Editors note: A previous version of this story mistakenly stated Pharmapsil was the first licensed Lethbridge organization. They are in fact not licensed yet. Global News regrets the error.
PhD candidate at the University of Lethbridge (UofL), Gregory Robinson, is taking a closer look at the other health benefits of mushrooms.
“Psychedelic mushrooms are not the only magical mushrooms, the non-psychedelic ones have a lot of cool properties too,” said Robinson.
Working with Dr. Igor Kovalchuk in the Department of Biological Sciences at the U of L, Robinson is creating techniques for consistent and strong mushroom extractions that can help with skin and hair, muscle growth, sexual libido, diabetes, as well as heart, brain and gut health.
“Mushroom extracts have been selling for a long time. It’s just that we haven’t made targeted formulations for all these different areas,” said Robinson.
In 2022, he launched his psychedelic pharmaceutical research and development company, Mycos Biotech, extracting mushroom metabolites and turning them into supplements.
“It’s similar to psilocybin except they’re not hallucinogenic,” explained Robinson. “They have a wide range of benefits,and have been consumed for millennia in China and so we know there are very little to no toxic effects of these metabolites.”
Last week, his company won the grand prize for 150Startups as the best student startup for 2023 for Mycos Biotech’s Sexy Shroom supplement currently being sold in the United States. Robinson hopes to one day bring the non-psychedelic supplements to Canada.
“We’re a psychedelic hub for a bunch of different research in Lethbridge,” he said.
Herbal Apothecary and Pharmapsil, Lethbridge businesses focused on the benefits of mushrooms, work with the U of L research department to continue research for the medical use of psilocybin.
“It’s really exciting and fun to be on the beginning side of something very brand new. We’re huge mushroom lovers, we cultivate our own medicinal mushrooms and just to add the psilocybin into the mix will be really exciting,” said Cami Tanner, owner of Herbal Apothecary and Pharmapsil.
According to Health Canada, there are only 48 licensed companies across Canada that grow magic mushrooms.
“One company in Lethbridge holds a license to produce psilocybin, from a total of 48 companies around the country holds a license to produce psilocybin. As such, this one license accounts for approximately 2% of licenses to produce psilocybin across Canada,” said Charlaine Sleiman, spokesperson for Health Canada.
“We really are looking to put Lethbridge on the map with this,” said Tanner whose businesses are currently waiting to be licensed.”
Dr. Lauren Zanussi, mental health lead and psychiatrist at SABI Mind in Calgary, is currently working on a psilocybin trial for alcohol addiction. He agrees with keeping psilocybin regulated as a medical treatment to maintain the potency of research that can be used for potential life-changing uses.
“It’s all about being able to show what we can do medically with it and where the potential benefits are, and to squeeze as much out of it for the benefit of people as we can,” said Zanussi.
He points to addiction, depression and anxiety as just a few conditions that could be treated using psylosybin.
“I feel like we can get bottled in Alberta as an oil and gas sort of province — there’s real opportunities to do things like cultivate psilocybin and other agents and to be leaders about how to produce it, how to produce it safely, how to demonstrate that it’s safe and regulated,” said Zanussi. “While we’re all enthusiastic and we’re hopeful, we also have to be patient with making sure that we’re doing it in the right way.”