Dr. Evan Wood has published 500+ scientific articles and made major contributions to the establishment of innovative policy and therapeutic programs. Early in his career, Dr. Wood’s research contributed to the revision of international guidelines for the treatment of HIV infection among persons who use drugs, subsequently led efforts that have contributed to the legalization of adult cannabis use in Canada, the establishment of supervised injecting as a standard of care nationally, as well as clinical therapeutic guidelines for a range of substance use disorders.
More recently, Dr. Evan Wood has taken on the role of Chief Medical Officer at Numinus where he is working to develop novel drug formulations and new therapeutic methods utilizing psychedelic medicines.
What made you personally excited about getting involved in psychedelic medicines and therapies?
I’m a specialist physician and have long come to the conclusion that the existing treatments for mental disorders have major limitations. Additionally, I’m a clinical epidemiologist so I’m always looking at new research and psychedelic research really stood out for demonstrating major benefits of treatments that were not required every day. My lab at UBC was a participating site in the MAPS phase 3 trial of MDMA for PTSD so I was able to see some of the apparent benefits first hand. I’ve also had patients who availed themselves of under ground psychedelics to major benefit and published on that as well.
How do you see psychedelics shaping and impacting the future of mental healthcare, addiction and trauma?
These medicines, when used safely, appear to be far more effective for many patients who have not benefited from existing treatments like antidepressants. What is revolutionary is that the treatment protocols seek to get to the psychological underpinnings of mental disorders with a view to helping individuals move past mental wellness challenges rather than simply numbing people by treating symptoms with a daily regimen of pills. If they continue to show such promise, I expect psychedelic assisted psychotherapy will ultimately be a routine part of mental health care.
What areas is Numinus focused on as it relates to psychedelics from a research perspective and from a therapy perspective?
Numinus was the first Canadian company to grow and extract psilocybe cubensis mushrooms but we are not a psilocybin company. Our lab has a federal license to research all of the major psychedelic compounds and we’re in the process of developing treatment protocols for all major mental disorders including mood disorder, eating disorder, chronic pain and substance use disorder.
What role does Numinus Bioscience play in your research around psychedelics and how will that impact how Numinus does psychedelic assisted therapies with patients in the future?
At this stage, the lab is doing basic research but its licensing also allows for the importation and handling of a range of psychedelic substances. So, for instance, we can import MDMA from MAPS for our compassionate access trial.
Who is someone doing important work in the world of psychedelics who you think more people should be aware of?
Paul Stamets is out in front of everyone when it comes to understanding psilocybin containing mushrooms. We ultimately hope to be close collaborators with Paul and his team.
Can you tell us a bit about your partnership with MAPS?
We are undertaking a compassionate access clinical trial with MAPS. This involves the implementation of their PTSD protocol in a real world context in Canada. This means implementing the protocol in our clinic outside the context of a placebo controlled randomized trial and rather doing the evaluation from an implementation science perspective where we see how the protocol works outside of having a control arm.
What exactly is a Compassionate Access Trial and how is Numinus approaching it?
Compassionate access trials are basically studies that are done outside of a placebo controlled trial that allow for individuals to access an intervention that is not yet approved for use. Compassionate Access trials allow for persons in need to benefit from an intervention while collecting outcome data for health regulators and also allowing companies like ours to gain experience with the intervention.
How is Numinus driving policy change in Canada?
Like other groups in the space, we work closely with Health Canada and regional regulatory bodies to define our research and clinical objectives that can be accomplished as several psychedelic substances work their way through the drug development pipeline. To date, colleges of physicians and Surgeons and Health Canada have been totally supportive of helping us navigate the regulatory space.
What is the biggest misconception that people have about psychedelics as a potential therapeutic treatment?
There are a few misconceptions. Some people think that the treatment would involve taking a psychedelic every day rather than a time limited psychotherapy approach that may only take several weeks or months. Others, think psychedelic drugs are a risk for addiction, when both animal and human studies suggest these substances carry a low risk of addiction. On the other side, some feel that all existing approaches to mental health are ineffective and that psychedelics are the only solution. At Numinus, we are actually trying to integrate proven mental health models with psychedelics and there may be some clients at Numinus who can be dramatically helped without ever using a psychedelic.
What trends do you see emerging in the world of psychedelics and what impact do you see that having in the future?
The biggest trend is probably the huge amount of interest the sector is generating. This will likely result in an exponential advancement of the science and clinical offerings but potentially also the entry of some poorly informed and potentially lower integrity actors that may result in market forces that ultimately enable the high integrity groups to separate themselves.
What scientific validation has given you the most optimism about the potential of psychedelic to change mental healthcare and be a breakthrough treatment?
The science continues to be persistently positive and consistent. As of today another review paper was published confirming understandings that have been generated over the last decade with respect to the role of the depth of the psychedelic experience and its impact on therapeutic outcomes. Certainly, external validation like the FDA providing Breakthrough Therapy status to MDMA and psilocybin are validating but there is a long history of research going back decades that appears to consistently show the potential of psychedelic assisted psychotherapy.