Q&A with Beckley Psytech Director & Chair of Scientific Advisory Board, Lady Amanda Feilding. Amanda Feilding has been called the ‘hidden hand’ behind the renaissance of psychedelic science. Her contribution to global drug policy reform and to opening the doors to scientific research has been pivotal and widely acknowledged.
Q: How did you become interested in psychedelics?
A: I was first introduced to LSD in the mid-1960s, at the height of the first wave of scientific research into psychedelics. I was impressed by its capacity to initiate heightened states of consciousness and enhance creativity, and quickly recognised its transformative and therapeutic power. Inspired by my experiences, I began studying the mechanisms underlying the effects of psychedelic substances and dedicated myself to exploring ways of harnessing their potential to enhance wellbeing.
Q: How did you research the potential of psychedelics?
A: In 1998, I set up the Beckley Foundation, a non-profit NGO focused on scientific research into psychedelic medicines, and the development of evidence-based drug policy reform. Through the Foundation I have initiated ground-breaking research and co-authored over 50 scientific articles published in peer reviewed journals.
I have been lucky to work with the best of the best, collaborating with leading scientists and institutions around the world in order to initiate and collaborate on the design and co-direct a wide range of scientific research projects investigating the effects of psychoactive substances (cannabis, psilocybin, MDMA, LSD, ayahuasca, DMT and 5MeO-DMT) on brain function, subjective experience, and clinical symptoms.
Q: What was the reaction to your work?
A: Our research has led to a groundswell of interest in, and recognition of, the possible benefits that careful use of these extraordinary compounds can yield. It started demonstrating the great promise psychedelics hold in helping individuals with illnesses such as treatment-resistant depression and addiction and other disorders. Our findings have provided the basis for a number of successful companies now operating in the psychedelic medicine space and our small initial study, published in 2016, which was part of the Beckley/Imperial Research Programme using psilocybin to treat treatment-resistant depression, is the bedrock for much of the innovation that has followed.
By bringing together a network of scientists, politicians and drug policy analysts, the Beckley Foundation was among the first to begin creating a scientific evidence-base to help reform global drug policies, in order to better protect health, reduce harms and economic costs, and uphold human rights.
From 1998, the Beckley Foundation initiated and hosted a series of 11 seminal Seminars in the House of Lords, discussing key policy issues and drawing attention to the then ignored topics of cannabis and psychedelics. These seminars, and the papers arising from them, were highly influential in changing attitudes among thinkers and policy-makers worldwide, including governments and the UN.
Q: Why did you decide to set up Beckley Psytech?
A: The inspiration behind setting up Beckley Psytech was to fulfil my mission to bring these extraordinary medicines to people in need. It is incredibly important for me to continue the fight against the social stigma and regulatory hurdles, and to shine the light of science onto the medical potential of psychedelic compounds. This work has been hard and slow, but our achievements have managed to generate enough compelling, high-quality research to show the world that these medicines cannot be ignored any longer.
We now feel we have finally entered a new chapter where patients will soon have legal access to these treatments; the Beckley Foundation will continue to conduct the vital exploratory research, and public policy work, that has opened the doors to large-scale clinical trials aimed at developing psychedelic compounds into licensed pharmaceutical medicines.
Yet the price of conducting large scale regulatory-standard clinical research is very significant, and we decided that we can best achieve this mission by creating Beckley Psytech, a commercial entity that marries the purpose of improving health and happiness for patients with potential profit for the investors.
Q: How will the Beckley Foundation and Beckley Psytech work together?
A: They are independent, and arms-length organizations, but there is a strategic partnership with the Beckley Foundation that is very important to Beckley Psytech as a company. Beckley Psytech is growing from the fertile ground provided by more than 20 years of experience with psychedelic research at the Foundation, and Beckley Psytech has committed a portion of future revenues to support the non-profit work of the Foundation.
It’s not just my scientific understanding about these compounds that is important, it is also my experience of navigating the regulations to conduct research on controlled drugs, and the global network of academic collaborators that I have built up over the decades. For these reasons the team at the Beckley Foundation are very driven and enthusiastic to be on this journey with Beckley Psytech to bring psychedelic medicines to those in need.