MAPS Goes Corporate

With lucrative psychedelic therapies possibly just around the corner, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is changing its orientation. Despite being donation-only since 1986, MAPS has now announced a $70m joint venture, called Regenerative Financing Vine, with Vine Ventures venture capital firm.

MAPS has been and remains the leader in advocacy for psychedelic therapies. Treatments including LSD for alcoholism and psilocybin for repeat criminal offenders showed great promise in the 60s and 70s. MAPS has been instrumental in bringing these treatments back from the pariah status they suffered during the hey-day of the war on drugs.

The big fish MAPS believes it is now about to pull in is MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. A staple of rave-induced catharsis since the 1990s, MDMA as an adjunct to psychotherapy is now undergoing Phase 3 trials in the US, Canada and Israel. The trials are due to finish this year, meaning MDMA-assisted psychotherapy could be a lega and professionally managed reality in 2023.

The surprise package here is that after advocating for decades as a charity, MAPS will end up with a six-year exclusive license on MDMA therapy. That extends out to 10 years in Europe.

They now hope to raise $150m for commercialisation. “We’ve hired the Boston Consulting Group and they’ve done the whole go-to-market story for us,” said founder and CEO, Rick Doblin. “They say it’s going to cost in the neighborhood of $70 to $80 million to prepare for commercialisation before the drug is even approved. 

“That’s for hiring a 60 or 70 person team composed of various medical affairs, government relations and sales people… Another $35 to $40 million is for Phase 3 clinical trials in Europe. By the middle of 2024 we hope that there’ll be enough money coming in, and profits from the sale of prescription MDMA, that it would cover a staff of roughly 200 people.”

So MAPS is no longer just about winning the public debate. In fact, the corporate vehicle that will own the MDMA license once trials complete has been valued at US $750m.

“The only people who can prescribe MDMA are people we’ve trained,” says Doblin. “The only therapists who can treat patients are people who have been through our therapy program, or universities or schools we’ve licensed our program to.”

MAPS is already accepting applications for trainees in its MDMA therapy program

MAPS’s motto is “Psychedelic research for mass mental health,” and Doblin recognises that the people who’d most benefit from psychedelic therapies are not usually the wealthiest.

Doblin talks about using the profits from North America to bring psychedelic therapy to Bosnia, Palestine and Kosovo. It will be a tricky balance as to whether the organisation can hold firm to its long-standing mission with its venture capital partners on board.

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