If psychedelics are going to become widely accessible medicines, vast amounts of capital are required. Money is needed to bring these drugs through the clinical trial process and other initiatives in the space that are looking at various aspects of psychedelic medicine.
With little interest from governments so far to fund research - although this is slowly changing - investors and venture capital firms are providing researchers and companies with the money they need to advance psychedelic medicine.
One such firm is Leafy Tunnel - an early-stage venture capital firm investing in alternative medicine to address mental health and pain disorders.
Nikolay Tretiyakov and Bek Muslimov founded Leafy Tunnel with a mission to "back teams that aim to maximise the potential of alternative medicine."
I had the chance to speak with Bek to learn about Leafy Tunnel's investment strategy and what brought him to invest in psychedelics.
Why do you do this work?
Having grown up in post-Soviet Kazakhstan, Bek is all too familiar with the mental health issues people can have. "There was a lot of poverty and unemployment, so people resorted to various ways to cope with anxiety and depression, with alcohol being one of them."
Both Bek and Nikolay began working for an investment firm in London, where their success inspired them to start their fund.
"We've been investing in cannabis since 2012, and in 2018 we saw that cannabis was beginning to pave the way for psychedelics and for the medical community to revise the attitude toward these stigmatised compounds," says Bek - so they made their first investment in atai Life Sciences.
Are there any big differences between cannabis and psychedelics?
"With cannabis, the recreational component weighs on medical research by creating barriers," says Bek.
While it could be argued that the recreational component is what ground psychedelic research to halt some 50 years ago now - the tide is turning.
Now, Bek believes that one big difference is that "psychedelics have a much more pharmaceutical angle. If you look at well-capitalised companies in the psychedelic space, they're primarily pharmaceutical companies."
Where do you see the most growth happening over the next few years?
New companies will inevitably emerge in the coming years - each operating in various niches within this emerging industry.
Aside from new biotech companies, Bek believes "that the area of diagnostic tools in the mental health sector is particularly ill-equipped" and could be an interesting one to watch, particularly the companies developing biomarkers.
This isn't the only prediction Bek has for the future. To find out more about Leafy Tunnel and what they look out for when investing, check out the full interview with Bek below 👇