Businesses with diverse leadership teams generally do better in the marketplace. In this interview we will showcase the work of, Dr. Olga Chernoloz, Chief Scientific Officer at WAKE and Terri Smith, Chief Mycologist at WAKE.
Would you share the work you are both doing with WAKE?
Terri: My work with Wake focuses on the cultivation of mushrooms and the development of the network of artisan contract farmers who are responsible for the production of the variety of different gourmet, medicinal and therapeutic mushrooms. I lead a team of innovators and pioneers who are using non-traditional approaches to establishing new industries in agriculture, tourism, health and wellness in a post-covid Jamaica. WAKE endeavour to improve communities socially, environmentally and financially. This is exciting work for me because of my commitment to social impact work. Working with WAKE I have the resources to use enterprise to create real long lasting social and environmental change while delivering great value for investors.
Olga: Fungi medicine has been shown by the scientific community to offer exceptional benefits to the mind & body. Our program integrates fungi medicine with wellness practices and therapy to create dramatic shifts in lifestyle & perspective. Wake is both broad and deep and many wonderful humans on our team are doing their best to make sure that as a company we perform at the very top level. Every step that we make as a company is grounded in science. I oversee Wake’s scientific endeavours. Clinical trials with psychedelics is only a part of our research initiatives but definitely is my favorite.
How is WAKE furthering the field of fungi medicine?
Terri: I am most excited by the demonstrated commitment to testing and technology that WAKE has brought to the game. Every aspect of cultivation and production is scaffolded by leading edge technology and backed up with testing to ensure that we are producing the very best products under the most ideal circumstances.
Testing and the use of technology to control the production of the mushrooms, results in fungi medicine that is backed by applied science. This approach helps to demystify mushrooms and widens its appeal to the general public.
How has the psychedelic industry changed in the past 5 years? What do you predict will happen in the next 5-10 years?
Olga: Psychedelic research has gone close to extinction between 1970s and the end of 20th century. The revived interest driven by Dr. Rolland Griffith over at John Hopkins University, Rick Doblin of MAPS and Dr. David Nichols of the Heffter Research Institute has led to a true renaissance of psychedelic research. Numerous clinical trials assessing the efficacy of psychedelic-assisted therapy for a variety of mental-health and neurological conditions have been so promising that FDA has given MDMA and psilocybin Break Through Therapy designations effectively streamlining the approval process. Today a total of 25 clinical trials, listed on the clinicaltrials.gov database, at various phases and stages of completion, cite psilocybin as an intervention; 22 trials are registered for MDMA, several more are under oversight of the EU regulatory body. Wake is aiming to take a strong position in psychedelic science world having several clinical trials investigating psilocybin as an intervention.
Driven by the quality of data coming from numerous psychedelic clinical trials I am willing to bet that psychedelic medicine will become a legal and recognized form of therapy in the next 5-10 years.
What common misconceptions do people have around psychedelics? How can we combat these misconceptions and communicate more effectively?
Terri: The most common misconceptions about psychedelics that I hear in Jamaica are that it causes people to go insane resulting in permanent mental illness like schizophrenia, that it causes you to think you can fly so you will jump off tall buildings, and that it is as addictive as heroin.
We can combat these misconceptions with science and education. We must create safe spaces where individuals can share their positive experiences, and where scientists and medical professionals can communicate the benefits and debunk the myths.
What is the most interesting trend you’re seeing around the connection of women + psychedelics?
Olga: Many of the mental health conditions psychedelics have been shown to be effective in treating are more prevalent in females. In addition, the scientific community has come to terms with the bias that was long dominating clinical research - most of the trials were historically recruiting predominantly caucasian males. Today, recognizing the difference the genetic makeup can make both in predisposition to different conditions and response to treatments, there is an effort in representative recruitment, when possible. Aside from the clinical research, psychedelics administered in a responsible way can make people step out of the usual mold and connect with themselves and everything surrounding them in a more spiritual and mindful way. This new gentler lens we can see the life through following psychedelic journeys is often more natural and fitting for women.
What is your best advice for women in psychedelics? - Share who’s inspiring you in the industry.
Terri: I find it hard to give any advice to the women working in the psychedelics space. I am humbled and stand in awe of the power and wisdom women are bringing to the work.
I am inspired by the work of Amanda Fielding of the Beckley Foundation. At age 77 Amanda is still breaking new grounds and building new partnerships for research. She continues to work towards drug reform and creating new opportunities for getting medicine into the hands of the masses.