Could psychedelics treat obesity? In a recent interview, The Dales Report learned more about Neonmind President and CEO Robert Tessarolo, who discussed the company’s early research on psilocybin and eating disorders.
Tessarolo has worked for small and large companies in the pharmaceutical industry in both Canada and the U.S., and has spent half of his career in leadership positions.
“One of the things I can attest to is that what drives patient care and what drives healthcare practitioner decisions, is innovation,” he says. “When I was looking for something to do next, the promise of psychedelics and what they could potentially deliver from a healing perspective was terribly intriguing to me. I think those innovations are going to be borne out through clinical research.”
Treating Obesity With Psychedelics
Tessarolo said at Neonmind, his team believes that, in the same way psychedelics have been shown to benefit those who suffer from mental health conditions, their use could also benefit people with obesity.
“This is a variety of people within our company, taking what we’ve seen work… and recognizing that if you apply it to the treatment paradigm for obesity, these same benefits can potentially apply,” he said, noting that there are 650 million people with obesity worldwide who might benefit from such an application of psychedelics.
While a number of companies are pursuing research and drug development in the mental health field, Neonmind is one of just two or three that are taking interest in eating disorders.
“With respect to investors, my belief is that there’s an early-mover advantage at our company. We are one of the companies that are at the forefront of a very important indication,” he said.
Why It Could Work
Tessarolo also discussed the current treatment paradigm around obesity:
“When you look at the treatment paradigm for obese patients, it’s that obesity is so much more than just extra weight. There are a lot of comorbid conditions that run along with it, like diabetes, hypertension, and so on,” he said.
He argued that current treatment offerings, which may include lifestyle modifications like diet and exercise, medication, and/or surgery, don’t necessarily have enduring effects unless a patient is able to change their mindset.
“With these psychedelic substances, you get this reset of the default mode network, you get patients and people who have these experiences and report having an altered sense of self, a renewed sense of well-being,” he says. “Our view is that in the obesity space, a patient that undergoes psychotherapy that’s enhanced with psilocybin will ultimately be in a better position to make the changes in their lifestyle… for sustained weight loss, or weight management over time.”
Tessarolo pointed out that there are currently only four drugs approved for chronic weight control in the U.S., something he called “a real paucity in terms of innovation.” Prevalence of obesity is up, he said, and successes in treatment are “low at best.”
Psychedelics obesity research at Neonmind uses rodent model
Neonmind completed its first preclinical trial in 2020 using a rodent model, looking at both high and low-dose psiloycbin. Both approaches, Tessarolo said, were successful. Another preclinical trial is about to take place.
He optimistically predicts that Neonmind will be able to apply for Investigative New Drug status with the FDA sometime in 2021, with the first patients enrolled before the end of the year. He described what was necessary for Neonmind to show in order to get in front of the FDA.
“We’re going to have to be able to demonstrate that there’s a need, and this is a patient population that can tend to benefit from it, and that there’s a good reason to believe that we could actually do this safely [and effectively],” he said.
Catch the rest of the interview in the video.