares many similarities with the recent explosion of the cannabis industry. Here’s why:
- Not long ago, cannabis (a naturally occurring plant) was demonized as an extremely dangerous drug with no medicinal or therapeutic value. It was criminalized in about 1970 under the controlled substances act as classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance.
- Then, people realized that this characterization of cannabis may have been somewhat mistaken.
- Then, the regulations on cannabis became less strict. First, medical cannabis. Then, recreational cannabis.
- Now, we have an enormous recreational and medicinal cannabis industry.
- This young industry is rapidly developing better, safer, and more effective cannabis technologies. For example, the cannabis technology leader ebbu, LLC has created a whole new category of formulated cannabis products with effects unexpectedly different from the plant itself. New, man-made cannabis inventions like those are patentable.
Opportunities for Breakthrough Technologies
The Psilocybin and cannabis fields both share three critical features. First, both are products of nature. Second, those natural products were criminalized by 1970’s laws, based on 1970’s reasoning. Third, that criminal status chilled innovation. As a result of these three facts, many naturally occurring substances (in both “magic mushrooms” and cannabis) were understudied and underdeveloped. Accordingly, the these industries remained stuck in about 1970. Until recently, the state of the art for cannabis was smoking plant matter. The state of the art for psilocybin is almost exclusively eating mushrooms.
The situation for psilocybin technology is slightly different from cannabis. We have the benefit of history. We have been watching the cannabis industry develop. Accordingly, we have a pretty good analogy for how things will play out.
Most likely, the state of the art will evolve beyond eating mushrooms and exclusively focusing on only one molecule. Soon, scientists will recognize that those magic mushrooms have dozens of pharmacologically active magic molecules that can be purposely formulated into safer, more effective, and more reliable products. These advances will arise from human innovation, making them patentable.