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Psychedelics and other traditionally taboo substances are undergoing a bit of a “renaissance” in central nervous system (CNS) therapeutics. These types of substances have a long and storied history around the world. Now, research into their potential therapeutic benefits is increasing as investors, biopharma companies, and other stakeholders focus more attention on them. In this panel discussion, leading representatives from the investment community, the biopharma industry, and the medical field discussed what’s happening with the therapeutic use of psychedelics.

The key topics addressed included:

    Perspectives on the current state of psychedelics research

    Unmet needs in the marketplace
    The biology of psychedelics and why they can be effective in treating some CNS disorders; both in mental health and broader CNS
    The upcoming “next generation” of therapies using psychedelic compounds
    Regulatory considerations
    De-stigmatization of psychedelic substances for therapeutic use
    Potential go to market models for evolving clinical delivery required with psychedelics

The panelists shared their thoughts on the current situation regarding psychedelics. They also offered perspectives on how the field is likely to evolve in the coming 3-5 years.


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Dr. Gideon Shapiro

Vice President of Discovery

Bright Minds Biosciences

Dr. Gideon Shapiro, trained as an organic chemist at the University of North Carolina, the University of California, Berkeley and the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), is a seasoned drug hunter. He has a 30+ year professional career in drug discovery, development and drug program management. Early in his career, Dr. Shapiro served as the head of the Alzheimer chemistry group at Sandoz, the company first responsible for discovering LSD and marketing psilocybin. He has also held senior roles at various other companies, including Novartis, developing novel CNS drugs. Later, he transitioned his career to founding and leading biopharmaceutical ventures including EraGen Biosciences (later acquired by Luminex) and Somatocor Pharmaceuticals. Over the last 15-years, Dr. Shapiro has had a central role in drug discovery, development and corporate partnering efforts at Fidelity venture-backed companies, including EnVivo Pharmaceuticals, and played a leadership role in the invention and advancement of numerous CNS drugs that entered late stage clinical trials. Dr. Shapiro spent the last several years as the Chief Science Officer at Rugen Therapeutics, a leading drug discovery company with a therapeutic goal to correct synaptic dysfunction using a form of ketamine.

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Clara Burtenshaw


Neo Kuma Ventures

Clara is a partner at Neo Kuma Ventures, Europe’s first investment fund dedicated solely to psychedelic healthcare. Prior to founding Neo Kuma, she served as General Counsel and senior management at a PE-backed major retail group, growing annual revenue to £365m through M&A, international rollouts and restructuring. Clara began her career at Slaughter and May, a magic circle law firm, and has significant transactional, VC, IP, and operational experience.

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Jo Neill

Professor of Psychopharmacology

University of Manchester

Jo Neill is Professor of Psychopharmacology at the University of Manchester (Division of Pharmacy & Optometry). She is Chair of the Medical Psychedelics Working Group for Drug Science, a scientific advisor for Heroic Hearts UK, the Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group, Beckley Psytech & Albert Labs. She is co-founder of b-neuro, a University based Contract Research Organisation developing new treatments for mental illness through animal models. Jo is past President of the British Association for Psychopharmacology (President 2016-2018). She served on the Research Excellence Framework panel for Unit of Assessment 3 (Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy) in 2014. Jo is working with Policy at Manchester to educate the public about the urgent need for drug law reform and suspension of Schedule 1 restrictions to enable research into the medicinal properties of currently illegal drugs.

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Celia Morgan

Head of Psychology, Professor of Psychopharmacology

University of Exeter

Prof. Celia Morgan is head of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy for alcohol use disorder practice at Awakn Life Sciences, a biotechnology company with clinical operations researching, developing, and delivering psychedelic medicine to treat Addiction. Prof. Morgan completed her undergraduate degree and Ph.D at University College London (UCL) and completed a scholarship programme at Yale University. After working at University of Melbourne, Australia, as a visiting research fellow, she returned to UCL for Lectureship before joining University of Exeter as a Senior Lecturer in 2013; and was given a Chair in Psychopharmacology in 2015. Prof. Morgan holds an Honorary Readership at University College London, is the academic lead for both Exeter Translational Addiction Partnership and is the head of psychology at the School of Psychology, Exeter.

Moderated by

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Varun Renjen, M.D.

Associate Principal

Blue Matter Consulting

Dr. Varun Renjen is an Associate Principal with Blue Matter Consulting, where he leads the firm’s CNS Center of Excellence. Blue Matter is a strategic consultancy focused on the life science industry. For more than a decade, Dr. Renjen has provided strategic guidance to a wide range of pharmaceutical and biotech companies with heavy focus on neurological and psychiatric diseases.. Prior to joining Blue Matter, he held strategic consulting roles at Navigant and IQIVIA.

Varun is a MD with a neuroscience research background.

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