Australia’s first clinical trial institute for psychedelic therapies opens its doors

Melbourne, Australia

Australian researchers have launched a first-of-its-kind global research institute that will develop psychedelic medicines to treat mental health disorders and other medical conditions. The network is headquartered in Melbourne, Australia’s biomedical capital, and is supported with a planned investment of at least $40 million dollars over the next five years.

The newly launched Psychae Institute is the world’s first collaborative global network for psychedelics research and will collaborate with leading researchers from organisations including University of Toronto, King’s College London, University of Zurich, and Federal University of Rio Grande in Brazil.

Psychae’s Australian-based collaborating researchers are from institutions including: Swinburne University, University of Melbourne, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, and NICM Health Research Institute (Westmead); as well as Agriculture Victoria Research.

The not-for-profit Institute will advance pre-clinical and clinical studies of psychedelics, including products inspired by ayahuasca (a South American psychoactive plant medicine combination). In addition, the institute will explore a range of emerging treatments for  mental health disorders including those that leverage Psilocybin (from ‘magic mushrooms’), MDMA and other psychoactive substances.

While today’s pharmaceutical and psychological treatments for such disorders have shown some success, the need for more advanced therapies with fewer side effects remains unmet. The annual cost burden of mental illness in Australia today is estimated at $60 billion, and recent studies have shown early signs that the mental health of Australians will decline further due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Psychae Institute’s research aims to develop novel pharmaceutical grade psychedelic medicines and accompanying psychotherapeutic treatment models as registered medical treatments that can become an additional treatment option within mainstream health services. It will also investigate the innovative use of cutting-edge technology to enhance therapeutic effects.

Psychae Institute co-directors Jerome Sarris and Daniel Perkins with acacia, a native Australian plant containing DMT, a key ingredient used in ayahuasca preparations.

Psychae Institute Co-Director Associate Professor Daniel Perkins said, “It’s an exciting time for research into psychedelics, with a growing body of rigorous scientific evidence indicating that these substances may provide a potent new class of treatments for mental health disorders and possibly other medical conditions.

“Today, many people with mental health conditions are becoming aware of this research and in desperation are accessing black market psilocybin, or flying to countries like Peru to use ayahuasca in non-clinical settings.

“The significant opportunity for us at Psychae Institute is to meaningfully increase the scientific and clinical evidence supporting the safe use of these compounds as therapies to eventually achieve drug registration with the Therapeutic Goods Administration and equivalent regulators overseas.”

Psychae Institute will lead the research program and oversee clinical studies with its partners at multiple sites in Australia, the UK, Canada, Europe, and Brazil; allocating funding to support clinical studies. Psychedelic medicine development is scheduled to commence this year with local pharmaceutical manufacturers, and clinical studies are expected to begin in early 2022.

The research program will be supported by a planned investment of at least A$40 million over the next five years from a North American biotechnology company. Future sources of funding are expected to include government, grants, philanthropic donations, and private investment.

Psychae Institute Co-Director Professor Jerome Sarris said, “Melbourne is the prime location for the Psychae Institute’s headquarters, offering us a strong academic and biomedical presence, as well as high quality manufacturing and agriculture capabilities to support research.

“There is such a high prevalence of mental health disorders in Australia today, with around one in every five Australians – about four million people – still suffering with a mental illness. The research we undertake will give new hope and more options to millions of Australians. Our work has the potential to change lives.”


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